Photo by Stan Honda/AP
Andrew Anthony writes eloquently about how 9/11 smashed many of the assumptions he had about the world. Here are some excerpts from The Day Reality Hit Home, Part 1:
A midlife crisis did indeed ensue after 9/11. In truth it had been brewing for some time. It wasn't my midlife crisis, however, but that of Western culture at large. No matter what other aims may have motivated this singular act of terrorism, it was beyond question that it was planned as a symbolic, as well as a lethal, attack on 'the West', whether the target was militarism (the Pentagon), capitalism (the WTC), or cosmopolitanism (the heterogeneity of the victims). The problem was many in the West were not sure that it was worthy of defence.
...What all these reactions [from liberals and the Left] had in common, I realised, was not complexity but simplicity. For all of them this was an issue of the powerless striking back at the powerful, the oppressed against the oppressor, the rebels against the imperialists. It was Han Solo and Luke Skywalker taking on the Death Star. There was no serious attempt to examine what kind of power the powerless wanted to assume, or over whom they wanted to exercise it, and no one thought to ask by what authority these suicidal killers had been designated the voice of the oppressed. It was enough that Palestinians had danced in the West Bank. The scale of the suffering, the innocence of the victims and the aims of the perpetrators barely seemed to register in many of the comments. Was this a sign of shock or complacency? Or was it something else, a kind of atrophying of moral faculties, brought on by prolonged use of fixed ideas, that prevented the sufferer from recognising a new paradigm when it arrived, no matter how spectacular its announcement?
In the end I reached the conclusion that 11 September had already brutally confirmed: there were other forces, far more malign than America, that lay in wait in the world. But having faced up to the basic issue of comparative international threats, could I stop the political reassessment there? If I had been wrong about the relative danger of America, could I be wrong about all the other things I previously held to be true? I tried hard to suppress this thought, to ring-fence the global situation, grant it exceptional status and keep it in a separate part of my mind. I had too much vested in my image of myself as a 'liberal'. I had bought into the idea, for instance, that all social ills stemmed from inequality and racism. I knew that crime was solely a function of poverty. That to be British was cause for shame, never pride. And to be white was to bear an unshakable burden of guilt. I held the view, or at least was unprepared to challenge it, that it was wrong to single out any culture for censure, except, of course, Western culture, which should be admonished at every opportunity. I was confident, too, that Israel was the source of most of the troubles in the Middle East. These were non-negotiables for any right-thinking decent person. I couldn't question these received wisdoms without questioning my own identity. And I had grown too comfortable with seeing myself as one of the good guys, the well-meaning people, to want to do anything that upset that image. I viewed myself as understanding, and to maintain that self-perception it was imperative that I didn't try to understand myself.
(via Kesher Talk)