updated February 5, 2008
Post Mortem is included in the print anthology Rising in Words with this introductory note: "I composed this examination of the causes and potential implications of the World Trade Center collapse in the crisis-minded days of September, 2001. As the world seemed to go mad around me, I was determined to make the aftermath an opportunity for learning and teaching. So I tried to draw wisdom out of disaster, instead of panic, paranoia and revenge. I can only take solace in the fact that many of those who seemed to go mad have finally, over the past several years, come around to some of the understandings I expressed then. Hindsight is clearer, but too late. Unfortunately, all too many still seem determined to make the same mistakes which lead inevitably to disaster or dystopia."
What will come after the death of thousands? What will be the reverberations? I speak of the aftershocks, the ripples of thought and subsequent action which emanate from all very arresting, explosive events, and from very quiet, subtle ones that are nonetheless earthshaking. These seismic undercurrents of concept, the ideas formed and the deeds which result from them will determine all future importance of that deadly event, such as who else will be killed and what other suffering will result.
For the weight of how people respond to an act that demands attention rests far more with their understanding than with loudly advertised, or even visible acts. The subtle changes in thought, the alterations in perception to which a few are attuned, these chart the course of history. Though the first fiery crash of a guided passenger-missile on September 11th thunderously broached a nightmare day of death with screaming terror and trauma, it is how we understand what happened, how it fits into the framework of our mind, how we interpret its meanings and implications which will be most important now. What the event means in the context of the ideas those living on this earth already believe, what they now think, and what they will later be convinced to believe, that is where the matter of that moment rests. So let us learn, let us teach one another, let us think, speak, and listen with open minds and hearts, and let us thereby deliver the future from any more nightmares from which we cannot awake.
An Invocation of Remembrance
must be done
are at war"
Thoughts on Killing
There is quite a lot of confusion concerning how to describe and label the event. Which model applies? Is it to be considered a crime, terrorism, an act of war, an (un)natural disaster, the inexplicable work of madmen — what? The best model here is the most accurate and most literal one: killing. What happened at the World Trade Center was death, death and destruction directly affected by killers. If we depart too far from that understanding we get lost, and there is no need to depart from that in order to understand a great deal.
We are told that there are differences between the use of force to cause death, in different contexts. There are supposed to be kinds of killing, which we are supposed to judge very differently. In one context, killing is murder. In another, killing is war. Or, killing is justice. From one perspective, killing is justified, from another, killing is not justified. One man may judge killing moral, another may call it immoral. Many believe killing in self-defense is moral and just. Many believe killing oneself is immoral. Many believe killing in retribution for killing is moral or just. "An eye for an eye," they say.
But what is the difference between killing and killing? Between death and death? Somehow — possibly because the living easily disconnect from the reality of death, or are too frightened by it to see clearly — a tremendous number of people ignore the obvious, the one point we cannot debate about killing. So let us return to what we know: killing always has the same result. Death is the result. And death is always an end — at least of everything we can know.
The reality of death entertains no human illusions about rules and qualifications. Justice and morality are not defined by death. It is curiously silent about those concepts which men hold dear. They receive no countenance from an inanimate visage which might have cherished popular or traditional systems of thought or indulged in fierce debates while still warm and breathing. Death has no definition save finality.
No circumstance or judgment changes death, and therefore the crucial and defining result of killing is immutable, rendering all qualifications illusory. Killing is nothing important besides death. There exists no intent or judgment or moral or circumstance in the world to alter that. There is no "eye for an eye." There is no in bounds, and out of bounds. There is no rule dividing good from bad. Killing and laying waste is killing and laying waste. It is done or it is not. There is more of it, or there is less. Self-defense does not make killing moral, or good, or in bounds. There is no moral killing, there is no immoral killing, it is all simply death, in the immediacy of cold realism. The effect is the same.
None of this grants support to a nihilistic view, however. That killing is killing does not imply that one action is as good as another, or as pointless as another, regardless of deadly consequence. There are differences, but the differences are about life, not about life quibbling about death. Self-defense must be enforced by oneself because it preserves one's own life. It is necessary for a living being to continue to exist when threatened. It is demanded by a will to live in a life-threatening circumstance. But it still must be sad and distasteful when self-defense means the need to terminate another life, to those who are truly biased towards life. Death is always death, killing is always killing, and a fully living, really alive being must be biased, quite unreasonably prejudiced towards life, and against killing.
The really important distinction is that there are people who know this, who hold all this inside as part of their respect for life, and people who do not know it, who respect life less. The path of respecting life is the life-advancing path, the Promethean way; it is what the Promethean movement must fight for, and not merely in naked terms of life and death. Men who kill themselves to kill men and women they do not even know do not respect life at all, and really understand nothing. But what separates the killing called 'collateral damage' from that? What separates death from death, when it is not demanded by the needs of life itself? Those who now desire as an end in itself the death of death-loving wretches, or those who want to kill and lay waste to something or someone to put out an eye for an eye — they are off the path of life, as well.
The Thoughts of the Killers
However unpopular it may be to try to see things from the eyes of the terrorists, however tempting it may be to dismiss that approach as unimportant or wrong to pursue because the terrorists are simply an incomprehensible evil, it must not be forbidden to try to understand why the terrorists did what they did. They have announced themselves to be enemies of life in the baldest way, and unfortunately, they were not cowardly about acting. It is critical to understand how people who would do such a thing conceive of the world. We must not simply curse them and think no more.
Indeed, the hijackers were bastards of the worst kind. Far less than they were the children of any civilization, culture, or world religious tradition, they were the offspring of two unharmonious parents, each one a gruesome or dehumanizing thought. In fact, all terrorists, including those who assaulted the World Trade Center, believe in collective identity and in revenge.
If you hate the suffering and death of September 11th, detest and disbelieve these ideas. Do not follow them as did the terrorists who caused this suffering, and as do many others on this planet.
More explicitly — and this will be a difficult thing for many to face: terrorists believe in applying the same two principles of collectivity and revenge as most in America, and in a similar way. They believe that all of a recognized cultural, ethnic, or national group can be responsible for the actions of its members including those in government, and they believe that terrible acts call for terrible vengeance. That faith in vengeance is very clearly popular in America, given the common responses to the terrorist act, and the vast support for an apocalyptic assault. The other principle of generalization and collective responsibility is equally obvious in the common bigotry and blame evidenced toward all Muslims, an enormous and diverse group of people, or against all residents of Afghanistan, a smaller but nonetheless diverse population. Realizing the parallel may be uncomfortable, but it is nonetheless apparent.
What may not be so apparent is that terrorists have reasons for what they do, they are not insane — once we allow for their viewpoint, born of those two beliefs which millions in America clearly share. For they inflict suffering on Americans because they, along with millions of the other people who have felt the effects of overt and covert American foreign policy, believe that Americans cause suffering. And they are correct — at least about some Americans, especially some of those in political power.
Given that terrorists attribute responsibility to all because they fail to see things individually, let us consider the reasons, the grudges, the acts of some Americans blamed on all Americans and others seen as associates. The following list may be extraneous for anyone introduced to the reality of American foreign policy, but insufficient for anyone ignorant of it. Therefore, it can at best be considered a beginning or a supplement.
Because he is the primary suspect at this moment, let us use the views of Osama bin Laden as a starting approach, supplementing as necessary. While he should not be allowed to represent the diversity of all people who call themselves Muslims, he will be representative of some commonly held views, and more importantly is very likely to have relatively close views to other Islamic terrorists. Thus, to understand what they think and why they kill, it is worth understanding him. (The following quotes are from two interviews as related by PBS' Frontline.)
In the interview he gave in 1998, he gave no evidence of hating democracy, the assertion of many officials including George Bush Junior. In fact, Osama bin Laden said of America and the West, "If their people do not wish to be harmed inside their very own countries, they should seek to elect governments that are truly representative of them and that can protect their interests." There is no sign that he seeks the destruction of America in itself, or the erosion of its celebrated, traditional political ideology of democracy. Rather, he gives another primary reason:
Notice that although this may appear at first to be only a religious argument over an offense to purely Islamic or Islamist sensibilities, the presence of foreigners near Mecca and Medina, he does not convey this alone, but marries it to anger over the support of the government. The troops' presence is merely the crowning example (to a certain kind of devout Muslim) of interference on behalf of an oppressive rule. The troops in question were invited by the government; their presence was not popular. Osama bin Laden is himself from Saudi Arabia, and his chafing against the control of the country seems to have defined his character. It is through the brutal government of Saudi Arabia, which profits itself through centralized control of the petroleum flow, that "they rip us of our wealth and of our resources and of our oil."
That this absolute rule and several other exploitive, despotic regimes ruling primarily Muslim populations enjoy not only the tolerance, but the official approval and assistance of the American government for reasons of securing economic and military cooperation must be considered a principle reason for resentment of America by many Muslims and others in those countries, not just terrorists, or Islamists. It is a simple fact that the government of America provides financial and military support to prop up many repressive regimes, not only in the absolute sense of repression, but in the relative sense. In these countries, Islamists with a repressive agenda often gain the legitimacy they do primarily because they are the primary resistance to a regime which America foreign policy supports. This was the reason for the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini and associates in Iran; they enjoyed the support of unwitting people, including 'moderates' and intellectuals, who assumed that any government had to be preferable to the hated Shah, who had been an American ally and beneficiary.
For reasons of solidarity, empathy, and the religious stature of Jerusalem in Islam, the struggle among Palestinians and Israelis must also be considered a fundamental source of Muslim animosity against the American government. As Osama bin Laden put it: "For over half a century, Muslims in Palestine have been slaughtered and assaulted and robbed of their honor and their property. Their houses have been blasted, their crops destroyed." The reason why regrettable actions of the Israeli military and vigilantes correspond to anger against American foreign policy is the favoritism which has been applied to Israel — diplomatic bias, direct financial aid and military sales: "while America blocks the entry of weapons into Islamic countries, it provides the Israelis with a continuous supply of arms allowing them thus to kill and massacre more Muslims." To an American interviewer, he summarized, "Your position in Palestine is despicable and disgraceful." Most Muslims would tend to agree, as would many other people around the world and in America itself. There is also that fact that the invasion of Lebanon by Israel in 1982, in which apparently many more civilians died than perished in the World Trade Center, produced no diplomatic objection from the United States government.
There is also the continued, customary, and periodic bombing of Iraq, all these years after the defeat of Iraq and the regained political independence of Kuwait. There have also been continuous sanctions blocking the trade which ultimately determines the amount of food for the people living in Iraq, who have been dying in the many hundreds of thousands in the past decade. Since Saddam Hussein's grip has only been strengthened during those years, we can surmise that the sanctions which caused so much suffering, and certainly did not profit his many opponents and rebellious subjects, have not punished him according to their intent, and have only profited him. There have also been violent attacks against unthreatening targets in Somalia and Sudan, and even some benign or well-wishing targets. Those are two places in which it is especially clear that there is no uniformity of opinion or purpose, so that the acts of some plainly cannot be attributed to all, and random people cannot be counted as assisting those who do present threats.
Also, an insult to honor and dignity may assert an inflammatory influence sometimes extending beyond actions in themselves. One such insult is certainly the arrogance demonstrated in portrayals and characterizations of foreign policy actions by many politicians, officials and media figures. So often, foreigners get the message that the despised acts committed under the banner of United States foreign policy are not so much carefully weighed choices which unfortunately hurt some people, but undisputable acts of a master of the world who can do anything, no matter what.
We need look no further than the name initially released for the military operation now underway: "Operation Infinite Justice." The name was retracted by the military due to objections by some Muslims, but it should not have required a believer in any religion to recall that usually, only a god in the monotheistic, all-powerful sense is associated with "infinite justice." The fact that this name was internally accepted and publicly announced without anyone realizing its infinite arrogance shows that for all too many Americans in power, if not underneath and outside of power, the state and the military have long since undergone deification.
Here is another example, chosen because it demonstrates arrogance which is made indisputable by a deliberate attempt to display humanity instead of arrogance, showing that the arrogance evident must be conscious, unaffected, and very real. When Madeleine Albright was interviewed in 1996 as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, half a year from being unanimously confirmed as United States Secretary of State, she responded to this question on the continuing blockade of trade with Iraq to punish Saddam Hussein:
with this answer:
What are the many Iraqis, and Arabs, and Muslims, and anyone else who might quite sensibly feel contempt for this woman and for the Senate who confirmed her going to think? Are they necessarily going to take pains to separate her and the many individuals like her in government from the others who consider themselves Americans, support and believe in the government, and show no outrage? How many are likely to distinguish between different Americans much at all? Few Americans seem to be able to distinguish the many noble or at least uninvolved inheritors of the ancient and often profound cultures of the Middle East from a handful of terrorists, or from the corrupt, despotic rulers like Saddam Hussein that their very own rulers have supported in the past.
It is reasonable to conclude that all of these grievances, and the others which many Muslims have against American and other Western foreign policies have coalesced into a worldview for many, a conclusion that the American government is not a friend of Muslims in general. Few would take up arms to inflict suffering upon some Western citizen in return, fortunately. Nevertheless, as long as the harm provides the grudge, there will be some like Osama bin Laden. Therefore we should listen when he explains himself: "while the slogans raised by those [Western] regimes call for humanity, justice, and peace, the behavior of their governments is completely the opposite." This implies most distinctly that terrorism of the sort that brought down the World Trade Center is fundamentally a reactionary commission of destruction and death, and that the original provocation, though not the direct personal responsibility, is destruction and death committed or assisted by those acting in an official capacity in the very government charged with defending potential victims of terrorist retribution.
Of course the derivative or retributive nature of this pattern does not justify the approach of becoming what one hates. The above list is not related here in order to excuse the terrorist killings. Rather, it is submitted in order to show two things. First, that "your own government" may get you killed, and that you should separate yourself as much as possible if only for reasons of personal safety, if not for those of decency and humanity, or for the sake of individual sovereignty. Second, to show that the terrorists are only applying in these acts the same two principles to which so many Americans and so many others around the world subscribe. Seen from this mindset, these grievances call for American dead, the deaths of any Americans — just so much as the deeds of Saddam Hussein and his henchmen justify bombing Iraqi cities and towns into bloody charred piles of rubble and corpses, or starving people living in Iraq to emaciation and death, and just so much as the fact that some Palestinians kill Israelis justifies the aimless killing of random Palestinians, and just so much as September 11th justifies attacking a country of people. It should disturb you, if you have ever endorsed anything similar, to know that regardless of religious or cultural differences, your acceptance of that equation meant that at that moment, you were thinking like the men who set those thousands of people aflame and gave you a sorrowful sick feeling on September 11th. But from this you should learn, and you should realize that almost everyone can only learn their lesson after having once subscribed to that sort of thinking, having been raised to instinctively regard the acts of "their side" favorably.
Remedies for a Deadly Mindset
Of course knowing why there is enough rage among some terrorists to kill those of us who live in America, carry American citizenship, or perhaps are just associated in their minds with America, does not in itself protect anyone from being killed. Reasonable people, intelligent people, sane people who care about life including their own must protect it. This is especially important due to the increasing danger that even a single attack might be devastating, due to the increasing ease of manufacturing or obtaining chemical, biological, nuclear or other terrible means. People on television may say, "they can't do this to us!" But they can. They did. They can do it again. Instead of trying to lock up the world, or kill anyone who might conceivably be a threat, make sure you have not given them any reason to do it, even if a reason is not a justification. As I have said before, the best way of trying to get people not to do something is not to forcibly prevent them, but to provide for their own desire not to do so. This includes never giving them a reason.
There are two critically important remedies for insecurity through avoiding provocation, two principles which must be recognized. The first remedy is to recognize that any one person in a country cannot be responsible for the actions of all others in their country, including governmental choices which they do not assist. Therefore, an attack targeting all inhabitants, including the uninvolved and dissenters is unprovoked and hostile, not defensive. The second remedy is to recognize that revenge or other excessive force (including causing collateral damage without absolute necessity based on self-defense) provides no additional safety once a threat is neutralized by minimal, appropriate force, and that what little strategic advantage is ever gained from deterrence is typically lost by the inspiration of further resistance.
Unfortunately most Americans associate themselves quite overtly with the sorts of suffering as in the list above, by linking themselves with official actions through nationalistic sanction and participation. When a resident of America does not associate himself with the harm done in the name of the American state, when he no longer voluntarily supports terrible acts done in his name, when he yields taxes for those acts only because the money is taken without his consent, when he no longer accept the acts of one as the acts of a group, then he can say that any terrorists threatening him are his utterly unprovoked enemies, and that they are deluded. Since he wishes other men well and his actions follow his wishes, if a man who calls him enemy wishes him death and suffering, he can reasonably conclude that his enemy does so without reason, and such errant and baseless attacks must be prevented in self-defense. He can, in short, have a 'clean' enemy and fight a necessary fight. Few living in America should be so proud.
The terrorists have not forgiven their grievances, some of which may not be fairly called direct injuries and are instead offenses to sensibility, but some of which were truly offenses to life itself. Many others, not only Muslims, feel similarly but will never take the same action. And few in America will ever forgive the terrorists or those who assisted them for September 11th. Some will never forgive other Muslims. And so the world will continue in the thinking of the blood feud, revisiting the sins of the one on the many, with all paying the price of this thinking until thinking changes.
"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
Never was any man such a real, intractable, and dangerous enemy as the beliefs which make him inimical, or the causes of those beliefs.
How Tyranny Helps Terror
We should bear in mind that the aim of terrorists may not be the rather quixotic goal of bringing down a government directly through attacks, much less destroying a population. Despite simplistic theories along these lines, which suggest that terrorists are just crazy and unreasonable people who can only be dealt with using the most draconian measures, terrorism is more likely intended to motivate a change in perception. This is unlikely to be so simple as a general goal of instilling fear, which is a popular explanation. But it may be as simple as convincing citizens that the only way that they will achieve peace is to change their government, and thereby end the policies which the terrorists find so objectionable. Osama bin Laden himself has explicitly urged the American people to remove their unjust government from power and thereby achieve safety from attacks, so that is certainly part of his thinking, at least.
The aim may also be to induce the government to overextend itself in tyrannical means, justified by newfound fear and demands for security — thereby either demonstrating that reliable security cannot be provided by the government, when attacks still succeed as they unavoidably can, or convincing people that the government is oppressive and therefore illegitimate. Either way, the effect would be to produce an overthrow of a hated regime indirectly.
It should be allowed that encouragement of a draconian reaction may not be the plan, though even if none of this is the conscious calculation of terrorists, rebellion in some form may well be the eventual outcome whenever a government remains intractable. However, those who would dismiss the above strategies as unrealistically Byzantine and long-term for the invention of brutal zealots would be greatly mistaken; they should realize that no inhuman cleverness is necessary in order to see as far as the recruits to be gathered along the way, before eventual overthrow is really feasible. A tyrannical government has a way of radicalizing at least a few people; quite possibly the terrorists are counting on the radicalization of some more fellow Muslims, as a result of forthcoming oppressive anti-terrorist actions. Essentially, in that case, the terrorists have just gone recruiting with their actions on September 11th, and it appears the war hawks in the American government may satisfy the terrorists' dearer aspirations.
Who Is Threatening the World?
The American foreign policy in the aftermath has demonstrated the character of a bully, to the extent that now one is hard-pressed to find comparable bluster amid the examples of a world history stocked with militarism and tyranny. Those who bear the official mantle due to the obeisance and great affirmation of the majority have bullied the world; they have said that any who even fail to assist their 'war on terrorism', not only those who assist the terrorists but any who fail to cooperate and to join in the hunt as directed, will be treated as terrorists themselves. And that amounts to a threat of war, now that war has been declared on terrorism. So now the 'peace-loving' American government has literally threatened to attack any nation which does not offer to join its military crusade. These heedless rulers have explicitly threatened every country in the world, which as far as we know neither Napoleon, nor Hitler, nor Stalin, and certainly none of the non-American power-drunk rulers in the world today have done. The rulers of America have made the American military into the world's press gang.
And yet, unless the media is somehow distorting the numbers, the vast majority of American citizens apparently feel this is only good and right. They are cheering it on. They would, it seems, be shocked if they heard of any qualms around the world, any delay in rapid compliance, as though the knowledge that 'America wields the big stick' in the world contains within itself a self-evident implication that nothing could be wrong with that domination, and that nothing could be more natural. No doubt any country of people that evidences qualms could only be guilty of assisting terrorists directly, and therefore deserve to be crushed as an enemy in war. (It is really fascinating that even American citizens who do realize their own government oppresses them nevertheless become pawns willing to accept newer and more burdensome oppression, if only the fruits of their labor and the aim of their sacrifice will be directed at menacing those outside the imaginary lines in the dirt drawn around the American state.)
One writer (The New York Post's Steve Dunleavy) put what should be done to those who harbor terrorists into words devoid of eloquence, but sadly, all too typically American in intent and language: "bomb them into basketball courts." Another (National Review editor Rich Lowry) said, "If we flatten part of Damascus or Tehran or whatever it takes, that is part of the solution." There are seemingly endless examples to be culled from the statements of officials and ex-officials, reporters, commentators, and humbler citizens at large.
These are not the words and actions of a peace-loving people, or of the constitutional republic America once was. They are the words and actions of a democracy — a bloodthirsty mob inflamed by demagogues in league with a bureaucracy of unseen dictators, all three with unbelievable arrogance and infatuated with atrocity. And most of all, these are the words and actions of an empire in all but name.
Pax Americana, Imperium Americanum, Terminus Americanus
This year, the eleventh day of September was an ending. This ending was more than the cruel, heartrending death of several thousand human beings. It seems the aftermath of the event will mark the final and inexorable death, also, of the possibility that America might in coming days be considered a republic by any realistic person. Another wartime state of emergency added to the historical sum will indelibly alter the understood relationship between power and the individual citizen, already pushed all too far towards utility and domination. This period of war will once again enshrine those personifications of power in the office of the president and others, an effect especially useful to any leader who has lacked legitimacy. The powers-that-be will no longer have to camouflage or downplay military adventure, proconsular postings of military commanders in chief, inflation of bureaucracy, erosion of liberties, or the executive authority of an emperor-president and more importantly of his imperial agencies with their often unseen hands, all of which leave the legislative contests a useful but unimportant distraction, the popular legacy of an antique political system. Advocates of the past may yet dream in their well-meaning way of the reawakening or, as some admit, the resurrection of the American republic. But, the America of Bush can no more return to the America of Washington than the Rome of Commodus could return to the Rome of Cincinnatus. They are not akin except as near relatives in time and inhabitants of the same geography.
Thus, America is gone, at least as anyone has had good reason to love her deeply and purely. What was loved will rise again in another form, a new form, not at all the American republic of old. Change is a constant. We can only make sure that change will bring an improvement. But as for the America of today, the state can only proceed along its self-immolating imperial course, vainly enforcing the Pax Americana, not the Res Publica Americana, even at the price of its own ultimate end as a political conception, as well as the suffering and death of untold numbers of people within and without its borders. America will destroy itself, because of what America now really means to those who would lose themselves, who would dissolve into a great mass under its banner. All empires must fall, just as all republics granted the fullness of time and opportunity must become empires.
The imperative now is to avoid being crushed underneath as the ruins of freedom topple, the price of blindly binding oneself to what exists now for the lingering love of what it once represented. America will perish. But something better than any empire or republic, something new and different will rise up elsewhere in a future time and place, probably before the American Empire's collapse: an open society of free individuals, a land redolent of some sensory sweetness which, if one pauses, one will be able to detect as reminiscent of Washington's orchards, perhaps even like the hot hay smell of the fields of Cincinnatus, borne by the summer breezes of yesteryears long past.
Look Inward and Outward
Our antidote to imperialism and our lesson from September 11th and its aftermath should not be to become isolated and turn away from the world, saying it is not our interest or concern. In fact, pursuing that course on an individual and mass basis, while government did something quite different in our name, is part of the reason for this catastrophe. If for example, Americans refuse to even notice, much less care about the deaths of Afghans, Somalis, Sudanese, Iraqis, Palestinians and people of many other descriptions who, directly or indirectly, have been made casualties by the policies, activities and monies of those in a government they ought to have disowned at minimum, then it might almost be surprising if those who cared for those dead cared very much for the American casualties on September 11th. And as callous as celebrations in Palestine or Egypt may seem on such a tragic occasion, they can at least be understood in context, and Americans of the above description are insensible to expect anything besides that careless imbecility. So many Americans have been careless with the world.
So many Americans and not only Americans care for their own neighborhood, and understand how to behave with respect to all who live within it, but blindly empower those in power to treat the neighborhood to which we all belong according to whim. The politicians and officials so many Americans obey and even revere have been going around the neighborhood of the world, killing people, harassing people, laying waste, or aiding those who do such things, out of irresponsibility, or to exert influence at a distance and pretend they are not responsible. They claim to speak for others, if not justice and freedom besides. They have been traced back to where they come from and those they claim to represent. They have done these things with most Americans ignorant, either from a careless apathy, or a naïve belief that their leaders' versions of events must be true. Many in the world are murderously angry at what has been done, and a few have done something about it, sadly, by violently punishing people out of desperation, and still more sadly, by punishing the unculpable, which only makes them appear worse than those people in government who contribute to misery. But never let the tragedy and the hypocrisy of the terrorists' retribution obfuscate what gave them the rage to do it, and the nature of those who rule.
Never neglect looking outward. Never become myopic and isolated from what goes on outside yourself, your locality, and the imaginary lines on the map inside which you were born. There is an imperative for all exceptional, awake and strong human beings, a Promethean converse of imperialism, the salutary activism of life instead of the interventionism which causes suffering and death.
The blind, frighteningly asleep and programmed condition that the conformity of men has displayed after the crisis is one sign among so many — and indeed, if one pays attention every relevant sign confirms — that if we do not look outward and actively discredit, overturn, and replace the beliefs, systems, and other enemy factors out there opposing the advancement of life which we as rare individuals represent, then we are doomed to be caught up in the disasters that shadow the programmed mob, if we do not become a target directly. We might like to leave others alone and live a separate, benign, well-wishing existence as so many like us have always done in the past, in anonymity, in the university, in exile, in the monastery, in the artists' colony, or in the welcome respite of our own minds, but we cannot. Out of self-defense, if not our own natural inclination, we must succeed at changing the world for the better and awakening it, even beginning with whatever small minority we can work with for now. Otherwise, the grave result will be the world overall remaining in a twisted, painful state of programmed sleepwalking through fits of self-destruction. We are all too likely to become casualties of its fits, if we do not die along with everyone in some Armageddon. The world will become imperially dominated, or locked in a more unstable conflict, or trapped in an even darker age, or — we dare not say what — unless we change it, and alleviate the fundamental problems. The world of men has become global, and there can be no more retreats into the safety of anonymity and solitude for us. We must take responsibility to rule in a way and with a character totally opposed to the impulses to rule politically and imperially, or by any other means founded on blocking, and controlling, and dominating, and holding life back. We either win decisively at this great struggle, or we lose. Turning away from the task ensures that we lose. We must not turn away.
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on September 28, 2001