2001 : WHAT NOW?

luyen_chou's picture
Senior Vice President, Product Strategy, Pearson
Some random thoughts

Some random thoughts:

(1) I agree with Kevin Kelly's contrarian take on the situation. If anything, the brilliance (can I use that word pejoratively?) of this attack was in its implicit "fuck you" to the world's greatest technocracy — as if to say: we will use your own technology to destroy the very icons of your technological hubris, and we will accomplish this with nothing more than a piece of plastic and a disdain for the sanctity of life and self-preservation that you hold so dear. After we punish the perpetrators of this heinous crime, I think this country needs to engage in adeep rethinking of the values that underlie our society today. We seem to conflate our technological supremacy, our consumerism and exultation of the free market, with moral supremacy and military imperviousness.

(2) I am deeply perplexed by our culture's recent use of the words "terrorism" and "terrorist", which now seem to be at the core of an emerging definition of a breathtakingly broad and unprecedented vision of America's foreign policy (so much for Bush isolationism). Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's statement that we will "end states that support terrorism", Colin Powell's reformulated version — "we're after ending terrorism" — and similar statements by our nation's political and spiritual leadership place the onus on our government to provide a precise definition of terms. Is bin Laden a terrorist? What about the Taliban government? Saddam Hussein? The Pakistani government? Hamas? The Palestinian Authority? The Israeli government? Chechen rebels? The Russian government? KLA-supported Macedonians? Bosnian Serbs? Michigan militiaman? Radical anti-abortion activists? Is "terrorism" a code-word for Arab militancy?

I'm not stating a view, I'm just asking the question. Even left-leaning people now speak of destroying terrorism "root and branch". What are the roots of terrorism? How far and how deeply do they extend? We can all see the leaves and some of the branches, but the roots are less visible to the naked eye, and they are undoubtedly where the real problem lies. So far as I know, there is nosubstantive, high-profile national dialogue about this.