Friday, September 9, 2011

Social Contact or Social Contract? Thoughts on 9/11

There could have been many titles for this entry, but this is the title I ended up with.

This blog has been quiet for a week, as I took some time for reflection on life, on tragedy, on love and the notion of an everlasting.

I remember exactly where I was on September 11, 2001.

Just the day before, my entire family had traveled home from Seattle by plane, following a cruise to Alaska, the kind of trip none of us had ever taken before. During the cruise, a horrible virus ran its way through the passenger list, and I had been hit hard by it at the end of the journey, while our toddlers suffered mild cases of seasickness. Despite these things, we had all had a wonderful time, but we had returned home late at night, and I was very ill by then.

The next morning, my husband was feeding the children when a phone call came. When he got of the phone, he turned on the television to see the news. He called to me from downstairs and said I needed to come right away, as something very important and very disturbing had happened and the happening was actually still in progress. The repeating loop of the collapsing towers made me dizzy. I reeled back up the stairs to my sickbed and said, “turn it off.” I could not think or breathe.

We all know what that event was, and we have been beating our breasts over it ever since. Arguably, this event galvanized Americans like no other event since the Civil War. It has been ten years, and we still vent pain, rage and sorrow over what took place. We want to lay blame, but I conclude that the blame has mostly been laid in the wrong hands.

We ourselves are to blame.

As a nation, we have traded the national treasure of our ideals in equality for a complacency that looks the other way when it comes to real social justice and equity. We have put our trust in leaders who are just plain crazy and obviously out for all that they can amass for themselves themselves. The leaders have been bought off by huge megalocorporate business entities that promote societal mores of greed and worship of money. The megalocorporate god giveth jobs and then taketh them away when no one is looking, or hideth them from certain kinds of candidates or offshore them. We thought they were working for us, because we are their people and they are our megalocorporations. Little did we know that we were being sold up and sold out, just as is happening nearly every nation in the so-called “third world.”

The worship of money and power is home to roost, and it did not start with that fateful day of September 11, 2001, but it has been a thread embroidered in our national policy, foreign and domestic, for well over fifty years. It started well before Eisenhower’s warnings about the consequences of the military industrial complex, and before WWII. This is a fatal flaw that was seeded well before 1900, 1860, 1770 or even 1492. Indeed, the flaw has existed since before the fall of Rome, before the repatriation of the Jews, before the events detailed in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
George Steiner writes—and these words were penned in those days before 9/11:

Inhumanity is, so far as we have historical evidence, perennial. There have been no utopias, no communities of justice or forgiveness. Our current alarms—at the violence in our streets, at the famines in the so-called third world, at regressions into barbaric ethnic conflicts, at the possibility of pandemic disease—must be seen against the background of a quite exceptional moment. Roughly from the time of Waterloo to that of the massacres on the Western Front in 1915-16, the European bourgeousie experienced a privileged season, an armistice with history. Underwritten by the exploitation of industrial labour at home and colonial rule abroad, Europeans knew a century of progress, of liberal dispensations, of reasonable hope. It is in the afterglow, no doubt idealized, of this exceptional calendar—not the constant comparison of the years prior to August 1914 with a “long summer”—that we suffer our present discomforts.

There has never been an earthly utopia, and we cannot pretend that, as modern Americans, that we are color-blind and truly act with justice and fairness toward all. It is not human nature to be so, and I doubt that the human race can evolve beyond its brutish nature. Is there moral high ground for allowing our own people to be illiterate, unemployed and homeless? How can we talk about leaders in other countries who allow such realities on their own turf?

The events of September 11, 2001 are still unfolding. We cannot claim the role of virtuous victim for those events, neither can we justify those aspects that continue to unfold daily. In our name, our government has done terrible things, including arming our enemies to act against us. Islamoterrorism was created by our government, moving pawns over its giant chessboard.

Our government set this horror in motion. We have allowed our government to do terrible things. We are responsible.

We have all been taught that we have the right to say and do anything we want, and so everyone does, with little or no thought as to consequences. And then we are shocked when something goes too far or the consequences become too great.

People have been taught to talk themselves silly, and they do. Conversely, people not been taught to listen or to hear, or to critically think about their individual choices. The quiet of circumspection is missing from our daily lives.

We have bought into the myth of privilege and elitism. We have bought the lie that we are entitled.

Healing can only come once we understand our individual roles in this great tragedy that is our world. Healing can only come when we agree renew and actually live a social contract, rather than wring our hands and obsess over our social networking and ever-present media.

Healing can only begin when we address the following questions:

What is enough? When is enough enough?

Goethe was a brilliant thinker. And he was being brutally candid when he said:

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.

As we remember September 11th, may all that is Divine rain down peace on all who have been touched by violence and all of us who are left to face the events that continue to unfold.

For, those events are still unfolding.

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