An Era in Ideas
August 13, 2011 9:35 PM   Subscribe

An Era in Ideas. "To mark the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, The Chronicle Review asked a group of influential thinkers to reflect on some of the themes that were raised by those events and to meditate on their meaning, then and now. The result is a portrait of the culture and ideas of a decade born in trauma, but also the beginning of a new century, with all its possibilities and problems." [Via]
posted by homunculus (11 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Here are my thoughts: Everybody...stop killing people.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:32 PM on August 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:17 PM on August 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

I always liked what Haruki Murakami said about it:
When I hear the word “chaos,” I automatically picture the scenes of 9/11 — those shocking images that were shown a million times on television: The two jumbo jets plunging into the glass walls of the Twin Towers, the towers themselves crumbling without a trace, scenes that would continue to be unbelievable after a million and one viewings. The plot that succeeded with miraculous perfection — a perfection that reached a level of near surreality. If I may say so without fear of being misunderstood, the scenes even appeared to be something made with computer graphics for a Hollywood doomsday film.

We often wonder what it would have been like if 9/11 had never happened — or at least if that plan had not succeeded so perfectly. Then the world would have been very different from what it is now. America might have had a different president (a major possibility), and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars might never have happened (an even greater possibility).

Let’s call the world we actually have now Reality A and the world that we might have had if 9/11 had never happened Reality B. Then we can’t help but notice that the world of Reality B appears to be realer and more rational than the world of Reality A. To put it in different terms, we are living a world that has an even lower level of reality than the unreal world. What can we possibly call this if not “chaos”?
posted by shii at 11:21 PM on August 13, 2011 [6 favorites]

...or at least if that plan had not succeeded so perfectly.

This is an issue that has stuck in my craw for the last 10 years. In terms of property damage, yes, the 9/11 attacks were a spectacular success - at least at the World Trade Center. But the plane that hit the Pentagon (an edifice as secure as the WTC turned out to be insecure) had more deaths on the plane than on the ground. And the fourth plane? Never got near its target. And while the death toll set some kind of macabre world record, consider the possibilities - the buildings that crumbled to the ground usually hold over 50,000 people (and many thousands more pass through the subway stations below). The first estimates of casualties was in the tens of thousands. (I felt oddly alone in cheering every time the casualty count dropped in the hours after the disaster - how often does that happen?) The final death toll at the WTC was 2,750, including over 300 rescue workers... over ten percent of the lives lost were people who entered the buildings after the planes hit. We could have collectively characterized this as a massive failure on the part of terrorists (only 3000 when they had over 50,000 in their crosshairs?) and the most successful (and most heroic) rescue mission in history in keeping the death toll that low. But we chose instead to be terrorized, turning this tragedy and atrocity into a self-inflicted wound on America's soul, from which it is now evident the nation will never recover.

I know what I'm in for for expressing this opinion, and you can all be relieved that I will not waste my time, breath and karma in any more "9/11 Anniversary" threads. I have a better Reality to live in.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:16 AM on August 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

If the plan was to provoke a self-destructive reaction, it worked perfectly.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:25 AM on August 14, 2011

Or, as it's more colloquially known, the terrorist have in fact already won.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:23 AM on August 14, 2011

Every time I think of Victor Davis Hanson, I think of this War Nerd article. Fuck that guy. He basically represented some of the worst things to come out of 9/11: thoughtless veneration of military might, an armchair yearning for the glory of battle, and eggheads in irrelevant disciplines acting like they knew better about the Iraq War than anyone (and everyone) else.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:17 AM on August 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

the death toll set some kind of macabre world record

Suggested reading
posted by Trurl at 9:01 AM on August 14, 2011

It was never really about the death toll. I suspect the attacks would have worked nearly as well had the towers been evacuated in advance. They picked the towers as a symbol of American wealth, power, and tradition; and because they look really impressive blowing up on TV.
posted by LogicalDash at 9:03 AM on August 14, 2011

Well, really, I think the goal really was to destroy America. The targets included the nerve centers of our military, economic, and government power. They hoped the decapitation would paralyze us.

The self destructive reaction part of it was decent consolation prize though.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:00 PM on August 14, 2011

A better critique of Hanson comes in War Nerd's critique of Hanson's book.

Assuming it was the same author. I gather we're still unclear on that issue, and the eXile writer is the same guy. Perhaps the editors of the American Conservative required a more formal style? If so, they were right. In the blog, the fellow rants too much:

Professor Hanson is one of these “back to the land” assholes who can afford to live on a farm because he’s got tenure for life at Fresno State

The place has been in the family for five generations, which suggests he's something more than mere gentleman farmer dilettante.

Hanson graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 1975. I don’t know if you non-Californians understand what that means. UC Santa Cruz is the official sex-and-drugs campus of the whole UC system. It’s so hippie-cool and mellow it doesn’t even give grades, which are just too bourgeois

He also got a Phd in classics from Stanford, which suggests at least a bit of rigor.

Look, I've no brief for Hanson, far from it, but if you're going to go after someone, don't go for the trivial and wrong headed and misleading cheap shots. Go for the jugular.

As to the post, well. "....reflect on some of the themes that were raised by those events and to meditate on their meaning"

That whole line just strikes me as vaguely disturbing, and not in a useful way.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:27 PM on August 15, 2011

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