Saturday, September 11, 2010

Stepping beyond 9/11

Bad things happen. We lose our keys. Our bikes get stolen. We're laid-off or fired. Sometimes our intimate partnerships disintegrate. Sometimes there are floods and fires and we lose everything.

Sometimes people steal airliners and fly them into buildings in our cities.

It is often hard to believe we have a choice in how we respond to these things. Taking the step out of our cultural and emotional conditioning in our responses intances of loss and tragedy at any scale requires tremendous effort.

We've all known people who have suffered some grievance in their lives and are unable to come to terms with it in a way that allows them to move forward and put healing distance between themselves and the event.

They, in effect, become prisoners of a point in time and it becomes an obsession that controls them through the rest of their lives. And sometimes extends into the lives of their children and loved ones.

It isn't just individuals who experience this. Entire societies can be interned to a moment in history for generations and centuries. In places like the Balkans, ancient enthno-cultural narratives polluted society so much that they provided fuel enough to neighbours to war against each other. The Nazi crime energised a narrative of existential paranoia that persists to this day in the tragic, chronic and bloody conflict between Israel and its neighbours.

An event such as Nine Eleven leaves a society with the option of either being held captive to it, or carrying on in spite of it. The people face a choice of whether to take the hit, shrug it off as much as possible and carry on.

Or turn the event into a cultural monolith, and build a death cult around it.

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