In this first installment of four pieces, the reader will encounter just a couple of points. The first is an overview that presents a way of looking at the tenth September eleventh since 2001. The second both follows up on the ‘pitch-for-democracy’ which appears in the Preface and introduces the inquiries that Part Two will examine tomorrow.
A note on process may be apt. For the most part, readers will view here thinking and scope unlike what they’ve encountered elsewhere. This is not ‘liberal.’ It is not ‘leftist.’ It is committed to democracy and social justice.
As such, it does not focus narrowly on such topics as the Middle East, discrimination against Muslims or other forms of bigotry, or on the ‘greed’ of U.S. elites for money and oil. What it does do is provide a focus that actually explains the world now, proffering explanations, moreover, that suggest the possibility of doing something more about our problems than writing a check for another donation or voting for another hopeless electoral candidate.
Anyone with whom such articulation resonates should definitely read on.
PREFACE–Laying a Groundwork for Comprehension
Seven billion cousins share the Earth with each other, in aggregate a human race that has the knowledge, resources, and talents to fashion a peaceful, creative, sustainable existence on definitely the coolest planet for mammals within several light years in any direction. This happy outcome, lasting creativity and peace, does not seem like a safe bet, however, as the tenth anniversary of the inception of the present period approaches amid memorialization and appeals to patriotism that make not the slightest attempt to comprehend either what happened a decade ago, or why vicious, suicidal madness unfolded as it did on a brilliant September day in 2001.
Such a lack of rigorous assessment–lightweight farces like the 9/11 Commission notwithstanding–an inability or unwillingness to ponder cause and effect, action and reaction, culpability and responsibility, portends a repetition, only on a much wider scale and with much more catastrophic impacts, of the brutal spectacle–the collapse of a pair of buildings that might easily symbolize modern civilization–that seemingly everyone recalls but very few are willing to analyze. In fact, a reasonable observer, who is willing to investigate and dissect this matter, could frankly posit that a calamitous human decline in the next few days or the next few decades is almost certain, unless policies and practices are forthcoming that differ in essence from what has been coming down the pike for a decade following nine-eleven and for many, many decades prior to that.
However, different policies and practices, axiomatically, cannot be the program of those who have been calling the tune for the past couple of centuries, the banking and industrial and royal families who have exercised effective hegemony since at least the days of Mssr. Bonaparte. Standing in for any sort of transformative reflection, at the behest of this ruling class, is the overwhelming plethora of breast-beating, woe-is-me, vengeful, blaming, facile nonsense that fills the World Wide Web to bursting and even rivals the volume of solicitations in advertiser-driven media.
Suspicious citizens, of whom many more than a tiny few exist, are prone merely to grit their teeth and shrug at such thoughts. “What can I do?” they respond, grimly determined to continue trying to make ends meet and hope for the best.
In the alternative, a small number of activists make cases for an accounting about the almost unbelievable phenomenon: two huge jets that succeed in flying into and knocking down two even more gargantuan skyscrapers. Along with Joseph Conrad, who based his novel The Secret Agent on an actual instance of British/German cooperation in an agent provocateur’s ‘terrorist’ act in London, these ‘doubting Thomases’ suspect that rulers are fully capable of murder and deception in the service of their continued reign. Thus, this cohort contends that a conspiracy underlay the events of ten year’s back.
On the other hand, a more substantial but still-small contingent contend, whether anyone can prove that purportedly friendly criminal masterminds orchestrated this mayhem, that simple opportunism can also account for the response of elites to this situation. After all, everything that they had wanted for a quarter century or more–a strengthened ‘national-security state, with untrammeled access to anyone’s communication or other private matters; a free hand to assassinate, or to go to war against, ‘evil-doers'(never mind that many of these are current or former contract agents and employees); automatic increases in spending on death-technologies, all in the name of ‘defense’ and ‘anti-terrorism,’ when they and their fellow rulers are the only competent promulgators of war and organized horror; and so on and so forth, ad nauseum–suddenly became not just politically plausible but sociopolitically irresistible. ‘How convenient!’
Whatever the case may be, though, in regard to the actualities of a few hours of hideous tragedy ten years ago, these stances–both ‘It’s a conspiracy,’ and ‘our rulers are opportunistic thugs’–cannot of themselves facilitate much progress away from the political results of the planes and the buildings that fell that day. In fact, the only plausible source of that sort of transformation–from imperial plutocracy and its attendant carnage to something akin to a negotiated manifestation of social justice and social peace–is an activated democratic upsurge that replaces the powers that be. In other words, the U.S. and the rest of the world have no choice, if we want human life to have a decent prospect of survival, but to become the democracies that we have often bragged that we already are.
While such a prospect clearly appears at best fantastical at this juncture–the legions of folk who are conscientious and principled and synchronized are nowhere on the horizon, except for perhaps in parts of India, Russia, Germany, Cuba, Venezuela, etc.–no other pathway is available that does not end in humanity’s likely decimation, or even elimination from the planet that we inhabit together, like a group of fractious children who have lethal toys with which to slaughter each other. Every other route, save an empowered majority-rule, leads to dead ends and evisceration.
One rule of politics is to seek only what is possible. Therefore, to pursue such a long-odds pathway, praying that a series of ‘get-a-clue’ moments will lead folks to stand up and take matters into their collective hands, seems to violate this maxim.
An equally important rule, however, is to recognize that necessity establishes the boundaries of possibility. If only one method holds the slightest promise of fruition, then all thinking, agitation, and action must emphasize that approach, presuming the premise that matters will coalesce so as to make further steps down a democratic ‘yellow-brick-road’ tenable.
Without a grassroots resurgence, a coming to pass of people power on a global scale, humanity’s wreckage is practically a guaranteed development: thus, necessity dictates that such leadership from below occur, or we will richly deserve the horrors that are already in the pipeline, headed our way. We have all the tools either to destroy or sustain this sacred orb that we occupy: our individual consciousnesses, and consciences, and our willingness to undertake collective negotiation and responsibility, will determine whether, on the one hand, a lovely future is plausible for our progeny, or, on the other hand, a wasteland is the inheritance that we leave to them.
INTRODUCTION–Joining Knowledge to Mass Participation
While no simple program or process will make popular democracy “as easy as one, two, three,” a three step-engagement tango is discernible that permits any citizen to think, creatively, analytically, and actively, about having a positive impact on the present pass that we face, of mayhem and misery at every turn. Though merely a skeletal outline, a precis of a brief for how to proceed, this description nonetheless proffers an initial ground from which to embark in the direction of participatory practice.
The three steps are pretty simple to state, albeit much more difficult to carry out. First, all citizens ought to ask what in the world is going on and find a way to begin to answer that question with satisfactory accuracy, insight, and acuity. Second, each of the plus or minus five billion adult stakeholders alive now, should seek to puzzle out an explanation as to why things are transpiring as they are, explicating the current status of things with analysis and deduction that matches the known reality and relates the various pieces of the puzzle. Third, as might characterize a family whose members give a damn about each other, this aggregation of scattered and disorganized citizen-owners of the Earth will have to begin to turn to each other, asking, “Given where things are, and why, what can we do together to alter the ecocidal course that lies ahead?”
Truly, Earth’s people are like passengers on a ferry, which, as many of the travelers surmise, is headed toward a gigantic waterfall, the attempt to navigate which will certainly destroy most of the folks on the boat. If together we ticket-holders cannot avert our ferry’s course, to a different channel or across the stream to the opposite bank, then the boat, from which few or none of us will have the option to exit and survive, will arrive at its catastrophic destination.
These thoughts seem particularly apt as the tenth anniversary of the present period of empire Is upon us. The crashing conflagration of that September morning, seemingly at once yesterday and part of some immeasurably distant past, crushed under the weight of a billion pounds of falling steel and concrete the hopes and dreams of all the years.
The infernos that victimized 2973 Americans on 9/11/2001 have yielded wars of attrition that, in sum, have killed easily as many as a million cousins. And the scope and pace of this fiercely vengeful slaughter show little signs of slowing. Even if this disproportion does not fairly quickly elicit a massive acceleration of the murderous chaos, something for which so many of us wait with bated breath–not, like our former President, in anticipation of a long expected apocalypse, but in trepidation and mortal terror of the point of no return for our species–in such a climate of righteous recrimination, no possibility will ever emerge for us to address any of the other half-dozen crises–including the climate crisis–that could drastically shorten or even eliminate the viability of Earth as our collective home.
What has been corporate media’s response to this frightening series of cataclysms? Have more than a tiny fraction of people sought to learn about and understand what has come to pass? Professor Douglas Kellner is one who has addressed the propaganda nexus that predominates now. His assessment that manipulation through a focus on the ‘spectacular,’ in service to preordained policy and ideological goals, meshes seamlessly with commercial media’s main output, both over the past ten years and for this anniversary.
Princeton’s philosophy professor, Harry Frankfurt has also spoken to this overall tendency toward falsity in service of deflection or hidden agendas. In 2005, he wrote a delightfully brief and artful capsulization of the intellectual swamp that continues to predominate contemporary dialog.
“One of the salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern or attracted much sustained inquiry.”
So saying, ”what in the world is going on?” While any attempt to answer such a query must either seem a religious undertaking or the work of one deranged, delusional, over his head, I intend to paint a picture that presents a portrait of the current moment that is neither primarily ‘spiritual’ nor utterly cracked.
To do this, I ask that readers think about three important dates: September 15, 1945; September 11, 1973; and September 11, 2001. I might have chosen other interludes, either to add to or replace these three. However, a rich tapestry is possible to weave from these three exemplars of Septembers past.