9/11, 3/11, 7/7, 11/13 = New York, Madrid, London,
By Raúl Ilargi Meijer
Clearing House" - "The
Automatic Earth" - Better to wait a day
before writing, after a night like that. What does one write after
such a night anyway? And why write anything at all if you can be
dead sure to always antagonize some one on some side of some
spectrum, ideological or not, no matter what you write, unless you
tag some safe official line, and even then, or especially then?
Better to soak in what the official media have to
say, or so one might think. After all, they got all the resources
and the reporters and the analysts and -access to- the politicians,
and most of all the attention of the people.
Unfortunately, all that firepower -pun intended-
is used only to tag official lines. To provide air space to
‘leaders’ who profess their utmost grief and sadness and anger and
solidarity over barbarous criminal “acts of war” that they swear
will be avenged with all the power they have. It’s so predictable
it’s like all of their spin doctors have been sent on a Caribbean
holiday at the same time, and together.
Still, it also doesn’t seem very appropriate to
address the economic issues we usually talk about, at least not at
first glance. Respect for victims and families must come first, that
is a given. Then again, it does seem appropriate, out of that very
same respect, to get to the bottom of what’s behind these attacks
that will at final count leave perhaps 200 people dead on what
started as a nice and balmy autumn evening in the city of lights.
And the politicians’ truisms and platitudes don’t exactly help.
how does one go about that truth finding? French President Hollande
declared eerily early in the ‘game’ he was sure ISIS is behind the
tragedy, and ISIS statements seem to confirm that conclusion. But
what is ISIS? And where does it come from?
It’s no longer really credible to entirely ignore
the role of the west, including France, in the origins of the
‘movement’, if it can be called that. From Al Queda to ISIS, and
scores of groups and factions in between and beyond, there is at
least some kind of link to western military action in the middle
East. And that link goes back quite a few years, if not decades.
So if we really want to pay the kind of respect to
the victims that comes with trying to figure out what’s behind these
attacks, it would seem that we can’t get it done without a critical
look at our own roles in what led up to this. Not to say that we’re
the only guilty party, or that the perpetrators are not cuckoos, but
to say we’re not credible if we completely ignore our own roles and
don’t look in a mirror.
Hence, the first reaction we probably might want
to have is that it’s enough alright with the ‘us’ vs ‘them’ meme.
Even if, or exactly because, that reaction is, obviously, 180º
removed from what the initial reactions to the attacks are, whether
they’re provoked by media coverage or not. And they are. It cannot
be only ‘us’ vs ‘them’. No black, no white. To understand this world
you need a lot more than that.
If we try to phrase it that way, and we’re only
halfway decent and honest about it, there’s no escaping that in the
final analysis we indeed are them. We’re not like them, we are them.
‘We’ have spread terror, death and mayhem across the Middle East and
North Africa (MENA) regions for a long time (to a large extent
because that’s where the oil is, but that’s a story for a different
And then ‘we’ took it up a notch with the removal
of the likes of Saddam and Gaddafi, leaving rudderless societies in
We can’t pretend to be honest and still ignore the
fact that for many people in the Middle East a day like this Friday
13th is their everyday routine. And that that’s what makes them
refugees. Many Parisians -or New Yorkers, for that matter- would do
the same, get out of Dodge, if this were a common event in their
city. Not only because of the danger and the fear, but also because
there would be no functioning society or economy left, and hence no
No matter how you look at it, there’s no denying
it’s kind of ironic that attacks on Beirut that were similar in many
regards to the ones in Paris, even took place at the same time, and
similar attacks on several other places, receive no media coverage
at all in the west, while the Paris attacks dominate all western
That is not a coincidence. And it’s not either
because most Americans would find it as easy to find Damascus or
Beirut on a map as they would Paris. That is, they would not. But
still Paris is on American TV about 48/7 (that’s the attention span
limit), interrupted only by either a Kardashian body part -or two-
or by the single The Donald’s body part that sticks in memory.
And that’s where we find our link to economics,
because in geo-politics as in economics, we, all of us, think, talk
and live exclusively in narratives. We have stories pre-fabricated
for us, and these stories determine how we see the world, and our
lives, and other people’s lives and dreams and wishes.
That is to say, whatever it is we want and dream
of is per definition just and justified, and other people’s desires
are not, as soon as they threaten to interfere with ours. As we read
ad nauseam post-Paris in literally countless references to the
‘freedom’ that ‘we’ have and ‘they’ hate, and to ‘our way of life’
that is under threat -with nary a soul knowing what that way is.
We cannot forever fool ourselves and others into
believing that we are the good guys and ‘the others’ are the bad
guys. It’s tempting, and there’s a whole behemoth media apparatus to
confirm it, but it doesn’t get us any closer to what happened, and
why, and therefore no closer to paying our full and due respect to
those who died in Paris on 11/13.
“They” don’t resent us for our freedom, “they”
resent us for not allowing them to have their freedom, too. We need
to recognize at some point that we owe our affluence to the misery
of others, not to our superior intelligence or morals or religion or
way of life. But there’s not a single voice among us which wants to
make that recognition happen.
We are not a benevolent force, no matter what we
tell ourselves or how many times we repeat it. We are a civilization
of oppressors. Just like the Romans and the Mongols and so many
others before and after. We seek to uphold our status and our wealth
at the expense of others, of strangers, people who live conveniently
far enough away in conveniently impoverished conditions.
We have been building our empire this way since
well before Columbus, we’ve greatly expanded it over the past 500
years, and we’re now looking at the terminal phase of that empire.
Just like the Romans and the Mongols and so many others before and
Interestingly enough, it’s our own technological
prowess and ‘progress’ that leads us into that phase. The very
moment we started exporting our oil drilling technologies, our
smartphones, our databases and most of all our modern weaponry to
what we still see as colonies, the very foundations of our
civilization and our power started eroding.
But that’s getting too philosophical, and it would
require too many words and lead us too far astray from Paris and the
due diligence we owe those who lost their lives and those who mourn
Pope Francis said in a reaction to the Friday 13th
attacks: “This is not human”. Unfortunately, 2000 years of
Christianity say he’s dead wrong, wrong as he could be. This is very
human. It’s as human as feeling an overbearing love for our
children. It’s all human.
It’s very human, too, to go for the ‘us’ vs ‘them’
meme. Because it feels good, and you can be sure it makes those
around you feel good too. Which is a big help in times of fear and
insecurity and not having the answer, not having any other answers
than the ubiquitous ones the media feed you.
But that still is not what the dead deserve. They
deserve much more. They deserve that we try the best we can, not to
settle for the first thing that comes to our reptilian minds. Not to
make our entire lives come down to just fight or flight, but to
attempt to find that area in between that is as close to truth
finding as we know we can come.
To honor the dead, we need to look inside
ourselves, and inside the societies we live in. And only when we’ve
found, and eradicated, those things that make both us, and our
communities, ‘guilty by association’ -for lack of a better term-,
will we have paid proper respect to those who lost their lives.
The Automatic Earth
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