September 12th, 2001

caillebotte_man at his window

A few observations

After watching the news for several hours last night, I was struck by the fact that pundits and politicians alike were speaking only of the attack on America. Aside from the U.N. headquarters, no building in the United States was more international than the World Trade Center. It was the American headquarters of trading companies and financial institutions from around the world. Many of the people working there were foreign nationals. When that grim list of victims is compiled, I think we will find that practically every nation in the world will be represented. The point is that this was not only an attack on America, it was an attack on globalism. The reactionary fundamentalists of the world, of whatever culture or religion, fear nothing so much as that inexorable wave of change which comes with the tempting goods of trade, and the inevitable erosion of tradition which globalization brings. Terrorists may attack particular nations, but their real target is the modern world, with its ideas of individual liberty and prosperity in this life, as opposed to the traditional notions of obedience to authority in this life to be rewarded with pie in paradise. When this attitude is accompanied (as it often is) by a fanatical faith in the justice of their cause, It is not surprising that there are many willing to die in the attempt to hold back the sea of change. Under their bravado, there is a genuine desperation, because they know that they are loosing this battle. The ancient world is forever fighting a rear-guard action against the forces of change. When some element of that old way is close to being lost, as it is now, it will always find true believers willing to lash out at the enemy. They will always do damage. They will always be swept into the dustbin of history.