File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0109, message 147

Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2001 11:16:43 -0500
Subject: the event


Steve has recently talked about 911 in the context of the Differend and,
while this approach certainly seems valid, I confess to have been
thinking about it in the context of another Lyotardian concept, the

Media commentators have certainly made a point of insisting how this
changes everything in America.  There is now no turning back.  We will
never return again to the way things were before.

This seems true, but not in the way it is usually interpreted. The
retribalism, resurgence of nationalism and patriotism seem to be
simply a kind of regression in the face of the horrors that have
occurred.  People are shocked and so they retreat back into a sense of
comfort and protection by embracing what they once knew in their
childhood - the flag as a kind of security blanket.

This is understandable, but hardly sufficient, given the great needs of
the world today.  Beyond the denial, we must come to recognize that what
has truly died in this tragedy is the isolation, the unilateralism, the
immunity fantasies of Star Wars and SDI - the entire dream that America
could live as a kind of gated community in ignorance of the rest of the

Now the deeper understanding has arrived belatedly that we are not alone
and we must embrace instead our wider role within the global world. The
time has come for each one of us to accept our responsibility for the
condition of the world as it exists today. 

My hope is that eventually as a result of this terrible shock and the
suffering that has occurred we will emerge into a greater realization, a
new consciousness and a global ethic that honors diversity as it allows
the world to heal and become whole.

The task is for us to assist the rest of humanity as it enters into this
new perspective.  As we rush towards globalism the dangers become
intensified, but so does the need for a greater awareness.  We have all
become postmodern now.

I have often thought about this tragedy in relation to a short story by
Edgar Allan Poe, entitled The Masque of the Red Death.  

"The "Red Death" had long devastated the country.  No pestilence had
ever been so fatal, or so hideous.  Blood was its Avatar and its seal -
the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden
dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. 
The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the
victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and the
sympathy of his fellow-men.  And the whole siezure, progress, and the
termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour."

"But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious.  When
his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a
thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames
of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one his
castellated abbeys.... 

"With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. 
The world could take care of itself.  In the meantime it was folly to
grieve, or to think.  The prince had provided all the appliances of
pleasure.  There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were
ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine.
All these and security were within, Without was the "Red Death." 

Of course, we all know now how the story ends.  

Hardt and Negri have written that the primary danger of colonialism is
the fear of disease or contagion.  They write:

"The contemporary processes of globalization have torn down many of the
boundaries of the colonial world. Along with the common celebrations of
the unbounded flows in our new global village, one can still sense also
an anxiety about increased contact and a certain nostalgia for
colonialist hygiene. The dark side of the consciousness of globalization
is the fear of contagion."

There is no question that the media and the government now see the
global village as overtaken by a plague, the virus of terrorism.  But
there is also the possibility that this event may yet prove to have a
greater significance for history than merely that of terror.  911 is
calling us.



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