File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0110, message 37

Date: Sun, 07 Oct 2001 06:30:13 -0500
Subject: Re: Different approach to terrorist threat


As I have stated before, I think to the extent that it can be shown Bid
Laden was involved in these acts of terrorism, retaliation is
necessary.  I think the Taliban is a pernicious government and believe,
under these circumstances, some limited form of military intervention
may be required to replace it with a more democratic form of government
in Afghanistan. I believe the U.S. government has doing the right thing
strategically in sending them food and other supplies.  I have also been
pleased to see the U.S. government has so far moved slowly, deliberately
and with some restraint. I also think the case has been made that there
now needs to be greater security and greater intelligence to combat the
threat of terrorist retaliation domestically.  America certainly needs
to secure itself as a nation.

I still remain cynical about the role of government in this, however. I
don't think this conflict is about freedom, democracy, civilization or
our open, pluralistic society. I simply do not believe "The government
we have is our only weapon, we must support it." Instead, I think,
pragmatically, given the immediate conditions that now exist, some
limited support of the government is necessary to defend ourselves
against terrorism. 

Shawn and Steve have talked about how government is merely a historical
and technological aberration, one that has usually not been on the side
of human life. I agree. Government as a weapon has often been used in
the past to dominate and oppress its own citizenry.  Government as a
weapon is a loaded gun and, therefore, always dangerous. 

As Noam Chomsky and others have pointed out, however, government as a
weapon is also a two-edged sword.  In the past, it has often been the
vehicle through which grievances has been addressed, rights defended and
positive as well as negative freedoms granted.

In my view, it is utter madness to reduce the social role of government
right now, as Harry Browne and other libertarians advocate.  Basically,
their political platform is one that states - lets legalize marijuana
and piss on the poor. Against their ilk, the role of government in
support of the welfare state and as a safety net needs to be defended
until the day comes when something less terroristic than neo-liberalism
can be offered as the sole panacea. 

At the same time, we also need to be vigilant and honest with ourselves
about the likelihood that the current administration, in the name of
fighting terrorism, is also pushing for programs that simply manage and
control dissent, exasperate the class divisions that already exist and
simply leave far too many without any visible means of support as the
current global economic crisis deepens.

As the global level, we need to recognize that the policies of the U.S.
government have often been, and here I speak with some restraint,
somewhat counterproductive.  Just as the Bush administration has
vigorously pushed for its agenda, I believe progressives worldwide
should now pressure this government to forgive the Third world-debt, end
the sanctions in Iraq, allow HIV vaccines to flow into Africa and
recognize that Palestinians have been the victims of racism (in a way
that strangely approaches the conditions of our own native Americans). 
These are just some suggestions, of course, and in no way meant to be

So I hope this helps you understand, Hugh, where I support you and where
I must disagree.  In my view, when the house is burning, it is not a
time for silence.  Instead, it is a time to cry out - FIRE!


P.S. - I also think, historically, what is characteristic about the
postmodern period is that people are becoming incredulous about the
concept of God and religious institutions are undergoing a crisis of
legitimization.  This has been brought about for two main reasons.  1.
The development of science, especially evolution, has undermined the
intellectual foundations of theology. 2. The development of globalism
has meant that religious cultures no longer exist in silos, but now
confront one another face-to-face.

While the main driver of globalism remains technological and economic,
this crisis of religion makes the transition more difficult as religious
institutions strive to maintain their hegemony while at the same time
they can feel the world sliding irrevocably from their grasp.

Perhaps future historians will regard our period as the time when
religion went supernova, blazing incredibly for a short period before it
became merely a burned out cinder.  What will the post-religious society
be like? How can this be created? 

Those are also political questions. Perhaps, religion is merely
government in drag.


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