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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11: An Open Wound?

I have already talked about the terrible events which took place in the United States on September 11, 2001 last year in the  post entitled 10 Years of Fear. Eleven  years have passed and we do well to remember the memories of those who died on that day and those who died as a consequence of 9/11. But it would be wrong to stop there and not be ready to move on, and, yes, let go.

For, horrible as 9/11 was, this event isn’t actually the cause of all the distrust and intolerance that we still witness to this day. Hate and revenge have always been a dark part of human nature. If you look closely and reflect on what might have caused 9/11, you may be surprised that there’s a very rational explanation to why we have reached such levels of hate and violence.

The fact is that even before 9/11, there was fear. But accounting for 9/11 in terms of fear may appear too simplistic and unsatisfying. Thus it’s important to qualify how fear operates at different levels. Thus, we can speak of the:

Fear of Change

As long as some do not accept that the world has changed, they will try to externalise their frustration through hate speech and violence. Thus, we have ideologies that misappropriate religion for their own political interests. Recent examples include the American Christian Right and Ismism. All promise to return to a world where they feel safe and control because they cling to a false belief that only one view of the world is valid.

Fear of Loss

Some of us  feel threatened by the ‘other’. There is a tendency for us to believe that our view of the world is correct. A false belief that we are independent selves and that we’re better or more superior than other people. We feel threatened by difference because it challenges our map of reality. We are ready to cling to beliefs that are irrational or incorrect. We justify violence because we see it as a way to protect who we are - or who we think we are. Thus, we have sexism, racism, disablism and so on and so forth. In a sense, we become slaves to the labels we give ourselves.

Fear of Losing Self

Finally, perhaps the subtler of fears. The fear of losing our self. In a way, this can be compared to the fear of death. But, the only difference perhaps is that this fear is more present and a real possibility. We fear to face who we are may be because we are not really sure of who we are. We keep holding on to our convictions not out of genuine effort but because we know that, if challenged, we are defenceless. We want to retain control and fear change because we were never on a solid foundation to start with.

There are no easy solutions to fear. However, what is sure, is that closing our minds and hearts to others who we perceive as different, foreign or as a threat, won’t heal the wound. Indeed, this may worsen the cycle of violence and hate that exists today. There remains a mistrust in our world which is somehow justified.

For, the modern war (if you may use that word) is increasingly becoming an individual matter. Everyone can be an enemy. It may even be a friend, a relation or someone you know. The recent shootings in Aurora, for example, exemplify how easy it has become to commit  individual acts of violence. There, are of course, suicide bombers still killing others they want to destroy and killing themselves in the process.

Thus, it’s now not only a matter of nations or world leaders whether there’s world peace. Then, it follows that it becomes more important that we are the ones who work for peace. Yes, there is the fears I discussed above.

We fear change. But, in truth, change is part of life. Ironically, we cannot change the fact that things change. It’s not a good or bad thing because change leads to growth and can lead to progress. Rejecting change means that we remain in a world that, however safe, is not real.

We fear difference. Perhaps because it challenges our view of ourselves. Accepting difference might mean to abandon our idea that wee are better than other people. Even labelling others as ‘less fortunate’ is a false belief that we don’t have any control over our lives or that injustice and inequality is natural and inevitable. Yet, while we are different on some levels, we are all human beings who share in the joy and suffering of life. Whoever we are, we were born of a mother, we all get sick, we all get old and we will all die. In this respect, our identity will not change this - even if it may change how we deal with these processes.
 We fear to lose who we are. But, how much of who we are has been given to us by others. Our names to start with. The fact is that there is no constant self. We aren’t who we were ten years ago. We’re not the same selves we were when we were children. This will change. Thus, our fear will not help and denying the fact that there are people who may be different than us leads nowhere but self delusion.

What does all this have to do with 9/11? The tragic events that happened on that day didn’t happen just like that. They happened because of many factors, one being fear. The fear of reaching out to others, a fear to accept things as they are and fear of losing our identity. A fear that has continued feeding into a cycle of violence. A cycle emerging out of a failure to communicate and reach out to others. A failure to correct injustice and poverty because of national interest.

It’s a failure to look at people who appear different than us as being part of us. Part of one human family facing the same challenges and all having the potential to improve the world.
We can’t afford to remain insulated in our own worlds of beliefs. We need to challenge and change who we are. Silence may help but if that means we stop talking to each other, it can be destructive.

Today, humans have the potential to build a better world but, at the same time, they have acquired weapons that can reap havoc and even destroy the whole planet in a matter of hours. Peace is the only rational choice. For, whether we like it or not, we are all in this world together. And while it may sound rather naïve to use such language, the truth is that we may need to start outgrowing the idea that we are distinct human beings but rather consider to be people with differences rather than different people altogether.

For history has shown that violence only breeds more violence. By continuing this violence by pretending to defend ourselves from another 9/11, we would be doing the same thing the hijackers did on that day. We would be killing our ‘enemy’ but, at the same time, we would be killing ourselves.

I believe that renewing a dialogue based on peace and mutual respect and cooperation is the only way to honour those who died (and are dying) as a result of the 9/11 attacks.

It may be the only way to prevent more 9/11s…

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