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Sunday, January 11, 2015

what drives man to war- from Charlie hebdo to Terzani

 "what is it that drives man to war?" Einstein asked Sigmund Freud (letter -1932)

David Brooks

Who are not Charlie Hebdo
(9 January, 2015) The journalists at Charlie Hebdo are now rightly being celebrated as martyrs on behalf of freedom of expression, but let’s face it: If they had tried to publish their satirical newspaper on any American university campus over the last two decades it wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds. Student and faculty groups would have accused them of hate speech. The administration would have cut financing and shut them down. Public reaction to the attack in Paris has revealed that there are a lot of people who are quick to lionize those who offend the views of Islamist terrorists in France but who are a lot less tolerant toward those who offend their own views at home.
(...) Healthy societies, in other words, don’t suppress speech, but they do grant different standing to different sorts of people. Wise and considerate scholars are heard with high respect. Satirists are heard with bemused semirespect. Racists and anti-Semites are heard through a filter of opprobrium and disrespect. People who want to be heard attentively have to earn it through their conduct.

After 11/9  2001.  War, enemy, terrorism, one-sided opinions

T. Terzani, in his Letters against the war (2002) warned us agains the Enemy. You may download them from wikipedia.
There are days in our lives when nothing happens, days which go by leaving nothing to 
remember and no trace of their passing, almost as though we hadn't lived them at all. 
Come to think of it, most days are like that. But when it dawns on us that the number 
of days we have left is limited, we wonder how we could possibly have let so many slip 
by unnoticed. But this is how we're made. Only afterwards do we appreciate what came 
before. Only when something is in the past do we understand what it would be like to 
have it in the present. But by then it's too late. 
 For me, and not just for me I am sure, 10 September 2001 was one such 
day. I remember nothing about it.

First Letter:

When we came to the elephantine, whiter-than-white statue of Abraham Lincoln seated on a great white armchair in a huge white copy of a Greek temple, I found myself saying, "This reminds me of Kim Il Sung", aware that my friend too had been in North Korea.

He was offended, as if I'd blasphemed against something sacred. "We love this man", he said. I refrained from pointing out that a North Korean would have said exactly the same thing, but it was America itself that had given me this impression. 
Lincoln statue.jpg
The comparison lay not just in the elephantine size of the monument, but also in the fact that the Americans too struck me as having undergone some kind of brainwashing, whereby everyone says the same things and thinks the same way. The difference is that, unlike the North Koreans, the Americans think they are acting freely and don't realize their conformity is the product of everything they see, drink, hear and eat. 

3rd letter:
An elderly academic at Berkeley University, a man whom no-one would suspect of anti-Americanism or leftist sympathies, has given a completely different interpretation of the event. "The suicidal assassins of September 11 2001 did not 'attack America', as our political leaders and news media like to maintain; they attacked American foreign policy," writes Chalmers Johnson in the October issue of The Nation
For Johnson, the author of several books, the latest of which, Blowback, was published last year and has an almost prophetic quality, it represents the umpteenth "blowback", deriving from the fact that the United States has managed to maintain its imperial network of some 800 military installations around the world despite the end of the Cold War and the break-up of the Soviet Union. 

   (...) We need a St Francis. There were crusades in his day, too, but he was concerned with the others, the ones the crusaders were fighting against. He did all he could to go and find them. The first time he tried, the ship he was sailing on was wrecked, and he only just survived. He tried again, but fell ill on the way and had to turn back. 
Then, in the siege of Damietta in Egypt during the fifth crusade, embittered by the crusaders' behaviour ("he saw evil and sin"), but deeply moved by the sight of the dead on the battlefield, he finally crossed the front line. He was taken prisoner, chained and brought before the Sultan, SaladdinIt's a shame CNN didn't exist in 1219, because it would have fascinating to see this meeting on television. It must have been remarkable, because after a conversation which doubtless lasted deep into the night, the Sultan allowed St Francis return unharmed to the crusaders' encampment the next morning. 

Yet we must accept that for others, the "terrorist" may be the businessman who arrives in a poor Third World country, not with a bomb in his briefcase but plans for a chemical factory, which could never have been built in a wealthy First World country because of the risks of explosion and pollution. And what about the nuclear power station which gives cancer to the people living nearby, or the dam which makes thousands of families homeless? Or even the construction of hosts of little factories, which concrete over ancient ricefields in order to produce transistor radios or trainers, until such time as it is cheaper to take production elsewhere and the factories are closed, leaving the workers unemployed and bereft of the fields in which they could have grown rice, and the people to die of starvation?

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