Sunday, 11 September 2011


it's september the 11th again, and ten years on from the attack on the various targets in the unites states. every year we have the reminders of this anniversary, the coverage across the media, the images played again on our screen.

the annual reminders around this disaster keep the tragedy fresh in our memories and remind us of those who suffered, the pain and the grief that is obviously still a major factor in the lives of the people most directly affected by it.

yet there is no doubt that this annual commemoration is a political event, it has political and social implications. simply because no other international tragedy has a similar commemoration or media focus. perhaps the bombing of hiroshima and nagasaki comes close - there tends to be a newsclip about commemorations in japan, but this is rarely the first or second item in the news report, nor does it get a full half hour's attention on, say, campbell live.

the anniversary of the massacre at sribrenica does also tend to get some coverage. but not so much the boxing tsunami that took so many lives, nor other massacres of the second world war. subsequent wars barely get a mention, and there isn't a commemoration day where we actually consider those who suffered and listen to their first hand accounts.

don't get me wrong - i'm not saying that we shouldn't remember what happened in america on 11 sept 2001. i'm saying we should also remember those other events, and hear from those others who have suffered and are continuing to suffer. because if we don't, then we treat one set of victims as more important than another, more worthy of our attention than others. and we then feel less inclinded to do something to alleviate their suffering or to even identify with it.

and when we remember 11 september 2001, we should also remember those who have suffered and continue to suffer because of wars that resulted from it. let's hear not just from those in new york but also from those in washington DC, the relatives of those who died in that other plane that went down, and the people of afghanistan and iraq. let's learn what it's like to have bombs and terrorist attacks every other day, because these people too are a casualty of the bombing in america. let's hear about their heroism and courage in the face of horror and tragedy on a massive scale, their sacrifices and humanity.

of course there are plenty of other people who are much better than saying what i want to say. so here are a few links: first from an american, steve almond, on "the decade of magical thinking":

Nobody stood up – in Congress, in the bright studios of our corporate media, in city hall – to make the obvious point that millions of people in other parts of the world live in a state of perpetual danger. And that the events of 9/11 might therefore require of us a greater empathy for those suffering elsewhere, might even nudge us toward a more serious consideration of our own imperial luxuries and abuses, and how these might relate to the deprivations suffered in less fortunate precincts.

That’s not what we talked about. No, we talked about our feelings. Americans were bloated with empathy in the weeks after 9/11. But something fatal was happening: as a nation, we were consenting to pursue vengeance over mercy.

please do go and read the whole piece. here's another by cas mudde on the security implications:

Every event has winners and losers and 9/11 is no exception. More broadly, the larger intelligence-security complex has been the major winner. Throughout the world budgets for intelligence agencies and related security firms (often private) have skyrocketed. In Australia the increase since 2001 has been almost tenfold! At the same time, the influence of these organisations has grown exponentially, as a consequence of the securitisation of politics and the hasty introduction of new and often vague and thus far-reaching laws....

The report emphasises that many non- and semi-democracies have also used post-9/11 anti-terrorism legislation to stifle democratic and non-violent internal opposition, though it fails to report that there are many examples of similar arrests and harassments in established democracies (such as the scandal involving the wiretapping of US peace activists).

there's this piece by glenn greenwald at salon:

This is why there is nothing more dangerous -- nothing -- than allowing this type of power to be exercised without accountability: no oversight, no transparency, no consequences for serious wrongdoing: exactly the state of affairs that prevails in the United States. It's also why there are few things more deeply irresponsible, vapid and destructive than demanding that citizens, activists, and journalists retreat into Permanent Election Mode: transform themselves into partisan cheerleaders who refrain from aggressively criticizing the party that is slightly less awful out of fear that the other party might win an election 14 months away, even when their own party is the one in power. Renouncing the duty of holding accountable political leaders who exercise vast power makes one directly responsible for the abuses they commit.

here's an account by chilean mario nain on the effects of 11 september 1973, or this piece from the guardian on the same topic:

The coup was supported by the US government of Richard Nixon. But after 1977, the Carter administration distanced itself from Pinochet because of his repeated violation of human rights. The regime remained in power for 16 years, becoming one of the longest lasting military dictatorships in Latin America, and it almost certainly introduced more changes than in any other country. Economic policy took a radical neoliberal turn under the influence of Milton Friedman. Allende's nationalisations were reversed and a programme of privatisations was introduced, together with the elimination of tariff barriers; this, alongside the banning of trade unions, produced a dramatic fall in real wages and an equally dramatic increase in business profits.

a commemoration of 11 september gives us the opportunity to contemplate many things. let's hope that we do take the time to widen our internal gaze and think about all those affected in a myriad of ways as a result of events on this particular day.


Hugh said...

Don't forget September 11 1922, when the British Mandate over Palestine was established - probably eventually responsible for more loss of life and misery than either 2001 or 1973.

Brett Dale said...

Thoughts and Wishes to the people of the USA on this day.

Anonymous said...

Just Saying

Excellent post Stargazer, and one that has been, and is, knocking around in my head as I go about my day.

katy said...

"no other international tragedy has a similar commemoration or media focus"

Are you just talking about NZ here? I think it is important to remember things like 9/11 and can understand why the Americans make a fuss of it but agree that the level of coverage we get in NZ is a bit perplexing. I wonder if this also appeals to our generally rubbish media outlets due to the easy availability of media reports etc from that country as compared to tragedies in other parts of the world.

Brett Dale said...

A lot of NewZealanders have connections to the USA,and thus the coverage I would think.

stargazer said...

brett, i have trouble deciding whether you are just spectactularly obtuse or whether you just really enjoy pushing people's buttons. the end result is the same regardless.

try reading the actual post and thinking about it. the whole point of it is that we need to be developing those kind of connections with every part of the world & to be caring just as much about everyone who suffers. now kindly stop commenting on my posts.

JS, thanx for your kind comments.

katy, i don't think i'm talking just about nz here. the issues are pretty universal, as evidenced by the excerpts i've included particularly by american writers. here's another piece at common dreams. the issues are about what we commemorate and how we do it. how we reflect on the wider impacts of tragic events.

LudditeJourno said...

Hey stargazer,
beautiful and gracious post. I feel so troubled by this, and have done since September 11th, 2001 - that the media presentation of the events of that day has allowed the western world a level of empathy which just does not happen around other kinds of tragedy. It's an example of white privilege (though not all the victims were white) and of course American privilege, which has tangible effects, as you've named here.
None of which means it wasn't an awful tragedy.

stargazer said...

thanx LJ. it's so hard to find that balance - to acknowledge that it's right to care & commemorate those who died, but also to acknowledge that we need to care about so many others as well.

there are so many great links being put up on facebook. here's an american sikh's perspective up at the huffington post.

LudditeJourno said...

That's beautiful stargazer. The prejudice he is describing post 9/11 reminds me of a community meeting I went to in London just after 9/11, called by the anti-racist coalition. 500 people. Everyone there who "looked Muslim" - British Asian, Asian, Arabic peoples - had experienced some kind of street harassment since 9/11. From being spat at to being assaulted.
Misplaced hatred based on fear and privilege. Ongoing tragedy.
I think he's right that it is in reaching across that hatred that we undo it.