Friday, 12 September 2008

Seven Years And One Day

I've been considering for the last day or so whether to write something about 9/11. There are a number of things I could say, mostly from a utilitarian perspective. I've always found it hard to understand why people think losing 3 000 to one act of terrorism is worse than losing 18 000 people to an earthquake in the same month, or losing 150 000 people in the same country over seven years to acts off domestic violence, or losing well over 600 000 people in another country as civilian casualties in a bullshit war (those are estimates I've gleaned from various sources, mainly LGM, but the specifics don't really matter in the context of my confusion, so much as the relative sizes of the numbers). I'm not suggesting that view is wrong, or that one of the other options is clearly "the worst one", I just find it strange that so many other people are sure.

Then I decided I wasn't going to write too much on the subject, because when a single event is so tragic, and such a turning point in international relations, and something that ignites so much passion in so many people (I'll never forget the ugly conversation I had with an Afghan who was studying at Durham about how much he admired the terrorists that had struck against "his people's" enemies), you'd better be damn sure you're right before you start mouthing off.

I considered next putting up some links from others who have commentated on the topic over the last few days. I was close to giving you the link for Olbermann's tirade against the Republican "memorial" video used at their convention. Even by Olbermann's standards it's pretty vitriolic, though he usually has a point underneath all the sturm und drang, and if what he says about the video is true, he had every right to be enraged. Here's the thing, though, I'm not going to watch the memorial to check (it sounds so bad I think it would crush my will to live for at least a few hours, and I really need to finish a proof this afternoon), so I don't want to stir things up by posting a direct link to Olbermann's screed without any idea of how close to the mark it is (anyone with a stronger stomach than mine can find it at Crooks and Liars, amongst other places).

Instead, I offer you this: a Buddhist reflection on the nature of evil, and our inherent desire to classify the people in the world as either ourself, or everyone else, without necessarily realising what that might entail. It was written only a few weeks after the WTC fell, but it has lost none of its relevancy in the years between. Some of it gets a bit too far into the inner mechanics of Buddhism for someone as faithless as I am, but many of the more general arguments are fascinating.

h/t to The Mahablog.

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