Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Welcome to the Realm of Terror, Here's Your T-Shirt

Jean-Francois Lyotard wrote that when force is applied to the realm of knowledge, we are living in the realm of terror, and the social bond is broken.

I don't think anyone has ever written a more profound explaination of what is currently happening in North American society.

September 11, 2001: terrorists linked to Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda crash two Boeing 747 passenger liners into the World Trade Center, a second (allegedly) into the Pentagon, and a fourth plane is crashed in a Pennsylvania field.

A few days later, an Anthrax scare sweeps the United States. Ever since, the mentality within the United States (and, by extension, Canada) has been that we are in a culture under siege. Paranoia is at an all-time high. That is partially what allowed for the passing of the Patriot Act in the United States, which is shockingly similar to Adolf Hitler's Enabling Act in Germany.

Now, the social bond is inexorably broken. It seems that people don't trust each other any more. In a society that has become so hopelessly dependent upon classifying the "other" as an enemy which we can fight against, from Arab terrorists allegedly vacationing in Iraq to that reclusive homosexual man down the street.

We live in a world in which we are taught that everyone walking down the street is a potential robber. We are so helplessly divided from each other that we wouldn't recognize the similarities between us and a complete stranger if we had to.

This is the single most insidious consequence of terrorism. The threat of terrorism (very real) has exposed us to the threat of ultra-"right" wing megalomaniacs who want to curtail our rights and freedoms for the sake of greater governmental control (very real). And because we are so divided from each other (also over divisions between the "left" and "right") that we don't recognize this.

There is a term reserved for tactics such as this: divide and conquer.

And, boy, are we ever divided.

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