I got to thinking today about the effect 9-11-01 has had on my geopolitical view. In some ways it’s made me more apocalyptic; that is, I’m a bit more skeptical about humanity’s long-term prognosis on this planet than I was five years ago. The bullet train of human technological progress is hurtling us toward a future when small numbers of angry and disaffected people can (and will) do unthinkable things to frightened masses.
It was a hyperemotional few days. I boarded a US Airways flight out of Portland, Maine about a half hour ahead of Mohammed Atta, and later that morning found myself stranded in Charlotte, soaking up several days of media that at once lifted my hopes for the human spirit and crushed my optimism about human critical thought. It was, indeed, some proverbial rough shit.
I saw too much fear coming out of 9-11. Yes, there were heroes – lots of them. But most of us plebs went on an immediate intellectual retreat, painting yet another discouraging picture of how a population behaves when it’s afraid. This has steered American constitutional democracy into a crash course of posturing, grandstanding, deception and cruelty. It has caused me to seriously wonder if I might live to see the collapse of the Great American Experiment. Despite my personal devotion to most of the core principles of our republic, I’m less likely today to think of such an unfolding as necessarily a bad thing. Unless America experiences a profound and enduring renaissance of leadership, mark my words.
Everyone said 9-11 was going to change America. There was a great deal of singing and a lot of colorful stickers were placed on automobiles. No one could ever imagine it being trivialized, commercialized, politicized. At least, not that week. Yes, it changed America all right.
Many are paralyzed or rendered quite ineffective by small amounts of fear, especially when the perceived dangers are sensationalized and dramatized by fellow members of society and the media. I think every kid should have to read – as in actually digest – Culture of Fear before they can graduate from high school.
So, I think 9-11 made me more conservative. The panicked (and unsustainable) acceptance of big government into every corner of human life has horrified me. The fetid air of government is seeping into every corner of our individual liberty, politely invited in by the vacuum of our passivity and thoughtlessness. Sorry to sound like a prick, but that is not a sociopolitical future that excites me.
It’s not that I don’t think government can work. A limited government can do well if it is clearly and assumedly subordinate to individual natural rights. Totalitarianism – which is where the post-9-11 globe is unquestionably headed – always results in the shrinkage of individual economic and civil freedoms.
But, it seems no one’s frightened about that.