Friday 11 September 2009

The graveyard, the ruins, the abyss

"To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and do not live alone-to a time when trust exists and what is done cannot be undone:
From the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude, from the age of Big Brother, from the age of doublethink-greetings!"

1984, George Orwell

I have been wanting to write this post for ages, I have been thinking about it over and over again, looking for the right words. Where to start? I think I know where to finish, but there is a lot to tell. Oh well, let's try.

It is a beautiful day today, just like it was eight years ago when I woke up. I have blogged about the events of 9/11 last year. Recently, I reread it, trying to find the right words again. Revisiting my first post on the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I discovered that I did not talked much about my experience of it, but mainly about what happened before and after. it is true that I lived 9/11 the way most people on the planet lived it: as a far away witness, looking at it from a safe distance, through the TV cameras. The emotional impact was still tremendous. As I said in the first post, the 21st century, and indeed the new millennium, was started on September 11, 2001. Our time changed, because our perception of time, of history, of our place in history, changed.

I remember watching the news almost non-stop that day, I remember the most trivial things, like I ate chocolate cake as a dessert that evening, I know who I talked to in the bar that night, I think I can remember the taste of the beer. I also remember meeting my neighbour on my way to the bar. She was and is still a devout Christian, of the evangelical type. She was like me outraged by what happened. But underneath the anger I could perceive Christian fatalism and maybe even masochism. She mentioned that 9/11 had been prophesied in the Bible, I did not contradict her (I had made such "prophecies" myself, regarding the jihad and an Islamist attack, so that would make me just as good as any Jewish prophet I guess). She said, and I remember this vividly: "Guillaume, we have to admit that there is something fundamentally evil with man". I concurred, thinking she was referring to the Islamists, but she proved she was thinking of more people, carrying on: "I mean, no wonder, when one see all those girls wearing barely anything in cégeps, being all flirtatious and promiscuous, that our society is shockingly immoral, and that God is most likely offended." I could not believe that. I did not grow angry, although that could have been a Hell of a reason to be. As I like and respect my neighbour, I simply stated that our "decadent" Western society was fine, I was perfectly happy with it and that I don't think it was a time for compromises. What had happened was inexcusable. Al Qaeda terrorists and their mad devotion were responsible for the death of innocent people, not our way of life or our secularism.

I quoted George Orwell at the beginning of this post for a reason and it is not a gratuitious one. I do not believe one minute that Bush is Big Brother, actually unlike many of the Bush haters I don't think he could have been much of a dictator: he lacks the intelligence. I do, however, believe that his God, the God of the religious right who supported him is a sort of Big Brother, just like the God of Bin Laden and the Muslim fundamentalists. When the disgusting Jerry Falwell claimed that God had let the enemies of America attack it because of the way gays, feminists and other "liberals" were living their life, he was in essence picturing himself as a Christian mullah. It was probably the most tragic thing about 9/11: freedom was attacked in the most obvious way, but the people who were supposed to defend freedom did not do much. Freedom was attacked, but they failed to defend it. After the madmen threw planes in the Twin Towers because they were against sex, homosexuality, abortion, alcohol, pork, atheism, some bigots who had nothing against eating pork chops went after them, disregarding in the meantime Western values. There was Guantanamo and Iraq, of course, but also the borderline esoteric practice of Christianity of Bush and co being promoted in the US and indeed the West, while here in England, the US' closest ally, the sharia law is being applied and we can see women wearing the completely covering Islamic veil even in suburbia. Oh yes, and I have a friend in Afghanistan, going after the Talibans but in the meantime protecting a corrupted, impotent regime.

Like last year, I think it is in order to commemorate that day with The future by Leonard Cohen. It's a great song, pretty good clip too, although it was stupidly censored, as if the mentions of crack and anal sex could be a sign of moral decadence. I don't think so, but our weakness to defend Western civilisation and its ideals certainly shows that we do not find the secular values, the secular morals of Western civilisation very precious. We are besieged by Islamic fundamentalism but cursed by our own Christian puritanism. I just hope that what Cohen wrote will end up being a simple warning and not a prophecy, and that freedom and Western culture did not get buried in the graveyard of ash, concrete and steel that are the ruins of the World Trade Center. In the meantime, I am contemplating the past and it feels like an abyss that opened and that could swallow our hopes.