[unrev-II] Fwd: Re: [PORT-L] Comments On Terrorist Attacks

From: Jack Park (jackpark@thinkalong.com)
Date: Wed Sep 12 2001 - 08:29:52 PDT

  • Next message: Alex Shapiro: "Re: [unrev-II] Fwd: Re: [PORT-L] Comments On Terrorist Attacks"

    On the PORT email list (I am currently unable to find the archives, so I'll
    quote a bit here), Peter Becker wrote (in part):
    "In my opinion the chain of causality starts in the States. Nothing can
    be an excuse for what has happened but I fear that what has happened
    will be an excuse for what might come now, if the States choose to
    answer terror with more terror, not even noticing that they might be the
    ones who started all this. Calling the Pentagon "a symbol of America's
    ability and determination to project and defend democratic values" ([2])
    is something that would be funny if it wouldn't be that serious."

    I responded with:
    "I am wondering how the wizards of Peircian thinking actually cast today's
    events. For me, it is perhaps an overly simple notion to lay the beginning
    of the causal chain on the US. "

    Cliff Joslyn followed:
    "Of course it is.
    My thinking is as much cybernetic as semiotic, and what that tells you
    is that no matter how good or true or accurate, casuality is but one
    possible model constructed by us, the subjects, to explain our
    world. It's not a "chain" of causality, but a multi-facetted web of
    interacting linear and cyclic network components, which moreover have
    a temporal horizon as arbitrarily far back into the past as one cares
    to draws one's boundaries. Therefore, WHERE one draws one's boundaries
    (e.g. the cockpit; the terrorist operatives; Bin-Laden (or whomever it
    actually is); Saudi Arabian or Iraqui or Iranian policy since 1985;
    the Taliban; Israeli policy since 1995, or since 1967, or since 1945;
    the Soviet Afghan invasion; US policy since 1991 or since 1967 or
    since 1945; the fall of the Ottoman empire following WW I; British
    colonial history since 1850; the Crusades; Mohammed; Jesus; Moses; or
    God for making the distribution of oil and people and temperate land
    masses unequal across the planet or setting the melting point of steel
    and the boiling point of Aviation A fuel) says SO MUCH MORE about
    one's OWN perspective than about any OBJECTIVE truth of "causality".
    So, Mr. Becker, while (despite working in the belly of the US
    military-industrial complex) I'm the first to criticize my government
    and my society for its arrogance and ruthlessness and evil, please try
    to get some perspective on what you're saying. For better or worse, on
    the order of 5,000, and perhaps as many as 10,000 or even 20,000,
    Americans are tonight the victims of the greatest terrorist attack in
    history, and the entire world is reeling. While certainly the overall
    socio-political context, and America's role in that, is relevant, no
    single, narrow historical analysis or fact can explain this, let alone
    justify it."

    Here is what follows. I post this because I believe there is merit in
    finding ways to look at information flow with an eye biased by the thinking
    of C.S. Peirce.

    >X-Sender: "Jon Awbrey" <jawbrey@mail.oakland.edu>
    >Susan Awbrey wrote (SA):
    >Cliff Joslyn wrote (CJ):
    >Bob Rosenberg wrote (BR):
    >SA: What the terrorists don't understand is that
    > the meaning goes far deeper than its symbols.
    >CJ: I agree: this is where semiotics can help us, understanding these as
    > acts of COMMUNICATION. In that way, the terrorists are committing a
    > referential fallacy, mistaking the symbol for the referrent, the map
    > for the territory, the token for the sign function. Note that not
    > just the buildings are symbols; from the terrorists perspective,
    > the dead innocents also serve only as sign-vehicles, not as humans.
    > Indeed, from Bin-Laden's (or whomever it really is) perspective,
    > his own OPERATIVES are symbols. That's what martyrdom is,
    > elevating a person to the level of a symbol.
    >BR: A few years after Perry opened Japan to the West in 1853, some
    >southern lords
    > adopted the slogan, "Restore the emperor and sweep out the barbarians."
    > Samauri killed a number of merchants, burned their shops, and so on.
    > Rebelled against the larger forces of Westernization, which they could
    > not put their hands on, by destroying the people and structures that
    > symbolized it. They restored the emperor (the Meiji Restoration)
    > in a nominal way -- the Westernization obviously did not stop.
    >BR: Does this sound familiar? I have a funny feeling
    > there are a few other similar examples in history.
    >In the spirit of examining self and other in the same image,
    >Friend U and Enemy X in the same frame, we might return to
    >Max Weber's 'Protestant Ethic & the Spirit of Capitalism' --
    >he was not especially picking on Puritans and Capitalists
    >but died before he could complete his survey of worldviews,
    >economic, political, religious, whatever -- one of the most
    >crucial points of what he noticed being the way that abstract
    >symbols, detached from their humane context, can operate like
    >viruses, parasitically living off and often turning against the
    >substantial embodiments and the flowing lifeblood of meaning that
    >served as their initial host, now a hulk to be cast away. I think
    >that understanding the dynamics of this malfeasant conversion process
    >might be a useful bit of knowledge in these times.
    >Jon Awbrey

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