IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #9.9
Part 7 - more additions 5
Parts 1, 2,
Thanks to everyone that keeps sending me the kind words of support. At
this point, I'm literally getting over a hundred e-mails a day and I'm
trying to funnel it all through my smaller than normal brain. Hey, I fuck
up from time to time and my grammar at 3:00 AM is a bit different from
my grammar at 7:00 PM. But I'm doing what I can…
It's weird. I was just writing to my friend Paul and it occurred to
me that this is becoming my therapy. I feel incredibly helpless in my
inability to do anything to help with the relief work or to stop what
is probably going to happen to Afghanistan. I mean, I can't even donate
blood. I know that it's probably not even needed now. But I couldn't even
make that small a symbolic gesture if only for myself. I still feel like
I'm living outside of my skin.
It's weird because I do find myself going through occasional moments
of thinking "Fuck, why don't we just bomb the fuck out of everything!"
Of course, I feel fucking horrible that I could even think such a thing.
But I definitely get angry at times and it shows that even a so-called
anarchist like myself can be susceptible to the media barrage.
So, I work my two jobs and I have to hear customers talk and talk and
talk about last Tuesday. Everywhere I go, there's fucking CNN in my face.
I get home and I'm going nuts. I guess that's a large part of why I'm
doing these newsletters. It's sort of dealing with my grief. It's work,
Okay, okay, okay… This ain't no emo poetry zine. I actually laughed
harder today than I'd laughed in a while. Front cover of today's paper
in Austin quoted Bush: "We'll smoke `em out!" Oh my God, he
surely must know what that means. That cokehead must know what it means
to "smoke `em out"… Funny as fuck…
A lot of stuff this time around. I apologize again if you've already
gotten this stuff. The first is from Associated Press and should clear
up the question as to why there are so many Scientologists about at the
site. I always thought Travolta was a bastard. That's followed by a statement
from Edward Said, who I'm a long time fan of and consider to be the last
word on the Israeli / Palestinian conflict. It was originally run in The
Observer in London. One last question: what the hell does "rebarbative"
Monday, September 17, 2001 (AP)
SCIENTOLOGISTS ACCUSED OF MISREPRESENTING SELVES DURING CRISIS
(09-17) 20:06 PDT LOS ANGELES (AP) --
The National Mental Health Association accused the Church of Scientology
of attempting to recruit members under the guise of providing mental health
counseling after last week's terrorist attacks.
"This is a very important and sensitive time," Michael M.
Faenza, president and chief executive of the Alexandria, Va.-based NMHA
said Monday. "I urge the Church of Scientology to stay out of mental
health. The public needs to understand that the Scientologists are using
this tragedy to recruit new members. They are not providing mental health
Scientology spokeswoman Janet Weiland said church volunteers who offered
assistance to people following last week's attacks at the Pentagon and
in New York City were upfront about their affiliation. The church added
in a statement issued Monday night that all of its volunteers wore bright
yellow t-shirts or jackets with "Scientology Volunteer Minister"
printed in 4-inch letters on them.
"We reject and, indeed, are outraged by the NMHA's attempt to use
false statements to create controversy in the midst of this tragedy,"
the statement said. "While thousands of people of good will are uniting
to alleviate the suffering, NMHA officials are sowing discord."
The church, which said it has sent 759 volunteer ministers to New York
since the attack, promised to deliver a letter to the NMHA on Tuesday
protesting what it called "petty turf wars."
NMHA spokesman Mark Helmke said at least one television outlet, Fox
News, publicized a toll-free number for the church last week as one to
call for people seeking mental health counseling. A Fox official in New
York confirmed the number was on the screen for about two hours.
"Someone who called that number found out what it was and then
they called us immediately and then we took it down immediately,"
said the official, who declined to be quoted by name.
A press release sent to Fox identified the number as belonging to the
National Mental Health Assistance crisis hot line.
"The National Mental Health Hot Line is open and available to anyone
in need of help -- or anyone who would like to assist the victims,"
the release said. It made no mention of Scientology.
"Here they create a National Mental Health Assistance organization,
with the same initials as our organization's and convince one major news
outlet to post their mental health number, and what does it go to? It
goes to a place where they are trying to get people to join Scientology,"
"It's clear they aren't trying to help people with mental health
but to get them to join their cult," he said.
On the Net: National
Mental Health Association
ISLAM AND THE WEST ARE INADEQUATE BANNERS
Sunday September 16, 2001
Spectacular horror of the sort that struck New York (and to a lesser
degree Washington) has ushered in a new world of unseen, unknown assailants,
terror missions without political message, senseless destruction.
For the residents of this wounded city, the consternation, fear, and
sustained sense of outrage and shock will certainly continue for a long
time, as will the genuine sorrow and affliction that so much carnage has
so cruelly imposed on so many.
New Yorkers have been fortunate that Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a normally
rebarbative and unpleasantly combative, even retrograde figure, has rapidly
attained Churchillian status. Calmly, unsentimentally, and with extraordinary
compassion, he has marshaled the city's heroic police, fire and emergency
services to admirable effect and, alas, with huge loss of life. Giuliani's
was the first voice of caution against panic and jingoistic attacks on
the city's large Arab and Muslim communities, the first to express the
commonsense of anguish, the first to press everyone to try to resume life
after the shattering blows.
Would that that were all. The national television reporting has of course
brought the horror of those dreadful winged juggernauts into every household,
unremittingly, insistently, not always edifyingly. Most commentary has
stressed, indeed magnified, the expected and the predictable in what most
Americans feel: terrible loss, anger, outrage, a sense of violated vulnerability,
a desire for vengeance and un-restrained retribution. Beyond formulaic
expressions of grief and patriotism, every politician and accredited pundit
or expert has dutifully repeated how we shall not be defeated, not be
deterred, not stop until terrorism is exterminated. This is a war against
terrorism, everyone says, but where, on what fronts, for what concrete
ends? No answers are provided, except the vague suggestion that the Middle
East and Islam are what 'we' are up against, and that terrorism must be
What is most depressing, however, is how little time is spent trying
to understand America's role in the world, and its direct involvement
in the complex reality beyond the two coasts that have for so long kept
the rest of the world extremely distant and virtually out of the average
American's mind. You'd think that 'America' was a sleeping giant rather
than a superpower almost constantly at war, or in some sort of conflict,
all over the Islamic domains. Osama bin Laden's name and face have become
so numbingly familiar to Americans as in effect to obliterate any his
tory he and his shadowy followers might have had before they became stock
symbols of everything loathsome and hateful to the collective imagination.
Inevitably, then, collective passions are being funneled into a drive
for war that uncannily resembles Captain Ahab in pursuit of Moby Dick,
rather than what is going on, an imperial power injured at home for the
first time, pursuing its interests systematically in what has become a
suddenly reconfigured geography of conflict, without clear borders, or
visible actors. Manichaean symbols and apocalyptic scenarios are bandied
about with future consequences and rhetorical restraint thrown to the
Rational understanding of the situation is what is needed now, not more
drum-beating. George Bush and his team clearly want the latter, not the
former. Yet to most people in the Islamic and Arab worlds the official
US is synonymous with arrogant power, known for its sanctimoniously munificent
support not only of Israel but of numerous repressive Arab regimes, and
its inattentiveness even to the possibility of dialogue with secular movements
and people who have real grievances. Anti-Americanism in this context
is not based on a hatred of modernity or technology-envy: it is based
on a narrative of concrete interventions, specific depredations and, in
the cases of the Iraqi people's suffering under US-imposed sanctions and
US support for the 34-year-old Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
Israel is now cynically exploiting the American catastrophe by intensifying
its military occupation and oppression of the Palestinians. Political
rhetoric in the US has overridden these things by flinging about words
like 'terrorism' and 'freedom' whereas, of course, such large abstractions
have mostly hidden sordid material interests, the influence of the oil,
defense and Zionist lobbies now consolidating their hold on the entire
Middle East, and an age-old religious hostility to (and ignorance of)
'Islam' that takes new forms every day.
Intellectual responsibility, however, requires a still more critical
sense of the actuality. There has been terror of course, and nearly every
struggling modern movement at some stage has relied on terror. This was
as true of Mandela's ANC as it was of all the others, Zionism included.
And yet bombing defenseless civilians with F-16s and helicopter gunships
has the same structure and effect as more conventional nationalist terror.
What is bad about all terror is when it is attached to religious and
political abstractions and reductive myths that keep veering away from
history and sense. This is where the secular consciousness has to try
to make itself felt, whether in the US or in the Middle East. No cause,
no God, no abstract idea can justify the mass slaughter of innocents,
most particularly when only a small group of people are in charge of such
actions and feel themselves to represent the cause without having a real
mandate to do so.
Besides, much as it has been quarreled over by Muslims, there isn't
a single Islam: there are Islams, just as there are Americas. This diversity
is true of all traditions, religions or nations even though some of their
adherents have futilely tried to draw boundaries around themselves and
pin their creeds down neatly. Yet history is far more complex and contradictory
than to be represented by demagogues who are much less representative
than either their followers or opponents claim. The trouble with religious
or moral fundamentalists is that today their primitive ideas of revolution
and resistance, including a willingness to kill and be killed, seem all
too easily attached to technological sophistication and what appear to
be gratifying acts of horrifying retaliation. The New York and Washington
suicide bombers seem to have been middle-class, educated men, not poor
refugees. Instead of getting a wise leadership that stresses education,
mass mobilization and patient organization in the service of a cause,
the poor and the desperate are often conned into the magical thinking
and quick bloody solutions that such appalling models pro vide, wrapped
in lying religious claptrap.
On the other hand, immense military and economic power are no guarantee
of wisdom or moral vision. Skeptical and humane voices have been largely
unheard in the present crisis, as 'America' girds itself for a long war
to be fought somewhere out there, along with allies who have been pressed
into service on very uncertain grounds and for imprecise ends. We need
to step back from the imaginary thresholds that separate people from each
other and re-examine the labels, reconsider the limited resources available,
decide to share our fates with each other as cultures mostly have done,
despite the bellicose cries and creeds.
'Islam' and 'the West' are simply inadequate as banners to follow blindly.
Some will run behind them, but for future generations to condemn themselves
to prolonged war and suffering without so much as a critical pause, without
looking at interdependent histories of injustice and oppression, without
trying for common emancipation and mutual enlightenment seems far more
willful than necessary. Demonization of the Other is not a sufficient
basis for any kind of decent politics, certainly not now when the roots
of terror in injustice can be addressed, and the terrorists isolated,
deterred or put out of business. It takes patience and education, but
is more worth the investment than still greater levels of large-scale
violence and suffering.
Back to Article Index