re: Needed: a new age of enlightenment

From: Michael Wiik (
Date: Sat Sep 15 2001 - 19:00:52 MDT

Charlie Stross <> wrote:

> I've been submerged for a few days, but yesterday I bolted together a
> lengthy analysis of the situation, as I see it. Here it is.

Just some random comments. I realize you may not have had extropians as
the audience for your essay in mind.

> You'd think that every possible angle would already have been
> covered by people writing about the events of September 11th.

Not by a long shot. We need to deconstruct this event in detail. It may
take years.

> Because in all the media coverage I've seen so far, nobody has been
> asking the right, the important, questions. Like: why did this
> happen, what circumstances got us into a de facto state of
> undeclared war with the Islamic world,

Why is an issue for historians. I'm more concerned with moving forward
and preventing such things in the future.

> and what can we
> realistically do to prevent those circumstances from ever
> recurring.

What we can do may have little to do with the 'why' we got to here.
Maybe we can do something just by increasing the possible solution

> Some of you in the US are going to wonder why I, in the UK, am
> bothering with this. I'm 3000 miles away from New York, in a
> country that wasn't directly affected;

I'm not wondering. The worldwide outpouring of shock and grief is
palpable. Also, from the media I understand 100 Britons died in the
attack and that this is thus the largest single loss of British lives in
a terrorist attack. A horrible event has happened and civilized people
the world over are appalled.

> (And
> there seems precious little scope for good in it right now.)

Really? Consider a lack of imagination. I can see lots of good coming
from this. Evil too, but nonetheless we are in a powerful time right
now. The air is electric. Channel the energies correctly and all sorts
of benefits to the world and mankind can come from this.

> To understand why it happened we have to go back to the 19th
> century, or even earlier. And if we fail to understand its roots,
> we run the risk of failing to prevent similar events from happening
> in future.

There was an editorial in the Washington Post today suggesting that if
we don't have a military action real soon, we run the risk of increasing
prejudice against arab-americans and muslims in the U.S. Maybe killing a
few mostly innocent people in Afghanistan now might prevent the drive-by
killing of entirely innocent muslims living in the U.S. Or, maybe not.

> Even a massed
> thermonuclear strike on the Islamic world, followed by a campaign
> of genocide directed against a quarter of the world's population,
> won't stop this from happening again.

Well, maybe, but it would reduce the chances of it happening again for a
while. Just have geiger counters at security check-ins and refuse
admission of swarthy radioactive people. In any case I consider this
possibility so remote that I'm not sure why you even bring it up.

I'm gonna skip the history since I don't have any mastery -- or, at this
point -- real interest in that.

> I
> want to see a middle east where angry young adults with a political
> point to make think in terms of writing to their elected
> representatives, rather than strapping on bombs and committing suicide
> because that's the only way to make their voice heard.

I want to see a world where angry young adults with a political point to
make actually go out there and accomplish something using intelligence
and organizational skills and not involving mass violence. Maybe they
can earn some money and send a big check along with their letters. What
is the standard bribe to get your letter really considered today anyway?

> People who have freedom and wealth do not make good suicide bombers.
> Go ask the Japanese about it if you don't believe me and want a
> first-hand opinion.

Well, I see your point, but remember that the recent suicide bombers
were here (in the U.S.), maybe for years, and bankrolled. It seems at
any time they could have defected and spent the rest of their natural
lives protected.

> I want to see a world where the people of the middle east don't see
> themselves as victims of a savage occupation by forces of a hostile
> evangelical religion bent on stripping them of their natural resources
> and keeping them divided

Huh? I can easily see most of the world population as victims of a
savage occupation by forces of a hostile evangelical religion bent on
stripping them of their natural resources and keeping them divided. Why
should the middle east get such special consideration?

> And most importantly, I want to see a world where we do not lose our
> most precious liberties in the name of security and vigilance against
> a threat that should never have been allowed to materialise in the
> first place.
> You can be sure of one thing: if the threat of islamic terrorism isn't
> defeated, we will lose our liberties in the name of security.

We're likely to lose our liberties in the name of security whatever
happens to the threat of islamic terrorism.

> This shouldn't be seen as a war against terrorism; rather, it's an
> opportunity to extend to the rest of the world the lessons [...]

Sounds like colonialism. The British had their chance and blew it. Now
the U.S. has the chance as the sole remaining superpower to make the
world right, and it'll fuck it up as well. Just watch.

BTW I do appreciate your essay. And I am hopeful, not just cynical.


Michael Wiik
Messagenet Communications Research
Washington DC Area Internet and WWW Consultants

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