News [en]

Two news nuggets today, to read together. Both pointed out to by Rebecca ([1] and [2]).

  1. Foreign vs. American news sources: British Take a Blunter Approach to War News.
  2. The world suffers from over-simplification more than too much complexity: A call for perceptiveness.

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Semi-Scoop [en]

Semi-, because I heard it on the radio and it will be in the papers tomorrow. Scoop, because you probably haven’t heard about it yet.

A gunshot was fired in the centre of Lausanne early this afternoon. A man was spotted on his balcony with a gun.

The police were warned and closed up the whole area for a good hour. They put in place a cell of negotiators. Residents were forbidden to come out of their houses.

When his doorbell rang, and elderly man calmly opened to the police. He had fired his automatic gun into the sky to make sure it was still working.

The police confiscated the gun.

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Observatrice suisse tuée à Hébron [en]

Je viens d’apprendre l’identité de la suissesse tuée mardi en Cisjordanie. Du coup, mes problèmes de “claustrophobie” me paraissent bien futiles.

Je connaissais un tout petit peu Catherine. On se saluait quand on se croisait dans les couloirs de l’uni, et on s’arrêtait quelques minutes pour bavarder. Pas plus que ça, mais quand même. Elle existait, marchait, respirait et souriait dans mon monde — alors que pour la plupart des gens, elle n’existait simplement pas avant de mourir.

Je connais un peu mieux sa soeur: on a fait les scouts ensemble durant quelques années, on a étudié en partie dans les mêmes bâtiments et on habitait tout près l’une de l’autre avant que je parte en Inde. On a mangé quelques fois ensemble après s’être croisées par hasard en ville, et on a même poussé une fois jusqu’à Genève pour voir une exposition sur Nicolas Bouvier. Elle m’avait invitée à son anniversaire dans son joli appartement tout entouré de balcon. J’avoue qu’on s’est perdues de vue depuis mon départ de Suisse.

Je crois que l’esprit humain résiste à l’idée de la mort. En tous cas le mien, il résiste beaucoup. L’idée qu’on puisse être et tout d’un coup ne pas être, je trouve ça proprement im-pensable. La mort c’est aussi le temps des regrets, des “si j’avais su”, des “trop tard”, de la perte irrévocable… Mais bon, je ne vais pas m’étaler en platitudes philosophiques comme j’en ai l’habitude.

Laure: je pense bien à  toi, un peu bêtement, mais honnêtement. Et je ne sais pas quoi dire. Sauf que je sais que ça fait longtemps qu’on ne s’est pas vues, et que je vais t’écrire un petite carte pour te dire qu’aujourd’hui je pense bien à toi — du mieux que je peux.

Et qu’ils n’avaient pas à tuer ta soeur.

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11 Septembre [en]

En ce qui me concerne, un bon résumé de la situation par Jacques Poget (rédacteur en chef de 24 heures – dernier article de la page indiquée ci-dessus).

Le drame de l’après-11 septembre, c’est que la réaction reste superficielle. Confrontés à  un assaut d’une cruauté uniquement imaginable dans les superproductions hollywoodiennes, l’Amérique et l’Occident peinent à  s’attaquer aux racines du mal.

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911 Stuff [en]

I’ve spent the last couple of hours reading articles, essays, and comments on MetaFilter about the September attacks. I’ve now given up trying to get a well-informed opinion on the subject – there is too much out there for me to absorb, and I’m getting tired of reading “extremist” views and abusive simplifications.

So, to be clear, my opinion is reasonably ill-informed. I’m probably wrong on quite a few things. I’m probably right on quite a few others. If there is such a thing as a wrong and a right in this overly complex situation.

I’ve never held American culture in very high regard. I mean, it’s the usual song for many people around here: death penalty, lack of state-supported welfare, excess consumerism, high criminality, foreign policies…

I know that preconceptions come into line here. I know also that this is not what America comes down to, or American people. I have American friends. I deeply sympathize with all those touched by the attacks. I tend to dislike American politics, in general, as a matter of principle, one could nastily say.

So, what can I say? I’ve been asked what I thought about all this, what my position was, what people in my country thought about it. I can only speak for myself, but as far as I can say based on the brief conversations I have had with my friends and aquaintances, my views on the topic are not overly original. We tend to think along the same lines.

Honestly, wearily, I’d just like to say: “Why can’t we just live in peace, and get along with our neighbours?”—but unfortunately, matters are not as simple. In some situations, there has been so much hurt done and received by either side that it looks simply impossible to forgive and forget, or even (given the latter suggestion is totally idealistic), live in the same town without killing each other. This state of affairs can arise in a relationship between individual people, or between groups of people. Think of Israel and Palestine for an obvious example of it.

People discussing these issues seem to want to define camps: the “anti-american”, the “pacifist”, the “catch ’em and kill ’em”, and others. In this way, they can fight amongst themselves all the better. And we Europeans happen to fall in the “anti-american” camp, because we tend to quickly see how the US’s foreign policies can be linked to Islamic terrorism. Which also means, of course, that we excuse that terrorism, because we try to understand the “other side” [please note the sarcasm].

“Camps” and “sides” are practical because they paint the world in black and white. Like the Goodies and the Badies in Western movies. The world is done in shades of gray, need it be reminded. And one can hold in a single mind opinions which may seem to cancel each other out at first glance. Look further.

I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it again—though perhaps a little more precisely, this time. Of course the people directly implicated in the realization and planning of the September 11 attacks should be punished. There is no question about that. But I get the impression that in some people’s minds this means that the end justifies the means.

It does not. Creating a high number of Afghan refugees on the Pakistani border for the sake of pressurizing the Taliban to give up Bin Laden (which they will not) is not an acceptable means. Thomas Nagel, in his book Mortal Questions, gives an enlightening discussion of these issues of the ends and the means in a war context. Do read it.

Now I curse myself for not having sorted out my books since I came back from India, because I cannot re-read the chapter, I cannot give you quotes, I cannot even give you the name of the chapter. But you’ll find it, if you want to.

Here are a couple of essays, opinions, articles (or whatever you will call them) that I would encourage you to read. These are articles which made me nod my head and think “that makes sense” as I read them. They are not necessarily better than others, but I think they have a point to make. Which of course, as always, does not mean I necessarily agree with every word they say.

The few brief words after each article can give you an idea of its content. They by no means summarize it adequately. And you’re lucky, I will spare you the MetaFilter comment threads…

  • Arundhati Roy: The algebra of infinite justice
    Once America has promised it was going to war, it cannot turn back. America’s implication in the historical causes bringing about the present situation in the Middle-East, and producing Bin Laden.
  • Robert Fisk: Just who are our allies in Afghanistan?
    The Northern Alliance are terrorists as much as Bin Laden’s people. The States are repeating the procedure they have used before (think Vietnam): getting local people to fight against one another, thus keeping the war “clean”.
  • Michael Moore: Death, Downtown
    How lax airport security is. America’s hand in terrorism far away where it doesn’t touch us. And a reminder that if the “West” is rich, it is because third-world countries are poor.
  • Noam Chomsky: Reply to Hitchens
    Chomsky’s reply to Hitchens‘ considerations on the present situation. Amongst others, a comment on the death toll resulting of the US bombing in Sudan in 1998. Follow the whole debate if you feel so inclined.
  • Scott McConnell: Why They Hate Us
    Trying to dig a bit deeper than the symptoms (September 11): what has brought about this climate of hate?

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Swissair [en]

Retaliation [en]

Personal Stories [en]

Starting my journey at the fray, I’ve been reading through accounts written by those who were there on September 11. I’m a bit late, maybe—but that’s understandable, given where I was at the time.

The web offers us something the mainstream press cannot: collections of personal stories. Voices of those who saw things happen with their own eyes. People who do not write for newspapers, or tour the world to cover stories, but who for one event turn into instant reporters. If the Internet is also about connecting people and bringing to your eyes what the other media cannot, this is your chance to see it in action.

I won’t link to everything. There are hundreds of pages out there. Here are some I have read, and appreciated.

  • the fray: devoted to personal story-telling, the fray would be the obvious place to start reading; feature stories and reader comments—yours to add too if you feel like it.
  • Anil Dash: I have all these other ideas, I’m going to write about something other than those fucking terrorists and what they’ve caused. And then, tonight, the smell came back. That burning plastic, electrical, city on fire smell. You know all those clichés about how the smell is the sense most closely linked to memory? They’re true.
  • Usman Farman: Had I taken the late train, or gotten a bite to eat, I would have been 5 minutes late and walking over the crosswalk. Had that happened, I would have been caught under a rain of fire and debris, I wouldn.t be here talking to you. I.d be dead.
  • Tamim Ansary: Some say, why don’t the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban? The answer is, they’re starved, exhausted, hurt, incapacitated, suffering. A few years ago, the United Nations estimated that there are 500,000 disabled orphans in Afghanistan–a country with no economy, no food.
  • Maggie: scroll down a bit, and you’ll find lots of linked quotes.
  • Zeldman: My doctor may be among those killed on 11 September. I’ve tried three times to reach him, and all I get is the same eerily calm voice mail loop.
  • Ben Curtis (Purportal): lots of misinformation has circulated after the attacks. Links to relevant documents on the web to make up your mind yourself about these things.
  • and finally, a pilot’s speech on his first flight after the attacks: how to deal with hijackers.

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WTC [en]

Press Release [en]