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Spoken Word: What do they know of blogging…?

     Kipling’s line was: “What do they know of England who only England know?”  Mine is: “What beyond blogging do we bloggers care to talk about?”  Presumably: everything.  

     Here’s a start with a little light summer conversation on a gap in American defenses that the 9.11 attack revealed.  It’s the matter of homeland security, seriously, without the capital letters. 

     Elaine Scarry is the author of the startling little essay, Who Defended the Country?  I have admired Elaine Scarry from a distance as a completely original literary critic.  Our last conversation on the air was about her book, On Beauty and Being Just, on the mental pictures that enliven the novels and poems we remember, from Achilles’ helmet in The Iliad to Levin mowing with his scythe in Anna Karenina.  Her theory stretched comparative literature in the direction of cognitive science, how the mind actually works as we read.  In the meantime, Elaine Scarry has become a prolific expert on the fate of TWA Flight 800 and other mysterious plane crashes.  And now she is speaking out–not as an expert but as a citizen who senses that there is no security in our security policy.  “One key fact, ” she writes, “needs to be held on to and stated in a clear sentence: on September 11, the Pentagon could not defend the Pentagon, let alone the rest of the country.”  The passengers on United Airlines Flight 93, who stormed their hijackers and brought their plane down in a field in Pennsylvania, managed by contrast in only 23 minutes to “gather information, deliberate, vote and act”–knowingly, selflessly, in the public interest, after many loving farewells by cell phone.  So Elaine Scarry’s not entirely rhetorical question, late in the age of nuclear terror, is whether and how we might agree to “restore within our own country a democratic form of self-defense.”  Listen up, think it through, and comment, please, as the spirit moves you.

{ 61 } Comments

  1. Anonymous | August 2, 2003 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    Well, I’ll comment. This is an intriguing take on the 9/11 events. Comparison b/w the decision making that might have gone on in a bureaucratic/lethargic/inertial system (Pentagon) with a Democratic/nimble/dynamic system (passenger network inside the plane) is _fresh_ to say the least.

    The standing army vs. “drafted” army is a good argument as well. Right now it seems, American citizens enlist in the Army _not_ to go oppress other nations. They are sent out in the name of freedom, liberty, right-to-use-bleached-toilet-paper or whatever the heck is the anti-enemy-slogan du jour. Believing that they are doing a good thing. That doesn’t take away from the damage that they are a part of, creators of, and instruments of. Why/how is another blog altogether, but ignorance and complacency on part of the citizenry is reason One.

    Looking at “defense” from the stop-gap, band-aid point of view (as done currently) is disasterous IMO. Defense has to be “holistic” (if you can stomach the term). It has to be Defence and not Warmaking in Peace’s clothing. Citizens mobilizing to defend the country. That would mean American citizenry getting themselves off the cruise-control, give time to the affairs of their country.

    But, sadly, its not just about America anymore. America controls the fate of the world. People of America are proxy voters for the rest of us. Its a frightening prospect if you are looking from the outside in. The only hope (that at least I have) is in the libertarian tradition of the American psyche. and hopefully the citizenry will prevail in the face of absurdities ( and abberrations that have been gathering momentum in the preceding decades and seem to prevail today.

    P.S. I have a category in my iPod called “Lydon’s Interviews” Not too inventive, I know, but I’m saving all these. Just in case you get yanked off the air (I’m just paranoid prolly). 1/2 hour seems so short. Maybe you should do 1 hour interviews? Would you Interview Gore V. or Chomsky? give _them_ a taste of the blogging world?


  2. Anonymous | September 10, 2003 at 1:39 am | Permalink

    (1) The Pentagon is not responsible for defending the country from internal attacks. And it’s a good thing too, having to keep the FBI on the ‘right side’ of the line between effectivness and paranoid/oppression is hard enough.
    (2) A second point on the Pentagon not being able to defend the Pentagon: remember the Vincennes? Or, how many harmless airliners are you willing to shoot down to get all of the hijacked airlines? To get 90% of the hijacked airliners? 50%? (Lucky for us we don’t have that many WTC’s and Pentagons to ram.)

  3. Anonymous | September 21, 2003 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    I found Elaine Scarry’s contrast between the action oriented response of the passengers on the plane headed for the Pentagon versus the DoD’s lack of response in defending the Pentagon itself interesting, although I assume Ms. Scarry is a philosopher rather than a military decision maker. SUre, today, any stray plane with the characteristics she defines would be shot down, but on 9/10/01 our world was different.

    I was more interested in Elaine Scarry’s comments on the hypocrisy of US insistence that other countries be invaded because they possess Weapons of Mass Distruction while the US undoubtedly possess the world’s largest collection of WMDs. We see now, that no WMDs have been found, that other reasons for the invasion of Iraq are being invented. Don’t get me wrong: Sadam was a bad guy and deserved to be ousted, but, let’s be truthful about why we do things.

  4. Anonymous | December 12, 2003 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    I am in agreement that We have gaps in our defense Policies and 9/11 proved that. A question that is on my mind is why does it take so long to react to a situation. Just as Scarry said the passengers of Flight 93 identified the problem, deliberated and voted, and then acted. Sacrificing there lives from a possible would-be catastrophe. However, I am afraid of the idea of citizens being a bit more involved. That is almost a call to arms. I just see militias forming and the breaching of Pandora’s Box. I don’t agree with to much citizen responsibility.

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