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July 04, 2006


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Some relevant quotes from Baudrillard's The Spirit of Terrorism:

p.60 re: Ground Zero – “What prevails there is merely the American people’s immense compassion for itself…”

“Consternation, but ultimately eternal gratitude for this divine solicitude that has made us victims.”

p.61 “The twin sister of compassion (as much a twin as the twin towers) is arrogance. You weep over your own misfortune, and at the same time you are the best. And what gives us the right to be the best is that from now on, we are victims.”


nice post jodi. it was weird seeing how many US flags and various stickers there were around pittsburgh when i visited in 2004. are there still heaps of those sort of patriotic signifiers? i thought it would never be like that in australia, and yet, at the moment, someone smart cookie invented a 'boxing kangaroo' on green and gold flag (the icon and colours of australian sporting teams) to capitalise on the recent world cup excitement. So in Australia there is the homeliness of the righteousness, the simplicity of habit, and the paranoid(?) search for meaning all associated with sport!!! rather than terrorist attacks. was there much patriotic fervour around the US world cup performance?

"We really hate it when the other side exploits "9/11": they are getting more mileage out of it than we are."

scholarly mileage? ;) it is interesting reading your psychoanalytic-inflected comments re 9/11 as fantastic object. for a deleuzified angle on some of the same issues you raise here see the paper co-written between mel gregg and myself on the "refrain of the right-eous". A refrain produces a territorialised space. we link this territorialised space to the machinic sovereignty of Empire and US exceptionalism. However, the unlawful combatant example probably isn't the best example anymore for what we were doing (paper was originally rewritten between mel and i in 2004). plus i am not sure how successful we were with introducing the economic aspects into the mix, we should've stayed with affect, space and refrains. We are in danger of conflating the 'rationality' of neoconservatism and neoliberalism (to use wendy brown's recent foucauldian distinctions).

Amish Lovelock

In a very similar fashion, Japan desires the North Korean missile tests.

Jeff Wild


Great post. Your reflections reminded me of the work of the American novelist, Walker Percy. One of his central themes is the sense of ennui and depersonalization in our society and how that creates a need for a "sense of predicament shared in common."

He was writing during the Cold War and he speaks much about the value of the possibility of a nuclear strike to basically wake us up from our slumber. Clearly, he does not advocate this strike, but instead uses his books to strive to wake individuals.

Another, image he uses is the sense of how in war, which should be the "worst" of times, is for some, perhaps many, the "best" of times: they had meaning; there was clarity; they had a sense of togetherness.

It seems like 9/11 provides this same sense of meaning. Clearly, the question is how can reject this simplistic good/evil dichotomy and embrace the complexities of our situation, while seeing beyond our own interests and desires.



Jeff--that's an incredible complement. I love Walker Percy (I used to have relatives in Covington, Louisiana). Did you have a particular book in mind? It's been a long time since I've read him.


Glenn-thanks. your article sounds interesting. I'll look for it.

Jeff Wild

Hi Jodi,

I will look around to see what I can find.

For now here is one of my favorite Percy quotes, particularly the comment about Hegel (though the use of "man" is rather jarring):

“I suppose I would prefer to describe it [Percy's Catholic existentialism] as a certain view of man, an anthropology. If you like; of man as wayfarer, in a rather conscious contrast to prevailing views of man as organism, as encultured creature, as consumer, Marxist, as subject to such-and-such a scientific or psychological understanding-all of which he is, but not entirely. It is the 'not entirely' I’m interested in-like the man Kierkegaard described who read Hegel, understood himself and the universe perfectly by noon, but then had the problem of living out the rest of the day.” Percy, Signposts in a Strange Land, p. 375


Right on, Jodi. I think your analysis of this desire in terms of the complexities of globalization hits the mark (I would also add the collapse of the Soviet Union). Where globalization and desire is concerned, I don't think it would be off base to argue that globalization has the effect of eroding identities and boundaries, which, in turn, produces anxiety with regard to not knowing what we are for the Other and generating (Lacan's parable of the preying mantis). The rise of fundamentalisms in the United States and identity politics, would be desparate attempts to efface the bar in the subject ($), by giving us a minimal ontological consistency defining our relation to the Other, thus relating to the same desire you describe.

If we look at the American imaginary preceding 9-11 we also see all sorts of phantasies in cinema about precisely these sorts of events: Armageddon, Deep Impact, Volcano, Dante's Peak, etc. In one way or another, all of these films pose the question of whether our current system can be destroyed (and interestingly they seem to explore the theme of something amiss between men and women... Each of these films hypothesizes that society has to be destroyed in order for the sexual relation to be possible "once again"). What's interesting here is that while these films explore the possible destruction of society, it is always in terms of a natural force, not an invading other (though we might wonder about the Lord of the Rings films). Thus we had the imaginary of some event that could upset and re-establish all social relations, without a clearly defined enemy.


Levi--thanks so much. Of course, I'm kicking myself for not including the collapse of the USSR in my initial post. You are completely right. I also like very much your point about the eroding boundaries and identities as well as the investments in identity politics and fundamentalisms.

Jeff Wild


Here are some Walker Percy references in which it seems to me that he deals with the issue of needing a "sense of predicament shared in common":

novel: Love in the Ruins
novel: Second Coming
nonfiction: Lost in the Cosmos
nonfiction: Signposts in a Strange Land, essay "Diagnosing the Modern Malaise"

He really is a wonderfully insightful and funny writer.



Jeff--thanks so much. When I read your first comment, I think that it was Second Coming that came to mind. I seem to recall problems of self-reflection and monkeys and mirrors or something like that.

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