9/11 :: The Shock of the Real?

by , under Current Affairs, Politics, Technology

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the 10 year anniversary of 9/11, and in the last few days how it might relate to the discussion of whether ‘newness’ is possible.

This isn’t meant as an holistic critique or discussion of the events all those years ago, instead I’ve been drawn to thinking about the extraordinarily physical nature of them.

It’s extraordinary to think that 9/11 was a pre- Web2.0 event. I’m not sure how this plays out exactly, but my sense is that we have become delaminated from the physical world in the past 10 years as we have become increasingly connected via social media and digital mediation. So much of our ‘news’ now seems caught up in this: scandals that deal not in physical realities so much as feelings people have and comments they may have made.

In contrast, 9/11 presents itself in my memory has a highly physical event. One watched things unfold on TV, with no Facebook posts or Tweets or comment-minutiae. Here was something that wasn’t about the emotional pain of financial or material loss, but people in very genuine pain.

I hope that makes sense and doesn’t come across as insensitive to the disasters that have come since then. What we had with 9/11 was something actually happening. Something very very real. In our recycled, retweeted, repeated, cropped and shortened world, here was an event that exploded into reality. It was, perhaps, a very real outbreak of something ‘new’. Horrible and monstrous, but a cut was made there, a global incisison that left the old world behind.

I have little sympathy for President Bush, but some empathy now with him sitting, utterly lost in a class of children, having heard what was unfolding. Financial crashes, wars, natural disasters… all would have some frame of reference. But here were people taking very human tools: planes and skyscrapers, and turning them into weapons.

I don’t mean it as a glib turn to think in parallel about the conversation that’s emerged over the past two posts, but I do think that one of the small lessons of 9/11 is that real things can still rupture, even in our post-modern world which lacks meta-narrative. And though there is a place for discussion and conversation, there also comes a time when action, real action, is required, when paths need to be chosen.


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  1. Simon Cross

    I read somewhere this morning, that 9/11 was the last ‘real’ event – in as much as it predated web 2.0, which I thought was a bit of a stretch, given that Baudrillard was telling us that the Gulf War didnt take place years previously.

  2. Dan Adkins

    I really love and appreciate the last paragraph of your post. I think that, in taken at face value, is something that needs to stated to remind many of us of how rupturing an event like that can be.

    @Simon Cross; introducing Baudrillard never does any good. Haha! That man has seriously screwed with my mind! (I am kidding of course, I love the man’s writings)