Spring and the abyss in New York City

New York is both center and horizon. Its streets are filled with the excitement of a multicultural crowd, whose daily work unites without depersonalizing them, the tender dizziness of a music created by horns, strings and percussion. Above all, there is intensity – not that of sadness, but of the unlimited. You feel that nothing is closed; you experience the panorama of the future. You are enchanted by the mystery of the infinitely open in the local, the originality of a fever in which the great city is continually reborn. In New York, the life force itself has taken form. This city flies, it does not stand still. There is no feeling of restricted space bounded by gigantic buildings. The pressure exerted by the city’s boundaries is channeled up into the giddy heights of the skyscrapers, which instead of restricting the field of vision, act as a counterweight to gravity, imparting a sense of liberation that every visitor to Manhattan feels. They do not appear to be composed of static mass, but seem to expand space in an never-ending challenge to creativity. Symbols and martyrs It is that freedom of space and time from the powers of gravity and inertia that the terrorists wanted to subjugate by knocking down the Twin Towers and turning the Pentagon into a square. They struck at what, for them, were the supreme symbols of the United States. They did not know that the US is the only country that creates its symbols without being dependent on them, and therein lies its life-giving force. They did not realize that their crime would create martyrs, that the blood of the thousands of their innocent victims would cleanse the foundations of the new age. All great historic changes are born out of a bloodbath. The twin skyscrapers will soon rise up again and perhaps those responsible for their destruction will be punished, but what has begun is a war with enemies both visible and invisible, between open and closed societies. It is a bitter fact but not an illogical one; what is positive always follows on from what is negative. Globalization means that one feels at ease anywhere, be it Paris, Tokyo, Melbourne or Toronto. The Internet puts one in touch with people all around the world; one can open a business in London, Seattle and Montevideo, and watch what is going on everywhere around the world every night on television. Is this so very far from speaking in tongues? Along with the supertechnology that unites us, might this mean that the abyss between rich and poor countries will widen, the unified market be shaken by savage profiteering, and nature become unnatural? Yet none of this is new. If we really want to understand what is happening these days, we have to examine what is new without confusing it with what survives from the past. What is new – and hopeful – is that for the first time, with the help of technology, people are being faced on a daily basis with a reality for which formal knowledge is not sufficient, but for which they have to examine closely the meaning of events. From now on, everything will be happening and will be dealt with within the framework of a unified whole. The new reality emerges from evil like a dark shadow. It is mandatory that we understand the terrible events in the USA, otherwise we are at risk of canceling out the terrible crime, equating it in a superficial way with some blameworthy acts by the United States, only to become accomplices, as well as potential victims, of the paranoid terrorists. Since Aeschylus wrote the Oresteia, crimes have been judged separately, they no longer cancel each other out. The equalizing of a crime only perpetuates it and absolves consciences. Of course, evil cannot be completely defeated because it is an integral part of existence. There is no life without pain, as the saying goes, no sun without shadow. Nevertheless, terrorism must be wiped out, just as crime must, in order to preserve social cohesion, even though evil will not be wiped out along with it. The mystery of evil We all have our objectionable side and some of us on occasion will break the law, but we do not identify with evil itself; we do not brag about our sins. That only happens when someone cheers death, relentlessly bringing the inner abyss out into the open as a nihilistic means of negation. Those who recruited the terrorists happened to prefer candidates who had no parents, filling that psychological vacuum with the darkness of crazed fanaticism, a form of logic with no cracks in its armor to let the light through. Terrorists are not so much a product of conditions as they are evil personified, in a sense. Not all Palestinians become terrorists, nor all Libyans or Afghans, irrespective of the difficult conditions under which they live, or the hate they might feel for Israel. Evil is wrapped in mystery; it is not an entity in itself, yet it exists, as a shadow exists. Good is evident in its own positive nature; evil, as non-existence, has to become action in order to be experienced. Thus it appears as a reaction to the movement of life – darkness at noon. Evil moves between need and ability, in the sense of negativity in general. When the part seeks to take over the whole, it paves the way for zealots. If evil constitutes an internal reaction to what is superior, even to the point of annihilating existence, then annihilation is the strategic goal, the ultimate purpose and manifestation of evil. The first thing a terrorist murders is his own soul. He denies its loving nature; he does not want to hear about it, so it is easy for him to kill and to die. Yet suicidal self-sacrifice is one thing, and murderous suicide another. Terrorists are not determined to die, they are dedicated to dying. Not like the revolutionary fighting with bare hands and getting killed at the barricades, or like the kamikaze pilot crashing onto the enemy ship, putting the emperor above his own life. Terrorists bent on annihilation are not fighting against an army but existence itself, that is why they exterminate the innocent and defenseless. How terrorists are born What creates terrorists, if they are not the product of external conditions? Here we will have to refer to the world of ideologies and the role they play. I am not talking about just any concepts of society or of life; I am talking about the distorting, oversimplifying kind of speech and thought, built on contrasting forms of good and evil that create an emotional overload on the recipient and isolate him greatly or completely from reality. Science shows that civilizations of nations are not absolute, immovable entities, but historical and social complexities of meaning that provide identity and at the same time symbolize various life choices and interests. Under those conditions, ideology can have a decisive influence on the mind as a substitute for religion, for groups and individuals living constantly under pressure. How is it done? By subjecting the personification of evil, for example the United States or Israel, to exhaustive Manichean criticism, promising a way out of the pain and including human acts in its own eschatological perspective, linking the sacrifices of the liberation struggle with higher morality and metaphysical values. The psychological substructure of the ideology is absolute negativity and every absolute nihilism is a heavily neurotic symptom which is counterbalanced, to an extent, by symbolism. Research stresses that ideology provides a symbolic way out of the depression created by unbearable external conditions and naturally creates symbolic enemies. An emotional transformation is likely, turning the internal reaction into annihilation and preparing the terrorist for action, making it easy for him to exterminate the innocent; they are no longer defenseless people but the bourgeoisie, Jews, infidels, or American imperialists. What margin for mercy or feeling can such a person have? Annihilation becomes a life purpose and way of existence and as such, a value to be exalted. Nationalist-religious zeal Ideologies feed nationalist-religious zeal everywhere where societies are under powerful pressure from the changes and rhythms of modern life without developing an effective means of creatively adjusting to the new conditions. Cultivating social negativity and stirring up insecurities, indulging in a sterile anti-Westernism only turns beleaguered souls toward nihilism. This above all applies to the Islamic nations, where the terrorist becomes the prototype hero. However, terrorism and nihilism have nothing to do with a clash of civilizations, since the chief teacher of these evils is Europe itself, while there is an ecumenical aspect of Islam embodied in the rare nobility of Sufic mysticism. In any case, ecumenism is part of the archetypes of all the great civilizations and religions on earth. Terrorists and nihilists might detest the achievements of modern humanity, and their plans might not include leaving anything standing, but that is not civilization. Terrorism is a threat to life and to civilization because today’s tools in the hands of a few paranoid people can lead to terrible catastrophes. Civilization does not mean an absence of selfish interests, competition or cruelty, but it sets up principles governing clear guidelines for political and social interactions. Whether we abolish principles and rules in life or the football field, the results are the same – a jungle. By rejecting rules and restrictions, terrorism rejects civilization itself. There can be no civilization of terrorism. The rule of law serves, above all, the social cohesion which the terrorist wants to destroy – not so much because he wants to be prosecutor, judge and executioner as because he adopts a lack of transparency and rejects the very concept of public life. The rules of public life guarantee that we can live in freedom under the sun, not bury ourselves away like moles in order to escape arbitrary aggression. Outside the law we either have to hide or to be vigilant, since there is neither victim nor aggressor, perpetrator or innocent, but only the lucky, or unlucky, ruthless ones. And above all, there are no innocents. The only thing that makes us innocent is the transparency guaranteed by democracy, with all its failings and weaknesses. Terrorists would not tolerate political lack of transparency if their own natural darkness did not demand it. We will defeat them, enriching our freedom, promoting our open society. Let us make them come out into the light. And let us not forget, the light comes from fire; if it didn’t, the fire would soon go out. We will resist evil if the war against it does not get out of hand, if by protecting our own existence we also take care of the other. This super-unity, this caring for the other person is what is called globalism. Fortified behind the walls of solid unity and identity, within the security of what we are, we roll out the carpet for evil and nihilism. By leaving the solidity of unity behind, we emerge from the walls of identity and keep the eyes of our souls wide open for each other.