11 September 2001>Commentary>Local Horror, Global Response

Local Horror, Global Response
David Harvey, Talal Asad, Cindi Katz, Neil Smith and Ida Susser . 20 September

This is a difficult time for those of us who are deeply critical of US military, financial and commercial policies and practices around the globe. There is, we categorically insist, nothing, absolutely nothing, in those policies and practices that would even remotely justify the insane horror unleashed in the United States on September 11th. We share the sense of shock, outrage, sadness and anger felt in New York and Washington, around the country, and across the globe.

By the same token, there is nothing in these horrendous events to justify the continuation, let alone the intensification of erroneous policies and practices. The catalogue of flaws that have for so long distressed us still stands. The callous disregard shown by US financial and commercial interests for global poverty and suffering; the militarism that backs authoritarian regimes wherever convenient to US interests; the broad indifference (widespread throughout the US) to the death and suffering inflicted on repressed, marginalized or minority populations around the globe; the insensitivity of US-led globalization practices to local cultures, interests and traditions; the failure to act to prevent genocidal practices (in Ruanda, for example); the disregard for environmental degradation and resource depletion; irresponsibly self-interested behavior with respect to a wide range of international issues such as missile defenses, global warming, AIDS and labor rights; the use of international institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank for partisan US political purposes; and the shallow and often hypocritical stances with respect to human rights - none of these practices can be justified by last week's events. We wish to reaffirm our critical postures with respect to all such issues no matter how difficult it may be to articulate them freely in these times.

> The sheer horror and insanity of what happened last week is a crushing burden on rational thought and reasoned action. Signs of distinctively American brands of zealotry and fanaticism, of ethnic scapegoating, of authoritarianism to the detriment of basic freedoms and civil liberties, abound. Such trends must be resisted. It is also our fervent hope that the righteous wrath and indignation felt around the country (understandable sentiments which we share) might mature into serious reflection on how to make the world a decent habitation for all, how to make real democracy work everywhere, how to make freedom mean something more than freedom of the market and how to create a more egalitarian and caring world characterized by justice, tolerance, diversity and love. This, far more than any amount of saber rattling and military action, is, surely, a far more constructive way to secure a safer and juster world for our children.

The authors are all Professors at CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan