The Age of Terror by Nicholas Matthews

Do I live life inside a vacuum? No. My perspective develops as I interact with the institutions of my surrounding society, namely, my family, religion, media and the government. Since 9/11, the threat of terrorism has been manifested in each one of these institutions. The theory of structuralism in anthropology suggests a culture is based on the principle of binary opposites such as good-evil and apropos of the “war on terror”, liberalism-terrorism. Roman Jakobson, a pioneer of the structural analysis of language, founded this binary system. Furthermore, Jakobson (1959) identified the “equivalence in difference” of interlingual translation, which suggests there is no similarity between the “code-units” (or words) of different languages (p.114-116). Due to the cultural division of civilizations, “languages differ essentially in what they must convey and not in what they may convey” (Jakobson, 1959, p.116). For instance, freedom fighter, translated into Arabic, is mujahideen, which alludes to a Muslim who struggles in the path of God. After all, “one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.” Therefore, a bias usually exists towards a single polar opposite in each civilization; to wit, I am predisposed towards liberalism by virtue of my Western heritage. However, in the Islamic community, Muslims may suspect their religious values are under threat by the globalization of western liberal democracy. Consequently, they may resort to violence or intimidation to defend their traditional faith or command their influence, in hope of breeding a modern caliphate.  By this clause of cultural inheritance, I desire to formally and emphatically deplore herewith the precipitated judgment of any civilization, as a whole.

In my own conceit, terrorism is the savage exploitation of our liberties to “propogandize” any ism. The terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 spawned a new era of suppression. The Great Suppression. The Muslim guerrilla hijackers envisioned a new world order, which demanded a wholesale destruction of the normal social cast. For “only after disaster can we be resurrected” (Fincher, 1999). The terrorists may have aimed to provoke the American government to respond with illiberal counterterrorist measures. However, in doing so, the state would contradict its own self-government and trigger a resistance of the body politic… “And he moved the tyranny and suppression of freedom to his own country, and they called it the Patriot Act under the disguise of fighting terrorism” (Bin Laden, personal communication, October 29, 2004). The coup de main of the Mujahideen “army” led to a ripple effect of sweeping fear and counter terrorist measures in the “progressive” western society. For example, during my vacation in Europe, there was a bomb scare in London on June 29, 2007 and the news reached my family as we were in line to visit the Cathedral of Notre Dame, in Paris. Alongside the uneasy tourist line, a crazed lady was screaming obscenities and delusions of a worldwide Islamic takeover. Some took pictures, as if she was the attraction they were hoping to see, and others became transfixed by her disturbing display. My younger brother, who is already an emotional basket case, suffered a nervous breakdown shortly after the tour of the cathedral. He became consumed by a fear of death, disease and a series of terrorist assaults. Coincidentally, the next day, in Scotland, another terrorist attack took place. A dark green Jeep Cherokee stocked with propane tanks was steered into the glass doors of the Glasgow International Airport; and set aflame. Although there were only five public injuries, this led to a growing fear of an attack on American Soil. During our return flight, the Paris airport was swarming with disgruntled Yankee tourists. All flights to the United States were cancelled.

After 9/11, my close family attended next Sunday’s mass at St. Margaret’s Catholic Church; aside from my dad, who believes in secular humanism. Hitherto the events of 9/11, my family was losing touch with its religious roots. My mother was more involved in her medical practice, since she had just become the sole proprietor of her business. My older brother was becoming more involved in his social life and my younger brother was incapable of making his own decisions, seeing as he was only at the puerile age of 6. My family played truant from our wonted Sunday Service for nearly three months until an omen of bad faith befell us for our self-deception: the September 11th attacks. By the falsity of their faith, my family’s return to the Church was short-lived. My brothers have not attended mass regularly since 2004. And my mother discovered a passion for the new age movement, which emphasizes “a spirituality without borders or confining dogmas.” By reason of the “ungodly” attacks, I was compelled to rethink my own faith as well. At the outset, I prayed for the victims of 9/11, fitting for my innocent age of 8. However, after I was enrolled into De La Salle, a traditional Catholic school, I began to see the flaws in my faith. Since the Muslim hijackers were indoctrinated to believe their religion was absolute, if I lived in a global caliphate, my manifest Islamic beliefs would contradict my “true” faith. At the insecure age of 13, after watching Fahrenheit 9/11, I was bemused by the delusions professed by the Islamic extremists. However, after some deep contemplation, I surmised that my faith [as well as theirs] was subjective and conditional on surrounding cultural influences. Furthermore, I began to doubt the existence of God because of the problem of evil so callously displayed in the merciless onslaught of 9/11. Therefore, by virtue of my irrepressible skepticism, I reasoned to believe those who seek the truth. But doubt those who find it (Gide, 1947).

In conclusion, terrorism affected each institution of society, which in turn shaped my personality. The U.S. government launched new counterterrorist measures that conflicted with their own political views and accordingly, suppressed the freedoms of their own subjects. For instance, the cancellation of all arriving flights in America, which violated Article 13: Clause 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the right to return to one’s country). This security measure instilled fear into my younger brother, at the tender age of 12, and caused him to become lost at the Paris airport in a sea of American tourists swimming with rage. Luckily, he swam against the current of angry yanks, or else he never would’ve espied us at the gates. Terrorism also helped form my suspect philosophy of relativism and engendered my anxiety of an unquestionable belief system. My fear of absolutism induced an evolution of my thought process and a purpose of revealing the ugly truth. For if fear did not exist, neither would the purpose of self-preservation, genetic “mutation” and death. 

We love death. The U.S. loves life. That is the difference between us two.

—Osama Bin Laden

Contemplated at the dreadful age of 17…The Age of Terror.


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