On the Belatedness of Reactions


This was something I wrote years ago—more than eight years ago, in fact. It’s a bit more . . . acerbic than suits my current taste, but I was young then and full of fire and brimstone.

To all the victims of the tragedy that changed the course of history a little over a decade ago, requiescat in pace. To all their families, friends and survivors, I wish you healing and forgiveness.

~~~~~

We have all suffered from the legacy of 9/11 in some way, and one of the most patently undramatic manifestations of this takes place every single day in an act of comic proportions: the checking of bags and frisking of bodies when one enters a mall.

I say comic, because the whole thing is a hoax.  The guard pretends to frisk you; you pretend to go along with the whole thing.  Such is the fate of all great tragedies: they eventually devolve into the most middling consequences.

I am not in favor of all this peeking and patting.  It keeps the lines long and fails to deter any terrorist worth his bombs.  Everyone knows this desultory checking is a farce, tolerated and perpetuated only insofar as it provides the public with a sense of security that remains nonetheless false. 

If we took the time to consider the matter, a determined killer can make a weapon out of virtually anything. (For reference, watch both volumes of Kill Bill). Poking around a terrorist’s bag and even the trunk of his car would be the equivalent of patting a dog to check for lice.  In other words, all that these half-hearted security measures manage to accomplish is to further inconvenience the millions of shoppers who flock to malls everyday seeking to drown their fears and anxieties in materialist consumption.

The point of all this is that the world is not at all a safe place to inhabit, and that every living moment we teeter on the brink of personal extinction.  Our Maker can choose to recall us at any time without any regard whatsoever for the dignity of our exit.  In a way that I have not bothered to corroborate statistically, we are as likely to die from being hit by a speeding car or a falling coconut as we are from a terrorist attack.  (The latter just gets far more attention, as arguably, one cannot use death by vehicular accident or ripening seedpod as a premise for invading another country.  But then again, perhaps I underestimate George W. Bush.) 

In short, we are extraordinarily fragile creatures, and a fully grasped conception of our mortality and vulnerability would reduce us to crippling paranoia.  The Greeks, as in most other things, were far ahead of us in recognizing this.  Epicurus summed it up nicely when he exhorted his fellows to “Eat, drink and be merry!  For tomorrow, we die.”

Which is not to say that we should give in wholeheartedly to fatalism and apathy.  Let us continue to buy insurance, look down the street both ways before crossing, and avoid all coconut trees.  Let us not, however, kid ourselves with the thought that preoccupied and possibly ill-trained guards can protect us from becoming sidewalk spatter.

Since, then, we cannot possibly guarantee our continued existence, I say let’s get rid of all these guards and check-ups, and just let people in the bloody mall quick.  After all, only God knows how much time we’ve got left.

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