Lessons from the WTC catastrophe
The 2nd article in the series "Political Catastrophes".

Their war is not our war.
Their wars will not benefit the masses, masspeople will only be victims. Many hirelings will die while serving the elite that stays behind the curtains. On one side of the war is the American elite, on the opposite side the leaders of the Bin Laden group who belong to the Arab elite. They fight for a greater part of the power in the world. The masses are only victims and cannon fodder. They have no influence whatsoever and they will never gain any influence because of the WTC catastrophe.

History repeats itself, do leaders want war to sow fear?. In 1989 former CIA-agent Noriega was captured in Panama and many thousands of citizens were killed. Now the USA proposes a similar action in Afghanistan. Maybe former CIA-agent Bin Laden will also be captured but at the cost of how many more not-involved citizens?

Let’s look at some background aspects of what happened in New York.
Was it a catastrophe or merely a tragedy? According to the (mathematical) Theory of Catastrophes (see the Appendix of my book "The Scarists") a catastrophe is an important change in a complex system after a small event occurred during a long process in which some factors are constantly growing. The WTC event had indeed catastrophical characteristics because of the suddenness and the impact on our very complex world. But I doubt that it will fundamentally change the existing social order for example because the discontent of the masses in the First World is not increasing.  

For the victims and their relatives it was not a catastrophe but a horrific tragedy.
For the minds and the life of the Bin Laden group it was without doubt a catastrophe and I will analyse how such an event could occur.
For the minds and the life of the elite it was not a catastrophe. The elite was neither hurt nor targeted or threatened, not as group and neither as individuals. The elite will use the event to strengthen its grip on their own masses by taking measures that restrict the freedom of masspeople. The elite got the possibility to advance further towards a society as described by Orwell in his book "1984".
For the minds and the life of masspeople it was also not a catastrophe because they were not involved. The WTC catastrophe was an event in the ongoing internal elitist struggle about the partition of power and wealth. Masspeople must stay aloof from this war, just as the masses never must allow the elite to determine their social activity.

I will try to answer the following questions.
How was it possible that Bin Ladens group came into existence?
What was the political climate that allowed the Bin Laden group to recruit so many people and to meet so much sympathy?
Why did they target the Towers and the Pentagon?

The answer to the last question can be short. In all past wars members of hostile elites never targeted each other in person. Even in the Gulf War Saddam Hussein was not touched. So it is quite clear why the Bin Laden group chose financial and military symbols. The hostile elite remains unhurt and it does not interest the elite when masspeople are hurt. The Western elite reacted as expected. It showed its military strength (power play) to extinguish the fire because it looked as if this fire threatened its living place but ‘forgot’ to do something against the fire that continues to rage under the ground as in a peat-moor fire.

Why many dissatisfied people formed a terrorist group is also not too difficult. Afghanistan is strategically important for the American elite. Direct interests are found in the wish to build oil pipelines through Afghanistan and in the drug trade. Many American banks live from the revenues of huge amounts of drug money, which is entering the banks and invested in the American economy. The struggle with the Soviet elite was also important. Therefore the Americans trained a group of more or less educated young men to combat the Red Danger in Afghanistan. After the Afghan War the Americans abandoned the group because they had become superfluous. The capitalist principle that you may fire workers without any social safety net when they do not produce anything anymore changed the appreciation of the Bin Laden group of its former American employers. The hardened fighters could not return to their countries to take up jobs because jobs were not available. A similar problem arose when Vietnam veterans returned but most of them were soon accepted or submerged in psychiatric institutions.

The last question is more difficult.
The WTC catastrophe was a result of a long process that was determined by the long lasting and accumulating influence of several factors in the mind of the perpetrators. When these factors arrive at a certain point and when the situation is favourable (for example because a frustrated group is available) something special can happen, something that we can call a catastrophe. For a social catastrophe that will change our appalling world order it is needed that not only the minds of the activists but also the minds of the leaders become involved. The WTC action and most mass actions must be rejected as inadequate because they do not penetrate into the minds of the leaders.
Osama bin Laden and his group did not appear out of the blue. In a period of maybe thirty years the minds of (future or possible) members of the group have been gradually changing, influenced by many strange events. The wish to do something was growing. The central factor was the continuing objectionable situation in the Third World. But I do not think that the economic situation, the hunger, the poverty, the lack of education, etc. was very prominent because many members of the group came from more or less well-to-do families. More important is the whole spiritual, intellectual and cultural climate in which the globalisation and the growing American influence in all aspects of Third World societies are an outstanding factor. Though some people think we live in a multi-cultural society, it is in the end always the West that determines the political climate and the rest of the world is never fully accepted. Racism and lack of knowledge of other cultures often result in discrimination. The presence of many Western experts, not only industrial staff but also teachers, members of NGO’s and even tourists, who all tell the population to behave in a way comparable with the situation in the superior West, increases the inferiority complex.

Many people in the Third World have a love-hate relation with the West. But hate is growing because of the arrogant Western policy. The support of cruel dictators (Pinochet, Mobutu, the Shah, Suharto), the removal of populist leaders (Allende, Lumumba, Sukarno) or the undermining of populist leaders (Castro, probably Saddam Hussein, Kwame Nkrumah) strengthened the growing impression that the population in the Third World is inferior. There were many military interventions in the Third World – Panama, Lebanon, Israel, Somalia, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Libya, Laos, Cambodia, Granada, Iraq, Iran and many more. The West was never invaded. Only Western powers maintain  military bases everywhere. The World Bank, the WTO, the IMF take measures determined by Western directors, while the United Nations mostly appears to be a political instrument that favours Western nations and is dominated by the United States. At the same time the USA pulls back when its leadership is not accepted. Kyoto, the anti-racism conference, the non-payment of UN contributions are only recent tokens of the arrogance of the USA elite. The demand of payment for patents that have already overfilled the purses of Western tycoons prevents that the Third World from developing its own industry. That the pharmaceutical industry lowered the price of AIDS medicines by 40% after Brazil threatened to produce the medicine without paying any dues, is only an example of the many small events that accumulate in the minds of Third World people.

The growing and prominent presence of American brands in the whole world, McDonald’s, Nike, Coca-Cola etc. increases the anti-American feelings that are growing underground because the media are also dominated by Western concerns as CNN, AP, Reuters or Disney. I cannot understand why the results of the Dutch soccer competition have to be published in Thai newspapers. Do imagine the reverse situation in which we read and hear more about the East than about our own countries. And because many people do not even love their own police they will hate any foreign American World Police. The miserable internal situation in Third World countries – also due to their own corrupt and greedy elite that openly intermingles with Western elites – is only circumstantial evidence of the wrongdoings of the USA.

I do not say if this is right or wrong, I just look for reasons to understand why the WTC catastrophe has happened. I only recite above a few facts. Every year new facts are added and no effort is made to turn the trend around. The Third World is left without perspective, without hope for a favourable change, without hope for a better future. Because this situation does not change, new Bin Ladens are already in the making.
These facts determine the minds of many Third World people. And because of the globalisation – the travelling middle-class can see the differences between the West and their own countries – an often unconscious feeling is growing that something is fundamentally wrong.

Two other factors contribute to this feeling.
The first factor is the rise of religious fundamentalism. Religion has always been used as a political instrument. In the past the Christian elite used it to rally the masses during the Crusades or during the struggle against the invading Moslems. In the Vietnam War an American archbishop urged the American soldiers to “kill a commie for Christ”. And after the WTC event more people went to the American churches and I suspect that fundamentalist tendencies are growing. in the USA Moslem extremism is an expression of the growing gap between the West and the rest of the world.
The second factor is the ongoing and justified struggle of the Palestinians who, though not all are Moslems, are killed and suppressed by Western Israelis, which is fully supported by the (Christian) United States.

All these factors accumulate in the minds of the Third World masses and provide organisations as the Bin Laden group with a lasting recruiting ground for people who are prepared to do anything the leaders demand.
This whole long-lasting and accumulating mental pressure in the heads of members of the Bin Laden group gave rise to a catastrophe. That is what we can learn from this situation. When pressure is building up something unexpected will happen. Scientists are pretty good at determining a possible earthquake by establishing how much pressure is built up in the earth crust, they can predict from data the strength of a hurricane, but they do not study similar processes in the minds of people. They have not researched the developments in the Bin Laden group. But even when they had warned the elite, the leading group would have disregarded these warnings. Activities to reduce the pressure to avoid the coming catastrophe undermine its own power and moreover the elite knows how to use this kind of catastrophe for its own benefit.

The WTC catastrophe was favourable for the elite because it could reinforce its power and it did not really change the world. But you can never expect that one big bang will have a lasting influence on the minds of leaders (who in the end decide all) or on the minds of masspeople. Maybe the masses draw some lessons from the whole process that led to the WTC catastrophe and will adopt new ways to reduce the power of the elite. When the masses cause many small catastrophes in the life of members of the elite these events will change the minds of the masses as well as the minds of the elite. But in the WTC catastrophe the elite was not targeted and its mind was therefore not changed. And only a few perpetrators were involved in the making of the catastrophe so the minds of the masses were also not changed.

I will not give any advice on how to solve the present situation but I am against this war because the only victims will be masspeople. I want a growing pressure on Western leaders by people who belong to the Western masses. I prefer actions by (a part of) the masses against (a part of) the elite that cause catastrophes in the mind of the masses as well as in the mind of the elite. Only then a better world will arise. Up till now all political ideas that predicted they would change the world have proven they could not prevent that after a social change a new elite usurped most of the power and the wealth.

See also Letter 16 or Letter 17 of an Autonomous Thinker

Joost van Steenis (October 5 2001)

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3. Scientific Revolutions
To the index of Catastrophes