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7 Years Closer to the End of Infinite Economic Growth

September 11, 2008

On this day 7 years ago I awoke in my tiny Brooklyn studio apartment to my alarm clock radio saying something about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. In my mind I pictured a small, private aircraft smacking into the side of a tower after losing control. This sort of thing does happen occasionally in New York City. I snoozed the alarm. When it woke me again the radio station was announcing a second plane hitting the World Trade Center. This sounded altogether more interesting. ‘What the hell is going on with air traffic control?’ I thought to myself. I got up, took a shower, ate a modest breakfast and walked out my front door onto Coney Island Avenue.

At street level you can’t see the Manhattan skyline. Only from my roof top could you see any part of the skyline, namely the tops of the World Trade Center. That morning as I looked towards Manhattan I could see a large plume of smoke starting to pour out over the horizon across lower Manhattan. As I walked to the Fort Hamilton Parkway F train stop to make my daily commute into Manhattan I remarked to myself that today was going to be interesting.

The F train got as far as Smith / 9th Street where it came to a hault and emptied everyone out into the open air platform 91 feet above the ground. We were told to remain there until further notice. As we waited reports started coming in to those with radios about the Pentagon being hit and Tower 1 collapsing. It was only at this point that I feared slightly for my own safety. I was reminded of the feeling I had as a young lad when watching the film ‘Red Dawn.’ This is how I imagined war on American soil to be.

Eventually we were all told that the subway system was closed down and that we should make our way home as quickly as possible. We started walking down the long steps to street level. There was a very peculiar atmosphere by this point – people were mostly standing around not really knowing what to do or walking swiftly with purpose and worry. I remember trying to figure out what was going on but not being able to see Manhattan and not having any reason to be where I was I decided to make my way back home. In retrospect a part of me really wishes that I’d walked towards Manhattan. There are so many things I could have done that day.

It wasn’t long before the ash started to rain over Brooklyn. It wasn’t as thick as any of the images of lower Manhattan – it looked like a surreal late summer snowstorm. Surreal because it was actually quite a hot day. The cloud hanging over Brooklyn grew and grew. It lasted weeks before narrowing gradually and disappearing. I walked home that day through the ashen snowstorm and wondered what the hell was really going on.

Once I arrived home and collected myself I immediately started to think. The whole set of events was extremely upsetting and highly suspicious. From the media reactions and the moves made by the US government even that day alarm bells started ringing in my head. How could this happen? Boxcutters?! Are you crazy? What do these so called terrorists have to gain from this? How the hell can we be so sure of who was behind this so quickly without a thorough forensic investigation and furthermore if we were able to figure it out instantaneously how could it have been allowed to happen in the first place? What’s up with invading Afghanistan? What the hell was going on with our air defense today? There are always fighter jets ready to respond to these situations, why not today? Why did our much-flaunted, amply budgeted, highly-trained military let us down on the one occasion they were most needed?

I said to my brother that same day that I wouldn’t be surprised if these events were allowed to happen or had even been partially engineered by the Bush administration in order to serve a hidden agenda, most likely to do with oil. My brother, normally a dissident in all such matters, found this line of thinking negative and even unpatriotic. I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were all being taken advantage of in a hideous way. It was a feeling that followed naturally from the election results less than a year earlier. I felt cheated, misrepresented and lied to on an unprecedented scale. I had a sinking feeling from that day forth that things would get much worse in the world and in the US particularly – that the shock, anger and resentment would be whipped up into a frenzy of hysterical fear and hatred like never before. The Bush administration stoked, directed and exploited that hysteria to maximum effect. The fear and hysteria generated by the government, private sector and mass media in the aftermath of 9/11 were enough to justify almost any aggressive foreign policy subsequently put forward by the administration.

The first bit of real digging I did was towards Afghanistan. I quickly discovered an article on the BBC website that discussed plans to build a crucial natural gas pipeline through Afghanistan. There was resistance from the Taleban and it turned out the US had been toying with invasive tactics months before 9/11. This was a turning point for me after which many geopolitical facts began to surface and motives became clearer. There seemed to be a conspicuous urgency to control the world’s energy supplies. It was only 5 or 6 years later when I came to understand why that is. Our natural resources, most importantly non-renewable fossil fuels, are running out. The implication of this is phenomenal. Not only does our world economy rely on an abundance of fossil fuels but our entire public infrastructure is utterly dependent on them vastly more than at any other period in history. Any fluctuation has an enormous impact. I remember saying in late 2001 that it wouldn’t be long before the US invaded Iraq. When it finally happened in 2003 I was already moving to England for the foreseeable future. I had many reasons for the migration but not least among them was a mounting sense of frustration with the denial in those around me of what was really going on in their own country. Equally, anybody who asked any difficult questions or spoke out in any way against the status quo was buried in an avalanche of nationalist rhetoric before being able to finish a sentence. I felt completely alienated.

In my opinion there is no point now in endlessly debating the events of 9/11. We are faced with much greater issues: the energy crisis and climate change. The real problem underlying all the others is simply this: we have adopted economics as our moral compass – our means of measuring the success or failure of individuals and society. We have created a system that makes all decisions on the basis of cost/benefit analysis, ignoring all other considerations. This is insanity. The financial system relies on infinite growth in a world of finite resources. It is unsustainable by default. Even worse it means that profit is valued above human life itself. The corporation has successfully globalized these beliefs by legalizing and institutionalizing them. The legal obligation of a corporation is to make continued profits for its shareholders at all costs. If it is therefore cheaper to pollute the environment then legally a corporation must do so, even if it is illegal. A car manufacturer will not recall a defective part unless it can be shown that the cost of potential lawsuits resulting from the defect is higher than the cost of a recall. These are not exceptions to an otherwise humane system – these are commonplace facets of a system designed to generate financial wealth forsaking all other values in life. This is not beneficial to mankind in the long run, it serves only to fuel greed and envy, to satisfy very basic urges that cannot be sustained.

This is what we must change at every level of government, society and our own way of thinking as individuals. Until this happens the world of humans will continue to spiral further and further towards its own destruction.

I urge anyone who reads this to write to your representatives in government, let them know that time is short and that we need to factor the real nature of things into all decisions, not primarily economics. I urge the reader to think about what this means on a personal level – anytime you buy a product consider not just the value for money but the way it was made, the conditions of those who made it and the impact of production on the environment. Do not neglect your responsibility as a consumer – we are ALL responsible for what we consume. It is not somebody else’s problem, it is everybody’s problem.

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