Interesting article from the Guardian.

Andrew Anthony rethinks his core beliefs in light of new evidence. 9/11 challenged his prior belief system. This is where he drifted from dogmatic beliefs and re-examined prior assumptions. Now he’s a political atheist.

In his words:

That was the progressive instinct: don’t be fooled by the mass media, which we all knew was a propaganda industry, look behind the scenes, examine the bigger picture, think about the context, study history. And so if you wanted to consider yourself a member of the thinking classes, it was not enough to recoil in horror, you also had to take into account America’s own score sheet in matters of cold blood. ‘It’s terrible,’ was the often heard formulation, ‘but….’

What all these reactions had in common, I realised, was not complexity but simplicity. For all of them this was an issue of the powerless striking back at the powerful, the oppressed against the oppressor, the rebels against the imperialists. It was Han Solo and Luke Skywalker taking on the Death Star. There was no serious attempt to examine what kind of power the powerless wanted to assume, or over whom they wanted to exercise it, and no one thought to ask by what authority these suicidal killers had been designated the voice of the oppressed.

In the end I reached the conclusion that 11 September had already brutally confirmed: there were other forces, far more malign than America, that lay in wait in the world. But having faced up to the basic issue of comparative international threats, could I stop the political reassessment there? If I had been wrong about the relative danger of America, could I be wrong about all the other things I previously held to be true? I tried hard to suppress this thought, to ring-fence the global situation, grant it exceptional status and keep it in a separate part of my mind. I had too much vested in my image of myself as a ‘liberal’. I had bought into the idea, for instance, that all social ills stemmed from inequality and racism. I knew that crime was solely a function of poverty. That to be British was cause for shame, never pride. And to be white was to bear an unshakable burden of guilt. I held the view, or at least was unprepared to challenge it, that it was wrong to single out any culture for censure, except, of course, Western culture, which should be admonished at every opportunity. I was confident, too, that Israel was the source of most of the troubles in the Middle East. These were non-negotiables for any right-thinking decent person. I couldn’t question these received wisdoms without questioning my own identity. And I had grown too comfortable with seeing myself as one of the good guys, the well-meaning people, to want to do anything that upset that image. I viewed myself as understanding, and to maintain that self-perception it was imperative that I didn’t try to understand myself.

In a sense 11 September was the ultimate mugging, a murderous assertion of a new reality, or rather a reality that already existed but which we preferred not to see. Over the years I had absorbed a notion of liberalism that was passive, defeatist, guilt-ridden. Feelings of guilt governed my world view: post-colonial guilt, white guilt, middle-class guilt, British guilt. But if I was guilty, 9/11 shattered my innocence. More than anything it challenged us all to wake up and open our eyes to what was real. It took me far too long to meet that challenge. For while I realised almost straight away that 9/11 would change the world, it would be several years before I accepted that it had also changed me. I had been wrong. This was my story, after all.

It’s an interesting story. Like Anthony said, many of the complicated explanations are actually stupidly simple.

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