make-believe.org

Comparative atrocity

I'm writing an article on creative visions of New York after the World Trade Center. I have an armful of sources both textual and graphic that fit into the traditional academic idea of a reference -- that is, bound. But the proximity of that day and the ongoing creative responses to it (it does feel strange to be writing a history of something happening now) means that there is a clear limit to the number of books available. So I've been using newer media, which isn't so constrained by long production times.

There are some excellent on-line resources. Three I keep returning to are:

I started writing a post about the bombings in Bali one year ago, and specifically my bemusement at never having felt significant emotions about that atrocity. "Bali" is sometimes -- too often -- referred to as "Australia's September 11", which is clearly an absurdity. As I launched into a denunciation of the comparison, replete with numbered arguments, it occurred to me that I was merely perpetuating the absurdity. If I am going to understand "Bali", it will be because I have first properly contextualised it. The WTC has nothing to do with Bali; no more than, say, the bus crash in Indonesia a week ago that killed 50 people. Don't lets play a numbers game, where every stat begs a comparison (and this "88" stuff is an even greater nonsense -- not least because in fact over 200 people died).

The attack in Bali last year demands to be assessed according to its own attributes. If, after that, some people want to find patterns in the ruptured earth, that's fine, but it's a secondary leap of logic that should not be conflated with the (far more significant) original process.

Joseph | 12 Oct 2003

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