Duck! and Gather

Archive for September 25th, 2006

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The first entry of this 9/11 Wrapup trilogy reasoned that 9/11 was and is ambiguous (ie. between the set of Conventional explanations, and set of Conspiracy explanations). The second concluded that 9/11 was and is universally interesting. As I mentioned in the last entry, the normal human brain seems more less incapable of resting peacefully at a place that is ambiguous yet quite interesting. Instead, normal human brains will keep searching for an answer. Since I believe social dynamics (ie. “groupthink”) parallel individual ones, I fully expect society to keep pressing for a firmer answer on 9/11.

But what does any of this have to do with Duck! and Gather? The answer to this question is found in the tagline of this site: “People vs. Corporations, The Second Reformation, and The Age of Wisdom.”

On People vs. Corporations, 9/11 is interesting because if any of the Conspiracy stories emerges as true, I believe Corporations will prove to have played a non-trivial, and perhaps lead role in the emergent story. But even if none of the Conspiracy stories emerges as true, and instead the Conventional stories remain dominant, I believe Corporations will yet emerge in the evolving 9/11 story with a central role in creating the conditions that set the stage for 9/11, and in the American responses to 9/11. All of these roles, I’d argue, are contrary to the interests of People.

The Second Reformation refers to the emergence of the Internet as kryptonite to the all-powerful truth priesthood of Government, Academia, and Media. Five hundred years ago, the religious priesthood of Europe held the truth monopoly and waved it as a sword over the heads of the People. But the invention of the printing-press led to the Reformation — a process that witnessed the demise of this priesthood and its replacement with humble science.

Today, Government, Academia, and Media represent the unholy trinity that purports to define truth for us People. But in 1994, the Internet emerged, allowing us People to communicate directly with each other, rather than through the distorted self-interested channels of the unholy trinity.

Where is all of the 9/11 Conspiracy dialogue happening? The Internet. Absent the Internet, all would be quiet on 9/11.

But even if there is nothing to the Conspiracy stories, all of this Internet dialogue will eventually compel the trinity to answer the questions of the People, rather than “answer” the “strawman” questions that they posed to themselves. More likely, the People will eventually come to realize that they no longer need this trinity to define truth for them. Via the Internet, we People can resolve truth for ourselves. This is the essence of the Second Reformation.

Finally, The Age of Wisdom is about the marriage of intuition and reason as complementary paths for arriving at truth. 9/11, as an ambiguous yet terribly important event, illustrates this poignantly.

Although the vast majority of debate on the Internet between the “conspiracy” crowd and the “debunkers” claims to be based soley on reason, a closer reading reveals intuition informing both camps. For example, many debunkers seem to intuit that air-tight conspiracies of the magnitude necessary for 9/11 to play out as an “inside job” just don’t seem to find precedence in known history. Similarly, many of the conspiracy folks seem to intuit that the complete and utter, neat and tidy collapses of steel buildings like WTC 1, 2, and 7 just don’t seem to find precedence in known history outside of controlled demolition.

Over time, I believe that these opposing intuitions will “come out of the closet” and declare themselves to be what they are: namely, intuitions. In my view, both intuitions seem sound. That both seem sound yet contradictory explains, in my view, the seemingly bottomless energy fueling the ongoing debate.

Studying 9/11 seems to me to be a wonderful test case for the interplay between intuition and reason. For example, say we look at 9/11 for the first time. Our intuition will suggest a likely explanation. Then we resort to the techniques of reason to check out that explanation. That process leads to preliminary “dead-ends” which require another exercise in intuition. This is followed, in turn, by the techniques of reason. And so on.

9/11 is a wonderful test case because this dance between intuition and reason seems to go in circles. At least it does so for me. The beauty of that is that, while dancing, we are better able to notice the dance steps we are taking. And rather than pretending to be doing only the “science” and “reason” two-step, eventually we can see that we’re throwing in the odd “intuitive” side-step from time to time.

In my view, there is nothing wrong with this complex dance. On the contrary, it is the dance of seeking truth. Intuition and reason are complementary partners joined in a dance that seeks truth.

Five hundred years after the first Reformation, America doesn’t seem to know it is engaged in this dance on all topics, be they about politics, health, sports, or most anything else. 9/11 stands out because it is so beautifully ambiguous and so desperately interesting. Maybe it will be the event that hearkens the Age of Wisdom.

And thus, for the forseeable future, I am finally done with 9/11. 9/11 has reminded me that while I’m breathing, all of reality is simultaneously interesting to one level or another, and ambiguous to one degree or another. And that reality is OK with me.

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Whatever the case with 9/11, that event seems to be of near universal, deep interest. I suspect the reason for that is that the event reminded almost all of us of our fragile mortality.

  • First, the 3000 victims could not be defined or limited by nationality, ethnicity, political ideology, gender, age, religion, sexual preference, or pretty much any other imaginary line that divides us humans. 9/11 left no safe harbor for anyone.
  • Second, for any of us who have flown as a commercial airline passenger (is there anyone reading this blog who hasn’t?), the event reminded us that every time we fly, we put our lives in the hands of strangers the motivations and skill of whom we have no choice but to trust.
  • Third, for any of us who have been in a skyscraper (is there anyone reading this blog who hasn’t?), the event reminded us that while up there looking out at the spectacular views, we are trapped sitting ducks, with fickle fate deciding whether we come back down via the stairs, or out the window head-first in a free fall.
  • Fourth, 9/11 scarred America the beautiful, the virginal, the all-powerful. As such, the event reminded everyone that there is no safe place on Earth.

I could go on. But the point here is that 9/11 was the universal horror movie. As such, it drew the rapt attention of all of us.

As humans, I’ve read that we naturally resolve phenoma rationally in our heads. No matter how ambiguous the event, if scary enough, our brains will settle on an explanation that seems rational to us — even if that explanation is false. I’ve read that we humans are confortable with false explanations that we believe, but not comfortable with no explanation at all. If that is true, in the year following 9/11, most of us settled on some version of a working rational explanation. And most of us stayed quiet.

But in the last year or so, the voices of those of us harboring a “Conspiracy” explanation have gotten louder and louder. So today, there is a lively, even caustic, debate going on between the advocates of opposing explanations. One thing common among all the conflicting shouting is that 9/11 was really interesting to just about everyone.

On this site, my interest in the 9/11 Conspiracy stories was piqued by commenter AndI. A little over a month ago, I wrote about how AndI had brought to my attention an unconventional therapy (colloidal silver) for treating viral and bacterial infection. Having researched the question, I concluded that AndI was on to something. Naturally, I figured if AndI seemed correct on that unconventional topic, then AndI’s continued insistence about the “fishiness” of 9/11 seemed worth looking into as well. So I did look into it.

Prior to doing so, it’s fair to say that my own 9/11 explanation rested firmly in the “Conventional” camp. But the closer I looked at 9/11, the more the “Conspiracy” stories seemed to hold water. So I thanked AndI for his insistence and started blogging and podcasting about 9/11 in earnest.

Unlike all else about which I’ve blogged and podcasted on this site, my discussions of 9/11 seemed to draw the most emotionally laden responses. Beyond the comments on this site, a good friend of mine with whom I had attended graduate school 15 years ago called me at home. He called me mostly to reconnect and catch up. But in addition, he felt compelled as a friend to warn me that my countenancing of 9/11 Conspiracy theories — of any flavor — might be evidence of early-onset senility. He said this with humor and good-will, but the point was made. Over a couple of days, the two of us had a wonderrful series of phone calls about truth and our own processes for trying to get there.

In addition, as I mentioned in another posting, my 9/11 commentary attracted the very first “flame” comment this site has received. I take this as further evidence that 9/11 was rather important to us.

So that’s the simple point of this entry. 9/11 — whatever you or I anyone else thinks it was about — was and remains really quite interesting to all of us.

Well, it’s time I let go of the ambiguity and, perhaps, unknowability, of 9/11. I recently finished a three-day Fall solstice fast. Usually, during these multi-day fasts, my mind is clear and demeanor quite calm. Yet this time, my conversations were animated, and my dreams were troubled and cyclical. All of this disturbance concerned the troubling ambiguity of 9/11.

As I’ve mentioned, I don’t “do” ambiguity well. At least, I haven’t done so in the past. But I believe that as adults, we need to learn to live with the ambiguity not merely of important things, but of all things. So it’s time I grew up.

Essentially, I see 9/11 in the following way: Roughly speaking, there are two sets of explanatory stories: (1) “Conventional”; and (2) “Conspiracy”. The Conventional stories have it that legal culpability for 9/11 rests solely with Bin Laden, his followers, and his supporting Islamic jihadists, and none of “us”. In contrast, the Conspiracy stories say that some of “us” are culpable for 9/11. Among both sets of stories, there is great variability. Still, this dividing line seems apt.

Having looked closely at both sets of stories, I’m left with the belief that each suffers from certain serious weaknesses in reasoned explanation. In my view, the weakness of the Conventional stories is scientific in nature. In particular, in my view, the biggest weakness concerns the absence of a sound, scientific explanation for the collapse of WTC Building 7. This absence is especially troubling because among all of the events of 9/11, the collapse of WTC 7 seems most discrete, limited, recorded, and amenable to rigorous scientific analysis.

For the various Conspiracy stories, the biggest weakness, in my view, concerns human nature. 9/11 was mass murder on an epic scale. Thus far, it seems fair to say that 9/11 was the defining event of the new milleneum. In my view of human nature, it is especially troubling to the Conspiracy case that no “Deep Throat” has as yet emerged revealing the hidden “inside” aspects of 9/11.

At the end of the day, almost everything I’ve read about both sides of the argument is circumstantial in nature. The only non-testimonial “direct” evidence I’ve seen comprises the raw footage of the video “911 Eyewitness“, and the story about Professor Jones finding thermate in molten steel allegedly from the WTC ruins. But the problem with the raw video footage is that it is too fuzzy for certainty. The problem with the second story is that the evidentiary trail of Professor Jones’ thermate samples depends upon our blind trust.

So for me, there it is. 9/11 remains purely ambiguous. But as such, that fact alone is interesting enough to me to merit a few blog entries.

Read this article on what Pakistani President Musharraf said in his memoir: Musharraf saw fighting US as suicidal. Basically, he said that, in the wake of 9/11, it would have been suicidal for Pakistan to choose to fight the US. So instead, he flipped Pakistan 180 degrees with respect to Islamic radicalism.

Now read this article from the New York Times: Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat. More than three years after the start of the war, the spy agencies now say something that was completely obvious in early 2003 before the bombing even started.

Now, I’m someone who believes that intelligence is more or less evenly distributed around the globe. So I find it hard to believe that the reason the US started bombing Iraq in 2003, and claimed this bombing would reduce Islamic radical terrorism, was due to mere stupidity.

If not stupidity, then what? Recall that both American political parties supported this false “reasoning” in 2003.

I guess what surprises me most is not the uselessness of the US government. Rather, it is the blinding burst of honesty — ie. stating the painfully obvious — coming from the Pakistani leader.

Could it be that the political leaders of other countries are actually real humans, whereas those of our country are simply Corporate proxies?

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Nearly three years to the day I started this blog, it has finally crossed the chasm. Let’s look at a little history of this blog:

But since February, there this blog had stood. Month after month, unique users continued to grow. A handful of commenters (particularly AndI, Sean, and Tom) engaged me in some pleasant back and forth. But otherwise, all was quiet on the blog front.

Just this instant, I checked my site stats and it tells me the site has received 937 unique users thus far this month. But even with nearly 1000 unique users, this site has felt sort of like a child to me. That is, it has felt like a site living in a false dreamworld of quiet readers, plus a handful of polite, highly reasonable commenters. I wondered: would this site be forever consigned to the fantasy world of a 19th century English library?

Today, we have our answer. Thankfully, it is a resounding “no!”. For today, this site finally grew up, and entered the real world. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you America, in these salad days of the new milleneum.

That’s right. Today, this site received its first “flame” comment.

The gates are now wide open, people! There’s nothing stopping you anymore. Post that comment!

Sure, it took nearly three years. But make no mistake. Today, Duck! and Gather became a real site.

for the money has gone too far

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September 2006