By Nicole Morgan, CACOR member.
We all remember where we were, on September 11, 2001 when the news reached us. I was in the Kingston OHIP office filling up the necessary papers for my move to a new career at the Royal Military College of Canada. The line up was long and I glanced at the small TV, up in a corner when I caught a glimpse of the tower being hit by the first plane. I thought it was one of these American movies better than science fiction and did not pay much attention until someone screamed: it is happening; it is Pearl Harbor!
Wrong comparison, Pearl Harbor did not come as a total surprise. On December 7, 1941, wars had been declared and empires were fighting everywhere. These were good old real enemies in uniforms. But this time who had ever heard of Bin Laden? I signed quickly all the forms and rushed to the College expecting some intellectual chaos. But it was a beautiful fall day and the campus was busy, like Queen’s campus, on the other side of the river. Agitated professors, in uniforms or not, were mumbling: where in hell is my class? This is not my syllabus! Is there a$#@*&# photocopier which works?
There is a time for everything, including when at war. Later in the day we started to talk. Most professors of my department knew about the Middle East, Al Qaeda and were able to give to the events an invaluable perspective.
Few days after when I was still sorting out the papers of my first courses (which were a disaster. I had to learn the hard way that one does not teach officers the way you teach in civil universities where, especially in philosophy, you can babble about anything and look intelligent), I received a call from Michael Marien (Then Future survey, now Foresight International) who challenged the futurist I had been incarnating, since my arrival in Canada: Write a piece about it. After all, my Alma Mater was Futuribles in Paris and in 1973, I shook hands with Peccei (Aurelio) when I was very (very) young in the beautiful Quirinale Palace. These were my early days when I lived in bliss floating in the middle of three worlds: a future, which was not, a past, which has been and a sky of Ideas which will never be. Anything was good for me to avoid the present, the hic and nunc so utterly boring though hurting hard.
I protested. I know next to nothing about present terrorism. Then came the challenge, the one I cannot resist (how did he know?): there are no women who want to say anything on the subject. In no time I produced the following piece (“The Terror of the Terrorists”), but not feeling at all that I had become one of the minute rice experts who sprung up all over radio and television in 2002 and on.
I read this paper the other day, as I am still unpacking a lifetime of writing thrown together in big boxes I would not have even opened if a recent move had not forced me to. Papers, books, published, semi published, should have been published, too bad-it-has-not-been-published, too-bad-it -has-been-published, have been rejected (a lot), abandoned drafts (my specialty), some translated into Spanish, Polish… and my most prized into Chinese since it looks so mysterious and therefore interesting. It could be the apple pie recipe, I would not know better but I can dream.
This paper is not very good but it is not bad, showing mercifully less wrinkles than my face.
More important it is a pretext for me to reflect on my life as a futurist, made precisely of the three colliding worlds I have been living in for so many years and I am trying to actualize in the present, I still do not like but want to explain to children and students.
Indeed I was not an expert on terrorism (and I am still not per se even after having published a book about Al Qaeda under the guidance of one of the top expert in France) but for years I had pondered, written and expanded about mega trends, trends as they root in the deep past of humanity. Going back 500 years is for me routine (these days, I extend to Cro Magnon)
What at the time was named terrorism was for me a pretext to observe the explosions of violence, which were seeping from the cracks of a mega changes named globalization. The two words are not for me satisfactory but, as we say in the trade, they are working tools. I keep on scanning the territory: What is old, what is new, what does not even have a name? How can I avoid the sand box in which I had seen so many experts rake fiercely (making a very good life at it. A good sand box is a wonderful sinecure)
I have now to explain, mainly to myself, why I took up the challenge of being a woman voice. It has to do with the realization that when it comes to analyze humanity in the making, human beings as they communicative, Carol Gilligan is right: women speak in a different voice (The title of her book).
Let’s go to 2004. I attended a meeting of experts asked to draft the outline of a collective book on the very secretive Special operations.
It was an impressive gathering of experienced experts. Most of them showed up in what is known as fatigue uniforms, alias the battledress for combat (you know the weird ones, with plenty of patterns and which is suppose to hide you in the forest or in the sand). As usual I was the only woman, attempting to have a voice in the chorus describing the chaos, which was agitating the world.
When it was time to attribute the chapters, I heard myself saying: Guys! I am not interested a bit in external chaos but in the internal chaos of the human mind which apprehends what is called reality. I wanted to add I want to talk about emotions, about Eros and Thanatos as they agitate and motivate what you are talking about.
But I abstain. I had learned that if I wanted to have a slim chance of survival in academia, I better not voice too clearly what I thought. (The same applies in private life). And this is how I wrote Loose cannons in Cyberspace[i], dealing with deep changes in a way the esprit de corps would be affected giving way to lose cannons and solitary wolves. It was qualified as refreshing, a term which heard to the point I felt like a wrapped mint candy. (Blacks are articulate and women are refreshing). I remember giving a conference in the company of two top female experts on terrorism in different part of the world. The chair nodded and closed the session praising our refreshing approach. The three of us gathered later around a glass of deserved refreshing white wine, sharing mint candies I had in my purse and a lot of laughing. We were so used to it and, if we had to choose, it was better than the scorn, insults and put down which had framed our academic life.
But let’s go back to the Terror of terrorists, the present paper which deals with one of the major emotion of human beings: terror (and attraction), not of the terrorized ones but of the terrorists themselves, tetanized by the loss of power which accompanied what is called modernity, especially frantic when it came to changes in the status of women. Read about this in the attached paper published in the Wimy report[ii]. But PLEASE discard the conclusion, which has been added without my consent and is counter to my way of thinking. Publishing is a dangerous exercise.
The 2001 paper is based on deep emotions (the ones Hobbes talks about but only for men). It has some wrinkles I wish to erase. For example I regret to have used the word autism at one point. Like schizophrenia, autism is poorly understood and therefore badly used. I want also to explain again that when I write capitalism, it is not an ideological rant. It has to be understood as Braudel intended: a commercial exchange.
Let’s express more clearly the other voice: we should change the word terrorism associated with Islam only in order to reflect better the daunting changes, which are affecting the collective mind as it tried to adapt to a raging Thanatos.
[i] “Loose cannons in Cyberspace”. Choice of Force: Special Operations for Canada, edited by David Last and Bernd Horn. Queen`s McGill Press, 2005