The Modern Day Idiot


An idiot in Athenian democracy was someone who was characterized by self-centeredness and concerned almost exclusively with private–as opposed to public–affairs.[1] Idiocy was the natural state of ignorance into which all persons were born and its opposite, citizenship, was effected through formalized education.[1] In Athenian democracy, idiots were born and citizens were made through education (although citizenship was also largely hereditary).

9/11 anniversaries have become a playground where we  elevate all personal experience, just the fact of being alive on 9/11, to the same level of suffering and pain of the families and the people involved in the tragedy that was 9/11.  We trivialize the real suffering.  Time for a media blackout if you want to mourn and think about 9/11 and the outcomes of 9/11.

How dare you allow your hang nails and spats interfere with the memory of the people who were the direct hit of the airplanes?  The families who are still in pain?  The many who were wounded and their lives scarred for ever with your personal narrative?  The magnitude of the outcomes after 9/11 are all diminished to the point of a farce.

In our desire to join the world of sufferers and victims, we abscond with other people’s suffering and we elevate our minor discomfort into a false equivalence with the people who did experience the pain.   We bask in the empathy and sympathy that they should have.  We turn away from the bitter outcomes of 9/11:  wars, civil rights and human rights issues, jingoism, economic collapse, just some of the larger outcomes, into a competition of how we were “hurt”.

This is all part of the cultural sport of achieving moral high ground through the narrative of personal suffering.  All human discomfort and experience is not the same.   Not understanding the political and global implications of 9/11 through the suffering of the true victims, we dilute all the lessons that we should have learned.  Each time we reduce such matters to ourselves and our lives, we march closer to being idiots and not understanding our political responsibility as citizens of a democracy.

Enjoy the media enhanced carnival of idiocy.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “The Modern Day Idiot

  1. I think there are so many layers of the causes and effects of 9/11 that everyone personalizes it because how we felt is the only thing we can be certain about. I think you hit the nail on the head with the sentiment that we need to examine the facts of the socio-political reasons for the attacks and how our actions may be marching us toward a world where we won’t talk about our personal reactions to 9/11 anymore because events like that will be commonplace. Thought provoking. Thank you!

  2. I think the inhabitants of earth are now parasitical and refuse to be content unless they can host a litany of ailments. Excellent post. Lose the passive voice. Your wisdom will sustain your words. There’s so much truth in this post that I’m stunned. Seriously. I’m not surprised you have the balls. I’m surprised you have the wisdom. Okay. I’ll read you again.

  3. Jkf

    It’s complicated in some ways, and not so complicated in others. Working downtown, I’m always amazed at how many times I look up and find myself back in that moment that we all shared on TV. So did it affect me? Yes, most definitely. But am I traumatized in the way that someone who was there or lost someone there? Erm..nope. It seems part and parcel with our “reality TV” world where everyone needs to be centre stage in the drama de jour.

    We have elderly relatives who “lived” through WWII in the UK. They rarely speak of it, and they have genuine stories of suffering and loss to share. It is insulting to diminish real suffering with manufactured angst for the sake of getting attention.

  4. wanderingblonde

    Surely part of the reason is the fact that the entire event was played out before our eyes, in real time. And it wasn’t just the iconic image of the World Trade Center towers, few people outside of the NYC East Coast area would have named them as a symbol of our country if asked prior to 9-11, no it was the immediacy of it all coupled with the planes. Most of us, even seasoned pilots will confess to an innate trepidation about flying. Who doesn’t close their eyes on take offs and landings and wish a little silent prayer and hold their breath? Being trapped in a high rise building by a terrible fire coupled with the jumbo jets? These are the stuff of modern nightmares. Couple that with the fact it was deliberately committed by religious terroristic fanatics and it’s not something that can ever be truly forgotten.

    I agree that there is a lot of co-opting. I just don’t feel much compassion for someone being “trapped” in a five star hotel in Instanbul, what did you think you were going to do back in the States? And oh so sorry you didn’t get 1st class service on the flight home, tragic! (not)

    As for our elders who survived real and serious deprivation and never speak of it, their stoicism to a certain degree, was a function of the times. People did not dwell upon their feeling and experiences, that was more of a luxury of the upper classes, the average person had to get on with the business of life. We may have swung too far and I wonder if talking about our “feelings” and traumatic experiences can sometimes prevent healing rather than promote it.