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December 31, 2007

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Lapiz Azul

If we are to take this silliness seriously, then naturally the <3000 Americans killed on 9/11 were inconsequential.

Why does everybody make such a big fuss over 9/11?

Ben

A fair question, Blue Pen, and a complex one. The answer has 4 parts.

First, our host has not said any deaths are inconsequential. None in fact are. The fact that you would assume that out of the many, many deaths that occur in this nation, ONLY those due to terrorism are inconsequential is disturbing.

Second, we all make choices concerning our risks of death, and we all determine, as free citizens in a more or less free nation, what level of risk is acceptable and what is not. We go skiing or driving or eat fatty food knowing a risk level. We DO NOT accept others artifically raising our risk level without our consent. That is what Terrorism does- actions or intentions by others randomly raises the risk level without the consent of those being affected. Just as, you drive to work knowing there is a certain chance you will be killed in an accident. You would NOT accept a stranger installing on your car a device that would make the brakes fail at random moments, even if you were assured that the increase in risk was slight.

Thirdly, we understand a risk of death, and we attach it to the consequences of our actions in life. We trade off the risk for reward. We assume in our day to day living that there is some value in actions that create a risk of death. You go out among your fellow Humans, you risk contracting a deadly disease. You take this risk because the value in Human kinship above the safer alternative of being a hermit offsets the increased risk of death. The risk of death created by Terror, and in fact crime in general, generates no offsetting value thru which we may justify the risk.

Fourthly, we all understand that in the end, the death rate is 100%. No one makes it out of this life alive. But we are Human, and therefore social animals, and we have constructed a society in which to live. This society accomodates the inevitability of death economically and psychologically. We are prepared to accept mortality. It is a fact of life. But we are not prepared, economically or psychologically, to accept changes in the "routine" of death. An elder dying after a long life from a terminal disease is not nearly the same shock as someone dying in their prime, and that is not the same shock as the death of a child. The disruption- emotional, financial, social- caused by 3000 people all dying at once without any of the psychologically acceptable reasons is tremendous. Our social system, and our brain, is not designed to accomodate this. Do you think we over reacted? Hardly. The victims were largely in the prime of their lives, and therefore, the shock would have been much, much greater had they all been children. Had the terrorists managed to kill 3000 people by wiping out a Girl Scouts convention, with most of the deaths being pre-teen girls, you would have seen an over reaction, and today, instead of a low level war in Iraq, UN teams would be monitoring large areas of the middle east with radiometers trying to determine when the region would be habitable again.

All that being said, remember, no death is inconsequential. When there is a death because of a work place fall, people suffer, and we expect the situation to be studied, and if at all possible, the risks to be reduced in the future. (And in terms of work place safety the US has done a great job!) But "Don't go to work" is not the answer, and neither is "co-exist with terrorism".

Ben

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