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From a public health perspective. one of the major challenges after 11 September is whether we can build a more caring communitarian world. The signs are not good. Behind the media hype, what comes through is largely a lack of institutionalcaring. People as individuals still seem to care even if their voices are muted.
Markets and neoliberal globalisation serve to create yet greater maldistributions not only of resources but also of power and influence. They reduce us too often to being consumers only when being citizens, especially world citizens, is increasingly important. When leadership is missing from the world stage, there remains no one but world citizens to adopt a world perspective.
Television pictures and the fact that this was the US filled the vacuum created by the absence of world leadership, capturing world minds more than for example Rwanda ever did. Leaders of Mandela's stature are needed. Despite having suffered so much for so long, he established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the basis of sentiments such as: “You can't build a united nation [or a united world?] on the basis of revenge.” In comparison Bush's antics look like those of a very small man.
The calls for revenge against terrorism echo those against opponents of last century's British imperialism in Africa. Yet so often former “terrorists” eventually sat down with representatives of the British government and successfully negotiated the independence of their countries.
The reopening of the US Stock Exchange was revealing. In advance, we heard that the “fundamentals” of the US economy remained strong. Fundamentalism was otherwise used in a pejorative sense about a major world religion. But maybe we are dealing here with two religions?
When the Stock Exchange did open, despite institutional voices calling for patriotism and for this great beast to act with compassion and commitment, there was a major initial fall and various falls since, and these despite almost certainly the US government pumping in billions of dollars. The major symbol of capitalism served up what it would be expected to serve up: greed and a lack of commitment to anything other than money making. It was not able to do otherwise even on the one day in the world's history when investors might have looked beyond the mighty dollar. We can now finally and assuredly reject the idea that there is anything or could be anything other than greed involved in capitalism. It lies exposed for what it is. The market has no heart. It does not—it cannot—care.
Whoever was responsible for the attacks should be brought to justice for these appalling crimes. While the inferno of racial and religious hatred that has followed is at least as appalling, other voices are beginning to be heard. The notion of the world being a village community has never been more explicit than on 11 September. Let the villagers use this to build bridges, mutuality, reciprocity, respect and love across national boundaries. The fact that the US is being forced back into the world community rather than seeing itself standing over it has to be a good thing. We villagers must develop institutions that more accurately reflect our world values but it would seem that nothing less than a major revision of modern capitalism is now needed to promote anew the health and happiness of the world community and especially those in developing countries. There remains the horrible feeling however, as the US prepares to wage war not to solve the problem of terrorism but to make themselves feel better by “doing something”, that it is already too late.
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