The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.
Audre Lorde was wrong. In some cases, the master’s tools are the only things that can dismantle the master’s house, as we saw when American airliners destroyed the World Trade Center and took thousands of lives. Suffering around the world doesn’t stop the average american from pulling on his nikes, withdrawing money from a bank machine, filling his gas tank and heading for mcdonald’s. Most people in North America are blissfully unaware of the fact that, for example, Afganistan is in the throes of a civil war. Protest doesn’t break through the glass between the promised land of the United States and the rest of the world. Violence, bloodshed, starvation, not even American bombing of civilian targets makes the news. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine how it must feel, being the ant being stepped on by the giant, screaming, crying, begging for mercy, and being utterly unheard. In this case, our tools, our toys, or wonderful inventions and advancements, are the only things we really see, the only thing with the power to set us above the rest, the things we value more than all else. We love cheap oil, which powers our tools and toys, far, far better than non-white lives. It is the things we cherish which always, inevitably, hurt us the most.
Is this an apology? No. It’s not even an explanation. Horrific as it is, the terrorist action of the past week is arguably the very defintion of postmodern war. The powerless take the tools of their oppressors, and even the bodies of the oppressors’ citizens, and turns them into weapons. All the progress, the luxury, the industry, the decadence, and ease that marks North American life, looked at from another angle, is a series of weapons, loopholes, targets and unlocked doors for the nations of weak, helpless, faceless, starving and paunched men, women and children around the world. They may not have money, AK47s, jet fuel, a stock exchange, or an atomic bomb, but they have the will to hold a knife to the throat of a pilot and no qualms about dying in the event of success.
We still don’t know who was responsible for flight airplanes full of passengers into the World Trade Center towers and into the pentagon. But was does seem fairly clear is that the purpose wasn’t just massive loss of life, but a symbolic strike at the heart of the American Machine; the economy, the military. Now, Osama Bin Laden isn’t the only person in the world who’d want to be involved in something like this. The US has had it’s hands in all kinds of pies over the last few decades, creating many docile nations with livid citizens. Who can we blame? Who should we blame? Who should we target? Who dares to poke at the sleeping bear?
We’re used to a definition of war that seems almost ludicrious in the face of the horrors we have now been made aware of. Around a highly polished table, men in suits covered with metals rub their sabres, sip their tea (pinky fingers pointed upward at the vaulted ceiling) and exclaim, “I say, old man! I believe I shall declare war on your this afternoon!” What do you do when the people who are determined to destroy you have no tables, no sabres, no tea, and their declarations of war have been ringing in your ears for decades, but you never really heard them?