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Everything comes handy after seven years

September 11, 2008

This morning, the speaker of the radio programme I was listening to in the car was asking for comments on September 11, on what they think of the event in the seven year retrospective. While I did not hear the comments of my fellow citizens (which can be interesting but too many times also make want me to move from Slovenia), I thought how little my opinion changed during the past seven seven years, it only seems to have grown more firm. I always think of two things in relation to 9-11. One is a slightly surreal scene from the day of the attacks on WTC. We were watching CNN live broadcast/1000-time replay of the events with couple of CC’s coworkers in a local pizzeria in Ljubljana when a local drunkard/bum walked in, looked at the crowd behind the bar drinking beer and gazing in one direction, than looked at the small TV screen that was fitted above the bottles of hard liqueur just below the ceiling and said: “Ah, globalization.” And than he turned around and left the place. For a brief second it took the doors to close and diplay the old posters of obscure local football players glued to the dark brown surface, some of us didn’t know exactly what to be more stunned at, he TV screen or the drunkard’s comment.
Personally, I still see it primarily as a deed of iconoclasm, as symbolic attack on one of the most prominent symbols that supposedly embodied a certain idea of (ruthless) progress and (arrogant, self-indulged) worldview. We can argue about various aspects of the events indefinitely but its symbolical/visual dimension is undeniable for me.
Let me offer a more detailed explanation of my point. During 1980’s (and for a long time before that), the main visual symbol of NYC and by extension USA was the Statue of liberty, embodying the ideals of freedom and democracy. But its symbolic power diminished with the end of Cold war and the rise of global capitalism and WTC entered as a more suitable symbol. Just think for example how prominently or frequently Twin towers featured in all of the major popular TV shows from triumphant 1990’s, which were more or less all staged in NYC (from Friends, Sinefeld, Mad about you to Sex and the city etc.). Some people I talked to about this disagree with me and claim that Statue of liberty was simply overused in visual communication and was hence replaced by something new. But then again, think about how Statue of liberty did not resurrect after 9-11 as an all encompassing symbol of the US as it is more and more apparent that the values of freedom and democracy are just empty words behind which the interests of capital prevail.
The photo is from the table tennis room/bicycle storage from the building we used to live in. A deed of iconoclasm turned into symbolical representation by  teenage kids. A vernacular, grassroots response to ongoing political events? Or a draf of the attacks by a local terrorist cell? In one of the ironic turns of the 9-11 events, the iconoclastic act itself became iconic through thousands of still and moving images, one could even say that it was given such prominence precisely because it was visualised.
The title of the post is a literal translation of a Slovene saying that crossed my mind while browsing for the photograph. It was stored on my disk for quite some time now.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 16, 2008 5:54 am

    The 9/11 attack on the twin towers may be an iconoclastic action but it has also created a new icon.

    Every time someone says anything out 9/11, I remember seeing the iconic footage of those poor people jumping out of the windows.

    Such iconic scenes transcend ideologies and show us that behind all the dogma are people who suffer because the power of words and diplomacy been removed.

  2. October 20, 2008 11:08 pm

    The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French. After 9/11, we even had to rename the Senate French Fries to Freedom Fries!

    With our current administration, you can certainly talk about the coma of diplomacy, but 9/11 happened only 9 months after Bush took office and Clinton had been a well-liked Chief of State abroad. I would rather blame the use by extremists of our dependence on Middle East oil to explain 9/11. Of course, these are generalizations.

  3. October 21, 2008 8:46 am

    Although the renaming of stuff could be called US cultural/political tradition – I was amazed to learn that during WWI “sauer kraut” was renamed into “freedom kraut”.

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