As an entry in Rational Review News Digest's first symposium on major subjects of importance, I wrote on September 11 2006 what follows, with minor modifications as I found warranted in making it a permanent portion of Focus on Freedom. (The original)
I made my immediate thoughts about the events of Sept 11, 2001 known publicly within two weeks. They were placed online at "Kitty Reflects on MoreLife":
Many thoughts have gone through my mind these past 9 days; a very large number centered on events in New York City, Washington DC, and a county SE of Pittsburgh on the morning of 9/11/01. Tom [Paul Wakfer's online name at the time] and I, like many others I'm sure, spent hours watching video reruns, reading numerous online reports, and discussing the most horrible terrorist attacks to have occurred anywhere. I suspect, however, that we probably asked questions that many others did not.
Our questions were centered on two aspects: 1) the philosophical basis of the attackers and attacked; 2) the technical causes for the actual collapse of the World Trade Center Towers.
The second question really had our attention first due to the horrifying visual images. ....." The remainder
Five years ago I only alluded to the solutions to the problem underlying the tragedies of Sept 11, 2001. "We, as individuals, must take responsibility and not let governments act as our moral agents. They have done so and this is where it has lead."
Governments - not simply those individuals in elected and/or appointed positions within a particular government - are the problem. The vast majority of humans through the ages have not been sufficiently mature to interact with each other to mutual advantage without being ruled. For much of that time, virtually all one's daily efforts went into keeping oneself and family fed, housed and clothed. No time was available for thinking about the optimum ways to interact with others; repeating what had been done by parents and elders was the way to survive. With technological advance, improvements in living conditions occurred and large amounts of time by a few could actually be spent thinking on the nature of reality, including societies (interacting humans). Virtually all the various ideas have had one point in common - rule of individuals by an authority who supposedly was wiser, more impartial and more benevolent than those individuals who were to be ruled: god, chief, council, church, king, parliament, congress, president, etc., whether rules were written as commandments, edicts, declarations, bills, a constitution, laws, etc., or the ruler simply was stronger by virtue of having more spears, arrows or guns at his command. And in either case these spears, arrows and guns used to enforce the authority's decisions were also the protection against outsiders, whether wild animals, marauding/pillaging outside humans or thieving/murdering neighbors.
Periodically groups of people, often under the influence of one or more who thought differently, would rebel against the resident ruler and, if successful, install a new one, sometimes of a different variety with a variation on the rules. Often the conditions would be improved and advancement occurred; people possessed more, lived longer, and can reasonably be said to have been happier. But the declared need for a ruler was rarely questioned. Who/what would protect against all the dangers from "outside" and disorder "inside" if there were no ruler? For most it was and is still an accepted truism that social order - freedom from societal chaos - requires a ruler, a government. Following this view, if there is a problem with an existing administration or individual, the solution is to simply replace it/him/her with another promising to follow the rules better, or maybe enact some better rules. Rarely is there discussion about decreasing or eliminating the entire idea of rule (even of individuals by the whole - democracy).
To make sure that the "need" for government (rule) is demonstrated, individuals in or supportive of governments have for generations publicized situations that they claim can be handled only by governments. These conditions have grown in number from once simple physical protection from invading outside humans to a plethora of possible harms that might befall an individual who takes little initiative him/her self. To keep the "need" for government prominent in the minds of those who are generally self-sufficient, it has been necessary by governments to have "crises" occur, call for studies/commissions/troops (paid for with expropriated money from taxpayers) and downplay or even forbid individual cooperative measures.
"Crises" to keep and grow governments in the US have existed since before the Declaration of Independence was written. While it is understandable that the US founding fathers made some of the errors that they did, given the knowledge of that day they did create a vastly improved system - but it was still one of rule. (Paul Wakfer's critiques of three major US founding documents provide discussion in this area. The measures the US founding fathers brought into being are fraught with the seeds of the numerous problems that have occurred in the US (with ripples worldwide) since then, beginning within the lifetimes of many of the framers themselves.
Supreme Court Justice John Marshall began the first of almost continuous interpretations of the US Constitution of the "Necessary and Proper Clause" first in 1803 and then more completely in 1819 in the McCulloch v Maryland case. President Lincoln called for "preserving the union", although the "rules" (US Constitution) actually did not forbid secession of states from what was considered a unified association to mutual benefit, a "grand experiment" (the 10th Amendment, the last item in the Bill of Rights, specifically states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."); the resulting war brought enormous loss of life and property and decades of mistrust and animosity within the boundaries of the US. In recent years, analysis of historical events and later disclosed documentation has clearly shown that finding, distorting and even fabricating reasons for going to war with another country was an intention of the actions of both Presidents Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt and also Woodrow Wilson. While the invasions of countries by troops of a neighboring country is definitely cause for residents of the invaded country to take defensive measures (and if individuals from elsewhere wish to volunteer physical assistance that should always be their prerogative), citizens of the US were manipulated by their government's administrations into participation and support of the wars at the end of the 19th century through the entire 20th century.
Despite the entreaty by President Washington in his farewell message at the end of his second term in 1796 that the US government not become entangled in the affairs of foreign countries, this has been a regular activity, overtly and covertly, of every administration for at least the last hundred years, and likely since John Adams took over the White House. Fomenting a certain level of discord between countries or nationalistic/regional/religious groups is actually in the interest of governments, in order to keep their citizens in a state of discomfort, if not real fear, with government viewed as the only protector from and arbitrator of such discord. A change in the players by election or appointment has made no essential difference - and it never will because the nature of government prevents that.
In between military adventures in the past approximately 40 years, government officials in the US have increasingly encouraged the thinking that a particular condition of reality at that time is a massive problem, a "crisis" - illiteracy, crime, cancer, street drug usage, HIV/AIDS, natural disasters, etc. - and can only be overcome by the action of government, with of course enormous amounts of money taken from taxpayers. New agencies have been created, existing ones have been reorganized and/or enlarged to "fight these battles"; individuals and private organizations have ceased to be thought of by many, even outside of government employment, to be a source of solutions to problems in life.
Were the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) not the determiner of what an airline can and cannot do in regards to providing airline transportation to customers, there would likely have been successful solutions to attempted hijackings long ago. One possibility is that levels of security would be offered to potential customers, similar to the levels of comfort now available. Airlines could offer flights on which everyone was highly screened for potential threats to the airplane and passengers - all luggage and the passengers would be put through technologically advanced measures for detecting potential harm. Different airlines would compete on these security flights by the degree of "protection", cost, along with timeliness, etc. The degree of protection offered by some airlines would reasonably extend to training and arming their pilots and crew. All techniques would be improved as became physically available and was considered by an airline to be wanted - by how many people bought tickets on these high security flights. Lower levels of security could be instituted by various airlines and here too would be a selling feature for tickets. ....
As it is now, however, the government determines what airlines can do and who can actually fly on a commercially scheduled flight. And the situation is pretty much of a mess with no possibility for real improvement. It's not simply the particular people in this administration that make taking a plane flight a nightmare; it is the underlying foundation of the entire set of procedures involved.
I have taken no airline flights into the US since the middle of 2002, when Paul was able to again legally enter the US and we began spending 6 months in the US, which is my legal residence, and the other 6 in Canada which is his. All our traveling within North America is done by car. We took our last airplane flight in September 2003 to a biogerontology conference in Cambridge UK; it was bad enough then flying into and out of Manchester (we were visiting my sister in that area) but repeat security checks in London's Heathrow had been terrible on a previous visit in April 2002. (Most airports were never designed for these current procedures, but instead for speedy flow of passengers and luggage.) Neither of us has any desire to fly under the conditions forced onto passengers by the US government and other countries often under threats from the US government. Airlines from other countries cannot fly into the US unless they follow all the rules issued by the US, and they are pressured by their own governments (most of which take the same stance that governments own airports and airways, and in some cases the airlines themselves) to utilize the same type measures for all flights.
Instead of simply complaining about (at the workplace watercooler or on web blogs) the horrendous requirements issued by government for being allowed to fly on a plane, individuals would be better to *not* fly commercial airlines. Most businesses have the technology for virtual meetings without the special equipment of a few years ago; such meetings could be common place now with videocams available as standard in many computer models. Individuals could demonstrate principled thinking by using other modes of transportation - vacation within driving distance for example - and let everyone, including the kids, know that flying under the rules of government is not acceptable.
Lastly, and most important as I more than just reflect on the happenings of September 11, 2001 and all since then, I suggest that each individual think about the alternatives to government rule in all human interactions. In doing so, one must start with examining the nature of human beings. I recommend for this purpose, Paul's essay, "Social Meta-Needs: A New Basis for Optimal Human Interaction".