Academic journal article Journal of Philosophy: A Cross Disciplinary Inquiry

9/11: Group Rights and "The Clash of Civilizations"

Academic journal article Journal of Philosophy: A Cross Disciplinary Inquiry

9/11: Group Rights and "The Clash of Civilizations"

Article excerpt

Sonia Ospina's 12th floor apartment permitted a panoramic view of lower Manhattan. She saw the smoke and fire bellowing out of the North Tower, and then the second plane slam into the South Tower. 9/11, for now it is a name as well as a date, had set the stage for a new world drama. But the surviving actors have understood its meaning in radically different ways.

In the Spanish-language essay Sonia sent her friends several days after 9/11, (1) she described a more hopeful aspect of the event and the new world drama. For her, this aspect concerned a discovery about her identity: "Para me sorpresa, en medio de mi colombianidad, me descubro profundamente neoorkina, americana y universal, al reconocer que el mensaje enviado con este acto de terror tambien es para mi" ("To my surprise, in the midst of my Colombian-ness, I discovered myself to be profoundly a New Yorker, American, and universal. I recognized that the message sent with this act of terror was also for me"). The full extent of the manifold identity shared by Sonia and many other New Yorkers was revealed to them the next day. They found themselves in the city parks, standing together in circles, the night pushed back by their candles. And they were the world: old and young; rich and poor; black, white and the other colors of the rainbow; Muslim, Christian, Jew, atheist, and many other denominations of the spirit; as well as the representatives of the political discourses with which we express our varying and often conflicting visions of how best to live in society.

But there were also discordant notes concerning how to understand 9/11. Sonia spoke of the message she saw chalked onto a curb -"eye for an eye!"-and of the many political commentators who were counseling immediate revenge even before the smoke had cleared downtown let alone the fog surrounding exactly who was responsible for this horrific crime--itself, we were later to learn, an act of revenge. The immediate expression of rage at the perpetuators of the destruction of the Twin Towers and those who were unfortunate enough to be in them on 9/11 (as well as at the Pentagon or on the plane dive-bombed into rural Pennsylvania) should be expected, even "natural." More fearful is the support that this event provides to those who advocate that we accept a world permanently divided into warring camps and that we conduct foreign and domestic policy accordingly. Such a view is systematically articulated in the work of Samuel P. Huntington and his "clash of civilization" thesis. (2)

In this paper I want to show that the "circle of candles" represents an alternative to Huntington's thesis. But I also want to argue for a public policy that initially may seem to contradict this alternative: group or cultural rights, beyond, and even sometimes conflicting with, individual rights. Such rights at first blush appear to ensconce the same sort of walled-in, homogeneous and exclusionary cultural entities that Huntington's thesis implies. I will begin by stating Huntington's thesis and the opposition to it which the Noble Laureate and economist, Amartya Sen, has voiced in a recent book. (3) I will then provide a way of understanding the circle of candles that reinforces but also goes beyond the multi-identity type of multiculturalism that Sen places in opposition to Huntington's warring monocultures. This understanding of the circle of candles, I will argue, shows how group or cultural rights, properly construed, can be incorporated into the type of hybrid society-what I call a "multivoiced body"-that constitutes a compelling alternative to the exclusionist responses to 9/11.

To prevent my claims from remaining on the theoretical level, I will use the Zapatista movement in the indigenous regions of Mexico as a concrete example of a multivoiced body and of the positive role cultural or group rights can play in society. This example exists outside the Middle East and hence the current focus of the clash of civilization thesis. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.