liberty - Eran Wolkowski - September 9 2011
Statue of Liberty Photo by Eran Wolkowski
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Major catastrophes - man-made or natural - have never themselves influenced the course of history, even if hundreds of thousands or millions of people were killed in them. Nature, including human nature, always tends to return to the serenity of forgetfulness as quickly as possible, as is reflected in the banal comment used to comfort mourners during condolence calls: "There is no alternative, life must go on."

So only a fool would think that if he takes talented producers to organize an impressive catastrophe for him, the most impressive catastrophe there is, the mother of all catastrophes, history will bow more deeply to him than to other organizers of catastrophes.

Such fools must be told: Look at God, who is considered the father of all producers. Who created the universe in six days, organized a flood and toppled the Tower of Babel. And drove Israel into exile and back twice. Where is God today? How many years was he still supposedly influential before rumors began to spread that he doesn't exist - that he is dead? That in fact he can't hear anymore, can't see or feel anything, and that he is just a balloon that has burst.

The only way for well-wrought catastrophes to succeed in arresting our awareness is for a sufficiently big nudnik to arise, one who will chew our ears off unremittingly about the magnitude of the significance of the specific disaster in question. Call them prophets, philosophers, intellectuals ... in short: all those very unkempt and annoying spit-sprayers whom no one, other than a handful of nudniks like themselves, wants to have around. It is definitely they who influence the course of history, and not the so-called producers. Consider the case of the Master of the Universe: What would he have done without his unrelenting commentators?

With all due respect, I would like to suggest to the "9/11" disaster that it take itself a bit more proportionately.

He should understand that without an apprenticeship with some charmless, toothless and irascible Voltaire or Yeshayahu (either Leibowitz or his biblical predecessor, Isaiah ), a nerd like Walter Benjamin or a limping yenta like Rosa Luxemburg or a busybody like Hannah Arendt, who will take him by the hand, he is liable to become just a passing episode, a story told to children who don't want to finish what's on their plate. And it'll go like this:

"Daddy, did airplanes really come and knock down the Twin Towers in New York and a lot of people caught fire and fell out of them?"

"Is your nanny filling your head with that nonsense again? Of course not, my child. It's just a movie. In real life, things like that don't happen. My God! In the end, this kid will even believe Jesus was born of a virgin."

Because the biggest catastrophe of our times, ladies and gentlemen, is not one tower or another that got hit by a plane, or a tsunami that wiped out a whole area of Thailand in a single wave, or a hurricane or the crash of a stock market. The real catastrophe, ladies and gentlemen, is that the world has stopped needing charmless and absolutely unphotogenic nudniks, whereas for their part the nudniks have understood they don't stand a chance of surviving as they are, and have gone to plastic surgeons for operations - or at least to cosmetologists to have the hairs plucked professionally from their nostrils and ears. And anyway, what television station is going to want them, and what program is going to risk a drop in ratings only for the sake of the dubious pleasure of hearing the truth that these made-over nudniks want to explain?

A girl who does the research for a television program dials Rosa Luxemburg's home phone number; the telephone rings and rings until finally a woman answers, out of breath. "Hi, Rosa," says the caller. "This is Ravit from the Friday night news program. Yair Lapid is asking if you'll agree to come on the show and talk about 9/11 for two or three minutes. Just remind me: How should we describe you in our caption?"

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen: The disaster we are marking these days, 10 years after it occurred, had the bad luck to have happened in the worst possible place and at the worst possible time. There is no place worse than the United States, the land of plastic smiles and Botoxed expressions, for engendering wrathful prophets who will imbue the disaster with real significance. And there is no worse time than the video-clip era, when the ordinary viewer's patience runs out after two minutes. And now a word from our sponsors.