Interdamme Heir|Bungalows Party

SOS Bashir Bremen

There was a moment, in the weeks following the events of September 11, 2001, when a need for renewed thinking on fundamental cultural values, on the meaning and possibility of civic participation, and on notions as basic as mourning and commemoration, on peace and war, emerged unmistakably in American consciousness. This awareness receded dramatically as the media assumed the national work of mourning, and it quickly ceded to ideological certainty in the administrative consolidation (under the name of a „war on terror“) of a conservative agenda. (42)
—Christopher Fynsk, The Claim of Language: A Case for the Humanities.-cos nos.-

[1] In the epigraph above, Christopher Fynsk highlights the failure of the humanities to deal sufficiently with the problem of 9/11. Most of the questions surrounding the disaster involved the usual sort of post-mortem fare on cable news networks. Once we knew who flew the planes, the discussion moved toward the larger networks and logistics that made 9/11 possible, as well as the questions of why. While the humanities should have helped the American citizenry to deal with the socio-cultural implications of this disaster, it did little to prevent a dominant American ideology from answering some of these questions with an enlightenment-based, scientific approach, and allowed the Bush administration to assert that the best way for the ordinary citizen to deal with the problem was to „shop-till-the-terrorists-dropped.“

[2] From this perspective, the humanities failed the American people. Or, we were the problem all along, and the humanities failed to solve us. Instead of relying on the sciences to answer questions about 9/11 (including all of the social sciences), what America really needed was the humanities to help it understand its situation, from which it might engage in practical reasoning to make decisions. Fynsk makes a telling observation when he asserts that the media took on the task of mourning for the nation. As the fourth estate, the media’s role is to oversee the official versions of events furnished by the government so that it can determine their validity, ascertain who benefits from such narratives, and whether or not they are in the public’s best interest. However, as Fynsk surmises, the media instead became implicit in sanctioning the official version of events. Traditionally, the humanities has taken up three tasks to justify its existence. The first involves the Human-Text Interface, or more simply, literacy. Second, the humanities is expected to teach critical thinking, which is required by citizens in a democracy so they can make decisions in their best self-interest. However, the last aspect, and the one that Gregory L. Ulmer sees as most lacking in the 9/11 disaster, is that of self-knowledge. It is self-knowledge, in conjunction with aesthetic thinking, which Ulmer takes up in Electronic Monuments.

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