Editor’s Note: On Friday, September 14, the Daily Illini published a letter entitled “We Must Retaliate”, signed by twenty people who called themselves “members of the University community”. The letter, whose signers have subsequently been found to be members of a group called the ‘Objectivist Club’, essentially adherents of Ayn Rands’s philosophies, attempted to suggest a moral equivalence between terrorism and legitimate protest against corporate globalization strategies by including the following statement:
“There are those at this very University who, still fresh from their adventures in Seattle or Genoa – or from quoting Noam Chomsky on Saturday morning radio shows – must be working hard to repress their glee over this blow to symbols of what they regard as the ‘hegemony’ of global capitalism, or the ‘military-industrial complex’, or American ‘imperialism’.”
In response, we reprint in slightly edited form an essay written by Scott Weber, a high school biology teacher in Brooklyn, New York. While of course Mr. Weber was until recently unaware of the Objectivists in Champaign-Urbana, and while we don’t necessarily agree with all of Mr. Weber’s observations about what may or may not motivate terrorists in specific or in general, we do feel that his essay provides a reasonably cogent response to the scurrilous and irresponsible allegations contained in the “We Must Retaliate” letter.
Many of us are concerned about the future of the anti-globalization movement in the wake of the World Trade Center tragedy. But fighting against globalization is not the same as supporting violent terrorism. I would like to summarize some important differences between those responsible for Tuesday and those who share their philosophy, as contrasted with the philosophy underlying the current anti-globalization movement. I do not presume to speak for every person who shares a commitment to the anti-globalization movement; we are a very diverse group. But I’d like to believe that many might generally agree with the following observations.
One, we are not violent. We do not wish to die for the glory of some eye in the sky. Nor do we do wish to kill for our cause. We simply wish to change certain key aspects of a blind system which destructively puts profits before people.
Two, the terrorists who committed these acts do not disagree with American foreign policy on any kind of intellectual level that can be debated. They are brought up to want to kill Americans, because we are Americans. We, realizing that Americans consume 25% of the world’s natural resources while comprising 5% of the planet’s population, and are primary culprits in ozone depletion, oil pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and sweatshop labor – points which, by the way, most terrorists could care less about – believe that we must put pressure on organizations, governments, and corporations to change, to adopt better, more humane and balanced policies regarding global commerce. We parade around with puppets and block traffic with bicycles, for God’s sake; we don’t use a plane full of innocent people as a battering ram!
Three, we do not want war. At least, not the classic definition of it. Terrorists, and many of the “America, love it or leave it” crowd, DO. They want blood, they want revenge. Hell, I live in New York City! I know of many who died! Sometimes I feel I want revenge, too! It’s hard not to let your anger get the best of you when you see buildings collapsing and thousands dying before your eyes! Here, it has been a nightmare of Hollywood proportions. I know, personally, I will never be the same again.
But in terms of what our movement is working for, we simply want change. We wish to work peacefully and decisively for a world where people of all nations need not suffer at the hands of uncaring multinationals. We wish to see people leading real, vital, fulfilling lives away from their televisions, shopping malls, and factory floors.
For the full text of the letter written by the Objectivists which was published in the Daily Illini, go to: http://www.dailyillini.com/sep01/sep14/opinions/stories/letter14.shtml