Council Results, September 15

Watcher’s Council As usual, the voting spread for the September 15th nominations is oddly clustered. In the Council offering, there was one clear winner, two members tied for the second spot and the rest of us kind of dribbled down the page. In other words, the members seemed to have no trouble making a choice for their first place vote, but second place was harder to choose, and thus the number of posts getting at least one vote was large.

In the non-Council offerings, four nominations tied for second place.
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Socratic Rhythm Method took first place among the Council offerings with Your Chance of Dying in a Terrorist Attack, which used statistics to demonstrate how futile statistical averages are when it comes to considering the meaning of events:

According to one estimate, your chance as an American of dying by accidental drowning is 66 times greater than your chance of dying in a terrorist attack. (Or it might be seven times greater; see the post.)

As many Americans have been killed by lightning, accident-causing deer and allergic reactions to peanuts as terrorism, since they started keeping track, they say.

You’re twice as likely to die crushed under a vending machine as you are to die in a terrorist attack, according to this source. You are 225,409 times more likely to die in an auto accident, another source says. More people accidentally shoot themselves to death than die in terror attacks, it says here. [links can be found in original post]


But as these amateur statisticians watch all the tributes, retrospectives and rerun cable news coverage today, does it begin to dawn on them that this was a big deal for reasons beyond its threat to our own, individual, personal lives? Or does that not compute?

Do they think I’m some dolt who’s afraid there’s a terrorist waiting around the next corner to shoot me in the head, and wants George W. Bush to protect me? Do they think I’m some kind of racist, willing to go balls to the wall to fight a bunch of anonymous Arabs but not the far more serious and deadly threats of heat exhaustion and falling off the toilet? Do they think I’m contributing to the success of terror attacks by exaggerating their impact, while they’re working hard to ensure the terrorists don’t win?

Do they think they’re smarter than I am?

September 11 didn’t make me fear for my life, or the lives of people close to me, any more than the JFK assassination made my parents fear for their lives. (And for extra credit, what’s your chance of being elected President of the United States and then shot to death?) Probably a lot like the last generation’s reaction to Kennedy’s death, it made me feel powerless in the face of a profound, frustrating, awful loss. It was an affront to my country, its people and its principles. It brought us all together in an unprecedented way.

Soccer Dad and Shrinkwrapped tied for second place. The former for Three Strands Not Easily Broken and the latter for 9/11 Ambiguities.

Here is Soccer Dad’s thesis:

While there are, no doubt, many more than three factors that led to 9/11; there are three that I’d like to highlight: 1) the ideology that drove Osama Bin Laden in his war against the West 2) the acceptance of some terror that likely convinced Osama Bin Laden that he could strike at the U.S. with impunity and 3) the failure of the West — the U.S. in particular — to use the tools at its disposal to fight terror.

And Shrinkwrapped, continuing the 9/11 meme in a psychodynamic way, offering several paradigms from which to consider the issue of terrorism. One is to view Al Qaeda as a criminal organization, another is to see the Koran and its adherents as essentially violent, and yet another is in the mode of the Bush Doctrine, which hopes that by establishing functional democracies where only tyranny existed before that Islam will be forced to consider and to reform its own internal contradictions. Then there are those who believe that it’s just a matter of giving Islam’s adherents time to catch up to the modern world, thus eliminating a large part of the sense of humiliation and inadequacy (I think my summary here is correct. Shrinkwrapped may not agree). Then he says:

The Modern World demands a very high level of cognitive ability in order to become a full participant. Modern economies are so wealthy that even the most limited people, with the most minimal skills and advantages, are able to live relatively well (fantastically well, in comparison to poor people throughout human history.) This means that if you are a young man with a limited education living in a developing country, even if you are literate and intelligent, you have almost no chance to join in the modern global economy. The most successful developing countries, like South Korea and Taiwan, had populations willing to work hard for their children’s sake, accepting their own limitations, in order to ensure their sons and daughters the opportunity to go to school and become successful members of the burgeoning global economy. America has been particularly adept at accepting such “strivers” as new members and accepting their children as Americans. Too many other nations have been unable to accept the implicit trade-off of current status and deprivation for the adults in the interest of their children’s future. There remains a very significant portion of the Islamic world that has clearly not yet accepted this trade-off, and is in denial that the trade-off is unavoidable.

When I read this, I was struck not by the limited education and skills of those in poor countries, but the underclass in our own country, which Shrinkwrapped has just described here. I am attempting to drag one grandson out of the mire of this fetid swamp, and I am not sanguine about my chances of lighting some fire of vision for himself or his family any time soon. In other words, we have a huge bloc of adults in this country who don’ do “trade-offs’ for their children, either. It is most disheartening.

Non-Council Winners were led by Villainous Company’s And At Night, I Dream Of You…, a moving memorial to one of the 9/11 victims, Lydia Estelle Bravo. And Bravo she was:

How do you tell the story of a woman you never met? Someone whose life was extinguished as casually as one pinches a candle flame after a memorable evening? Reading what those she left behind had to say about her, I have no doubt that Lydia loved life; that she made the days and nights of everyone around her memorable. One piece said that to Lydia, life was a feast.

This does not surprise me. You see, Lydia was an oncology nurse for eight years. Living in death’s shadow for such a long time brings everything into sharper focus. It makes one appreciate how truly precious each and every moment we have on this earth is, how lucky most of us are, even to be able to walk out our front doors each morning and do mundane things like pick up the paper, fight rush hour traffic, or sit in overlong meetings listening to pompous, pontificating nitwits rehash things that could easily be said with far less oxygen. But on the flip side we also get to see sunsets, Italian movies, giggling babies, and the face of the one we love each morning resting on that pillow beside us; looking in sleep — for a moment — as innocent and carefree as a child again.

That sight alone is worth the price of admission.

As they say, RTW.

There were four nominations sharing second place. In the interests of brevity, I will list them and urge that you click on these links, which astonish in their variety:

Everything is at The Watcher’s Place, waiting for your perusal.