If you appreciate this essay by Fjordman, please consider making a donation to him, using the button at the bottom of this post.
The Crash of Civilization
The terror attacks of September 11, 2001 were the type of shocking event where many people remember exactly where they were and what they did that day. Personally, I was living in Egypt at that time. I had started studying Arabic language at the University of Bergen in western Norway. In 2001 I continued these studies at the American University in Cairo.
My linguistic skills in Arabic were mediocre. Since I left the Middle East in 2003 and haven’t practiced the language since, my Arabic has deteriorated and is now quite poor. For me, studying Arabic primarily became a door into studying Islam and Islamic culture. I was far better in this field of study, and continued my personal studies of Islam for years. I am at heart not a linguist, but rather an analyst with a strong interest in history.
Before September 2001, I was already growing more skeptical of Islam based on my own studies and personal experiences. Still, living in the largest city in the Arabic-speaking world during the September 11 Jihadist attacks was certainly interesting. The Mubarak regime imposed a curfew on Tahrir Square and parts of downtown Cairo that day. Perhaps they feared that some local Muslims would publicly celebrate the attacks, the way some Palestinian Muslims did. When Egypt received billions of dollars in aid from the USA, this would not have been good publicity.
I followed the news and newspapers back home via the Internet. They claimed that all Arabs and Muslims were sad and horrified by the attacks. This is not true. I know. I was there. Some of my Egyptian Muslim neighbors celebrated with cakes and said openly that they were very happy about the attacks.
To me, the most shocking thing about this was not that many Arabs and Muslims hated the West in general and the USA in particular. I already knew that. What was truly disturbing was that virtually the entire Western world seemed to be in complete denial about this fact. This was an entire civilization which once used to cultivate logic and reason, yet now seemed to have lost the ability to think rationally. That really scared me.
The Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu completed his book The Art of War around the year 500 BC. Despite being more than 2,500 years old, it remains surprisingly fresh and relevant. This is because Sun Tzu focused mainly on the psychological aspects of conflict. While human technology has changed greatly in 2,500 years, human psychology has changed a lot less. One of the most famous quotes from The Art of War is this:
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
From what I observed in September 2001, it seemed that the Western world had forgotten who our enemies are. Far worse, though, was that we had even forgotten who we are, and the roots of our own civilization.
A decade later, another terror attack would have an even more direct impact on my life. Both attacks became national traumas. Yet the 2011 attacks in Norway were carried out by a single individual acting alone, whose alleged terrorist network only existed inside his mentally disturbed head. The 2001 attacks in the USA were carried out by many different individuals from a real international terror network whose ideology has adherents worldwide. Moreover, when a small country is attacked, this is bad for that small country. When a large and powerful country is attacked, this has geopolitical consequences.
By 2011, I had been living in the same flat in Oslo for eight years, since my return from the Middle East. When the July 22 attacks happened, some people blamed me personally for the atrocities. I suddenly found myself near the epicenter of an international news story. This was extremely unpleasant, but in some ways also educational. If the 2001 attacks weakened my trust in Western mass media, the 2011 attacks totally destroyed it.