West vs. East: Living in a Bubble

The Western world is very different than the East. Yet why are they so different, and what keeps them worlds apart? I recently read this article called Desert of the Real, by the philosopher Slavoj Zizek. I thought it was interesting, because it offered a different perspective of America’s response to attacks on 9/11.

Slavoj Zizek sums up the essential American response to 9/11 as ‘‘Why should this happen to us? Things like this don’t happen here!’’ The first part of this response suggests that the American public has concluded at least initially that they as a nation bear absolutely no responsibility for the circumstances leading up to the attacks on World Trade Center on 9/11, and therefore the people who perpetrated these terrible attacks must be purely evil. And once they have explained away the enemy pure evil, it further reduces any need for introspection. The second part of the response portrays a state of selective dementia. Nothing bad happens, unless it happens to us, and unless “others” perpetrate it. Using this as a basis the American public is able to conveniently and easily wipe away from the collective conscious events like bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, the death and destruction that took place during the Civil War, the treatment of Native Americans during formation on the USA, dropping of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima, and the terrible deaths and destruction perpetrated during the two World Wars, etc.

He has a very interesting and fairly credible explanation for this American response to the tragedy of 9/11. Americans live in this protective bubble that isolates them from the rest of the world. This bubbles is made of a fabric that is woven with the yarn of paranoia and fantasy. To fully understand the nature of this fabric it is important to understand the precise meanings of these two words. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, “paranoia is a fundamental derangement of the mind characterized by systematized delusions of persecution or grandeur usually without hallucinations, and a tendency on the part of an individual or group toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others.”  This explanation though seems to make sense, but raises an important question. Why American public tolerates this isolating bubble. The first part of the answer provided by Slavoj Zizek is indirect. It keeps the Americans, an integral part of the First World, from feeling the guilt of what the First World did to the Third World during the last 500 years. The second part of the answer is more direct. The American society has slowly lost the ability to distinguish between the reality and fantasy. This lost was initiated by living is this bubble and was sustained by the creative work of Hollywood.

Toward the end, he wonders how America will respond to 9/11 in the long term. The first possible direction would be to persist in the status quo, angrily and violently going after the perceived enemies. Second possible response would be to come out of the bubble of paranoia and fantasy and reacquaint itself with reality. A reality that would enlighten them to the fact that the “enemy” has been at the receiving end for a very long time and has been experiencing tragedies like 9/11 as a matter of routine. This understanding will hopefully help them realize that if they do not want the events like 9/11 to take place in America, then they have to resolve it to make sure they do not take place anywhere.



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