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By Webster D. L.

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Furthermore, agreeing to play Bin Laden’s game is even less forgivable for not being motivated by the intention of eradicating the terrorist scourge, following instead an altogether different logic from the one which such an intention would inspire and justify. Meacher accuses the governments in charge of the ‘war on terrorism’ with an unwillingness to contemplate what lies behind the hatred: why scores of young people are prepared to blow themselves up, why 19 highly educated young men were ready to destroy themselves and thousands of others in the 9/11 hijackings, and why resistance [in Iraq] is growing despite the likelihood of insurgents being killed (Meacher 2004).

It is not too difficult to trace the reasons for the rapid and spectacular rise of that illusion: In an age when all the grand ideas have lost credibility, fear of a phantom enemy is all the politicians have left to maintain their power. Numerous signals of the imminent shift in state-power legitimation to that of the ‘security state’ (or, more correctly, the ‘personal safety’ state) could be spotted well before 11 September – even if people needed, as it appears, the shock of the falling Manhattan towers reproduced in slow motion for months on end on millions of TV screens, for the news to sink and be absorbed, and for the politicians to reharness popular existential anxieties to the new political formula.

The ground on which our life prospects are presumed to rest is admittedly shaky – as are our jobs and the companies that offer them, our partners and networks of friends, the standing we enjoy in wider society, and the self-esteem and selfconfidence that come with it. ‘Progress’, once the most extreme manifestation of radical optimism and a promise of universally shared and lasting happiness, has moved all the way to the opposite, dystopian and fatalistic pole of anticipations: it now stands for the threat of relentless and inescapable change that, instead of auguring peace and respite, portends nothing but continuous crisis and relentless strain.

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