On Fatalism: An Amendment to the Latour Post

Ok, so from the emails (etc.) I got about my post below, I may have lost some people. This wasn’t intentional, nor was I trying to “show off.” I just am trying to keep this blog useful for my own work, and hopefully when it comes to paper writing time in my advanced Theory class, this blog will serve as my electronic memory.

To summarize what Latour is saying: when September 11th happened, “the West” (i.e. America) was all like “why did this happen!?!?!” and “why do they hate our freedom????”

Latour is arguing (rightly) that this is ridiculous because “the West” has been waging small scale war since at least WWII, through simple things such as the condescending sense of “respect” for “other” cultures (Anthropology is specifically fingered here) through “multiculturalism” policies (“Its our world, you can live in it if you want”).

Initiating “policies” and having “respect” assumes that “the West” is in control of things, the one that is “doing it right.” September 11th, and even before through the rise “risk culture” (the sense that the world “out there” is dangerous and risky) have been key in undermining this sense of control.

So how do we move forward? (Latour says diplomacy, I remain skeptical that it will be as effective as he thinks it will be).

In the paper today I saw a poll that said that Americans are predicting “another terrorist attack, a warmer planet, death and destruction from a natural disaster” for 2007. This growing sense of fatalism is one that I think that many of my friends and collegues share. I have it in spades.

We feel powerless, like things are getting out of control. We sense that the gig is going to be up any time now, that doom is right around the corner, and hopefully it doesn’t hurt too much. We feel as if there is nothing we can do.

So if we are powerless, why worry about it? What is the point anyway? That same article points out that one in four Americans anticipates the second coming of Jesus Christ in 2007.

Now, it is not my style to knock religiosity, so I won’t. The second coming, after all has been “right around the corner” since the first coming. All I am going to say is that if you think Jesus is coming in 2007 to pull us out of our situation then you are part of the problem. Fill up the SUV, leave it running overnight so you won’t have to warm it up in the morning.

This hope that we will be saved in the end, through Jesus or through our own rationality, science or ingenuity points to unbridled optimism that is harmful to actually accomplishing anything.The fatalist in me thinks that maybe it would be better for catastrophe to strike so we can start over. The humanist in me hates to see people suffer.

At some point, I realize that I don’t even have the genesis of an original idea.

2 thoughts on “On Fatalism: An Amendment to the Latour Post

  1. Interesting… Here’s a thought though!

    At some point in my wide and strange reading career, I read a document in which the author was expressing sentiments very similar to what you’ve mentioned on change, control, and doom. (To my amusement they were accompanied by a diatribe on the youth of the day and how A) disrespectful they are now in their tight, revealing, and immodest clothing, and B) how dreadful modern music is.) What is intriguing about this document is that it was written over 4000 years ago in Egypt. So, I ask, are these thoughts/feelings/fears about control and change really unique to our era or not? Are they part of the human condition? This gives us food for thought – how has the current situation truly changed: if we remove the window dressing of modern culture and look at the essence of change in social assemblages is there a difference?

    My other thought on the matter (spur of the moment kind of thing) is do we see this worry as being age related? I had many such thoughts in my late 20’s, but in my early 40’s I don’t. It’s more academic now – more a sense of curiosity. I find some change more annoying, and I feel nostalgic at times for the “good old days”, but overall I’m not as worried anymore.


    By the way your posts are interesting – I didn’t see them as showing off – but I envy the time you have to get this far by this date! Thanks for making me think!


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