I had finished a draft of my next Chronicle when the catastrophe occurred. I was born three months before Pearl Harbor and now have lived to see even greater devastation inflicted on the city of my birth. When I spoke of a new post-millennial era I couldn’t anticipate how clear and horrible the defining moment would be.
In La violence et le sacré, published nearly thirty years ago, René Girard put forth the basic tenets of a new “fundamental” or generative anthropology founded on the primacy of the human need to defer mimetic violence. Those who professionally go by the name of anthropologists have ignored Girard’s generative model, as they have ignored my own attempts to extend it to human language. Perhaps events of this magnitude are necessary to convince those who escaped but have not yet absorbed the horrors of the last World War that deferral of violence is the crucial function of human culture–and that this deferral is not and can never be synonymous with the utopia of perpetual peace. In the preceding Chronicle, I suggested that the conflict between capitalism and communism was the last moment in the dialectic of world history that would be dominated by the internal conversation of the West. In the light of the events of today, the Cold War assumes its true dimension as a family quarrel. As the name of their prime target indicates, the perpetrators of this series of acts have declared war not just on Western but on world civilization, and on the market that supports it. This is a time when those who have heretofore focused their energies on denouncing the evils of the market system had better start to come to grips with the implications of their position.
I send my condolences to the victims as well as my pledge to pursue for as long as I am able these efforts to improve our understanding of our common humanity, whose mimetic abilities give us such awesome capacities for peace and for violence, for love and for resentment.