TCS Daily


The Age of Proximity

By Austin Bay - January 10, 2007 12:00 AM

The Age of Anxiety isn't a new phenomenon -- but the Age of Proximity is. And with good reason, the Age of Proximity is a dangerous, challenging era.

Monday, Jan. 8, 2007, provided several uncomfortable illustrations. Take New York City first, since it's the definitive "Ground Zero" for terrorists on our technologically "downsized" planet. As a noxious odor spread through Manhattan, reasonable people feared either an extensive natural gas leak or a poison gas attack.

Meanwhile, in Austin, Texas, police discovered five dozen dead birds on Congress Avenue, just south of the Texas Capitol Building, where the Texas Legislature convenes this week. The dying "canary in the coal mine" serves a blunt purpose: It warns miners of poison gas in a shaft. On the Earth's surface, a mass die-off of birds may indicate a nerve gas attack or the presence of a biological pathogen.

The Port of Miami's Monday incident is less prone to either ill-considered satire or accusations of overreaction. In Miami, a suitcase destined for a cruise ship tested (and retested) positive for C4 plastic explosive. The Miami bomb scare followed by one day an unfortunate misunderstanding involving three truck drivers of Middle Eastern origin and Miami port security personnel. Guards became suspicious when one of the drivers failed to produce "routine paperwork."

In Miami, the suitcase ultimately passed inspection. Local police released the detained drivers once they provided solid bona fides. It now appears New York's wretched stench blew in from wretched factories in New Jersey. Preliminary tests in Texas suggested Congress Avenue's deceased flock of pigeons and grackles were victims of poisoning, described by authorities as either "purposeful or accidental."

Do these incidents represent a sad display of frayed nerves and national paranoia?

No. They are very public and potent examples of apt responses to the dark side of globalization, of genuine threats in The Age of Proximity, where both citizens and governmental authorities must balance the weight of responsibility with the freight of fear -- and responsibility for the protection of innocent life puts the thumb on that difficult scale.

Oceans still spawn hurricanes, but they don't stop ICBMs or terrorists. On 9-11, al Qaida demonstrated that what the World War I generation called "over there" is nowadays very close to "back here." America -- according to its enemies -- is everywhere (a "pan-global" political and military phenomenon), but a computer keystroke will quickly find al-Qaida agitprop, Nigerian scams, North Korean warmongering and Sudan's hideous genocide in Darfur. An airline ticket, a sick tourist and 22 hours moves the Asian flu from Bangkok to Denver, or the avian flu from Hong Kong to Austin.

The upscale phrase is "technological compression," but the down-to-Earth 21st century fact is all of us live next door.

Technology has compressed the planet and created the Age of Proximity, with positive effects in communication, trade and transportation; with horrifyingly negative effects in weaponry. Decades ago, radio, phone cables on the seabed, long-range aircraft and then nuclear weapons shrunk the oceans. Sept. 11 demonstrated that religious killers could turn domestic jumbo jets into strategic bombers. For murderous zealots preying on a lax public, the oceans were not obstacles.

To return to an era where distance made a difference requires eliminating technology. Where do we start? Ban ICBMs? I'll listen, but it appears North Korea and Hezbollah have no interest in arms control. But do we ban long-range commercial jets and the Internet? Or do we police the murderers, tyrants and criminals who abuse them?

Hello, high-tech Pandora, for the good and the bad. "Technological compression" is a fact -- it cannot be reversed. To deny or ignore it has deadly consequences. Responsible citizens and public servants in New York, Austin and Miami considered those consequences.

Anxiety is one of the soul-altering afflictions explored by W.H. Auden in his Pulitzer Prize-winning poem "The Age of Anxiety." That classic begins in a World War II-era New York bar. No argument -- anxiety is destructive. Diminishing the threats posed by the Age of Proximity requires action. We're also doing that. We call it the War on Terror.


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9 Comments

Tell me something...
Truthfully, and from looking deep within yourself...

If you had never knew about the ways the government went about protecting you, would have you really cared?

The wiretapping.

The illegal muslims incarcerated after 9/11.

And every other thing the Gov is doing that gets just as much praise as much criticism.

No one's rights are being infringed. No one has been arrested for sedition. None of you are being wiretapped. The more I hear complaints about "right to privacy" and "your rights" the more it seems like, "I am doing something illegal, and you are just about to catch me. Stop looking at me!"

So, let's say it's 2010. The war on terror is over. Don't you think you may have reacted the same way as you did when in the 90's and this century when you heard about all fo the cloak-n-dagger of the 60's, 70's and 80's if you hear about the CnD of the WOT?



Get serious!
"... do we police the murderers, tyrants and criminals who abuse them?"

"Diminishing the threats posed by the Age of Proximity requires action. We're also doing that. We call it the War on Terror."

We are not serious. If I were the President, I would declare:

1. Saying "Death to America." is signing your own death warrant. Calling for our death, gives us the right to kill you, self-defense, plain and simple.

2. Burn an American flag and we will help, with napalm.

3. If an American citizen speaks on behalf of anyone who has declared themselves to be our enemy, they will be subject to trial by military tribunal. Congressman and Senators will only have immunity inside their respective houses as specifically mentioned in the Constitution. Defense lawyers will only have immunity in court. Defense lawyers, Congressman and Senators who hold press conferences giving speeches providing aid and comfort to our enemies will be subject to prosecution for treason.

4. The Constitution is the written document and those amendments ratified by the process specified in Article V, nothing more and nothing less. Advocating that the Constitution is a "living breathing document" is in violation of Article V. Judicial review is not in the Constitution. The courts have no authority to change the definition of the Constitution. Advocating changing the Constitution through any means other than Article V is insurrection. Anyone who commits insurrection and does not surrender may be shot on sight.

re: get serious
your post seemed far too extreme.

Sounds like....
some two bit commie or fascist regime to me. Not only that, you dare mention the constitution?

You missed the point
A Constitution is not worth the paper it is printed on, if judges can change its wording and meaning by their rulings. That is hardly any different than the political leaders of National Socialism (Nazi's) or International Socialism (Communism) changing the rules as they went along.

Have you actually read the Constitution lately? It doesn't say a lot of the things we are told is says.

Too extreme? How so?
To extreme to think that we should kill those who want to kill us?

To extreme to think that we should "support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic"?

Do you know where that quote comes from?

White people are most afraid to death
Those who are most afraid to death, they are naturally more conscious to take precaution. from last three hundred years western countries developing more and more dangerious weaponary,and new technology.
same technology is reversing against them. white people must learn lession from this dangerous game

Perhaps I did
And...yes, I am quite familiar with the constitution---especially Article 1, Section 8, the enumerated powers.
I do agree with you that the documnent is now nothing more than a dead letter--ignored and violated at a growing pace.

You make a good point...
however, I think that this is not limited to white people. There is ample evidence to show that when colored men discovered a better way to kill people they were just as quick to employ it.

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