A Generation: Life after September 11th 2001

Today being the 10th anniversary of September 11th  2001, I’m finding it difficult to reflect upon the past 10 years of my life without wondering how the events of that day have had an affect on me.  It was a day of sadness and shock to the American people, but the years following have passed quickly and I feel with minimal introspection as to the social repercussions of that day. Before September 11th I didn’t know or understand terrorism, I didn’t think there were people who hated Americans. At this anniversary I am once again saddened by those days events and equally by the way it so rudely introduced into my generations hearts and minds a new reality; a shift in dialogue and ultimately perception of the world.

Almost half of my life has been lived in post 9/11 years.  While there are many things in my life that have affected me since that day, I feel that 9/11 marks the beginning of a shift in communications; the style and content of which has filled my entire adult life. It is difficult to say if my naïve sense of safety pre 9/11 was due to my young age and lack of worldly experiences, or if the discourse and symbols propagated after 9/11 are more central to that shift in mindset.  I find myself wondering if others in my same demographic find themselves questioning the world they have grown up in and the way that international communications has shaped our cognition.

I find myself asking in what ways has my generation been subject to and affected by the language and symbols of a world of terrorism? How does this affect our sense of future, our every day lives?  When I asked my roommate to go downtown DC with me to a street fair, he said, “No way, the terrorism threat level is elevated.”  Though one has a much higher chance of being killed in a car accident than by a terrorist, the fear we possess about such an act is entirely real.  I see this as a product of a generation raised in an environment of fear.  I wonder in what ways and to what extent has this fear penetrated our thoughts and altered our perceptions.

Pierre Bourdieu discusses in his book on language and power, the symbolic systems that shape our social systems.  He looks at several different thinkers in order to try and understand the purposes of symbols, and their affect on the individual and society.

 

“On what Durkheim calls logical conformism, that is ‘a homogenous conception of time, space, number and cause, one which makes it possible for different intellects to reach agreement’.  Durkheim –and after him Radcliffe-Brown, who makes ‘social solidarity dependent on the sharing of a symbolic system-has the merit of designating the social function of symbolism in an explicit way: it is an authentic function of communication.  Symbols are the instruments par excellence of ‘social integration’ as instruments of knowledge and communication, they make it possible for there to be a consensus on the meaning of the social world, a consensus which contributes fundamentally to the reproduction of the social order.”

 

I question the ways in which international communications has helped to create a symbolic system like that which Bourdieu discusses.  Is my generation merely a social product of these symbols? If we are part of creating a “consensus on the meaning of the social world”, what meaning is that?  For whose benefit has this mindset been propagated?  Does winning the war on terror, mean an elimination of this fear from our everyday consciousness?  Is there a way that international communications can address this?  I feel that within society there must be a more beneficial symbolic system that can be created, some compromise between a naïve sense of security, and this constant sense of fear from the unknown that is propagated throughout the media.

 

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