Reflections on September 11 LO27235

From: Richard Karash (
Date: 09/20/01

I was leading a workshop in Prague when the news began to reach us. At
first, we were unbelieving. I have no idea why I was unbelieving. I
remember my first reaction... Tower down... That would be 10,000 people!
Couldn't be true.

I saw the events from another place, from within another culture.

Many countries have much more direct exposure to terrorist attacks than we
in the US. Spain... Ireland... Machine guns were routine in German
airports 20 years ago. South Africa. Many of these were terrible enough...
Beyond any threshold for concern and response. Why has the civil world not
come together in response to address terrorist activities more forcefully?
Or maybe we have, and it didn't work. I don't know. The Sept 11 attacks
are not the first to be way beyond any reasonable threshold.

In Prague, one becomes aware of Czech history. The country, the society,
and the city of Prague are healthy and vigorous. But, it must come from a
different source than we seek in the US. The US mentality is to be
stronger and tougher than anyone else. Strength is our deterrent... "Don't
dare harm us, or you'll suffer for it!" In other words, the American style
is to be the biggest, toughest guy on the block. Well, it's different in
Prague... Except a tiny slice of history, they have been continuously
under the control of someone bigger for many centuries. The Sweedes and
Danes... Then the Hapsburgs and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Then the
Germans, then Russians. How are they healthy and vigorous after all this?
What have they learned about dealing with adversity? What should we know?

The responsible world is about to band together to eliminate terrorism and
states that support it. That will mean a step-up in the standard against
which WE are judged... We will have to walk our talk better than in the
past. How will we be able to be clean enough to uphold the moral standard?

One more thought... The leaders and the press appear focused relentlessly
on one point... one person... Bin Laden. His name appears in every other
sentence! We are focused on the person, not on the system. I'm not going
one-bit soft on any of the people involved, but there are huge system
issues here! Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times asking who will pay
for the infrastructure. Airport security are paid minimum wage; many see
fast food jobs as a move up! No one was ready to pay to do the job right.
Are we serious about any of this? How will be become serious enough? How
will we get better at the systems thinking that's needed?

I am sure of one thing: that community and network are important...
Throughout all this, they have been important to me. I think they hold the
key for a better world. This is a lot better than bowling alone.

Although away from home, I was very fortunate to have my family with me. I
don't know how I could have stood it if separated.

   -=- Rick


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