Hornbill Unleashed

September 11, 2011

The nihilism of 911

september 11 2001 wtc attack 911

Sim Kwang Yang

Ex nihilo nihil fit! Nothing comes from nothing: This was a famous ancient Latin expression of western nihilism, which tried, against all odds, to express the futility of nothingness.

It is the most futile and empty human thought, and yet it is ever present on the world stage, as was the case with the tragedy of 911.

Like all of you, I have vivid memories of that dramatic moment ten years ago. I was trying to teach Philosophy at the Chinese Assembly Hall in Kuala Lumpur, when some students came up and explained to me the horrendous nihilistic event that had scorched the sky of New York City.

Instinctively, I knew that world history had changed.

As usual, America dominates the world news with the ongoing commemoration of the tenth anniversary of that event. The shock value of 911 has not lost its power to bring horror to our human consciousness.

The mystique of 911 will continue to haunt human history for many decades, and even centuries, to come.

Post-911 wars

The 911 attacks have spawned some of the greatest human conflicts since the holocaust, more than half a century ago.

These post-911 wars have cast giant shadows, that have darkened human hearts for the past 10 years. A new world disorder has been created by the bombing of the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

NONEIn terms of the actual lives lost, 911 was not the most horrendous mass killing in recent history.

Many more souls have been lost through warfare, in many of the global bloodbaths that had happened before 911 tragedy.

But more than any other recent historical event, 911 was the most destructive catastrophe that has struck the human race.

For one thing, it was the most lethal single act of mass killing on America’s home soil, destroying once and for all the Americans’ delusion of indestructibility.

911 showed how vulnerable the Americans are, in a world fraught with dangers caused by religious extremism.

The violence of 911 also spawned the Iraq war and the conflict in Afghanistan. It has forced the world to rethink its balance of power in the decade since.

It has forced friends and foes of the greatest military power the world has every known, to redraw their boundaries in all corners of the earth, thereby changing the geopolitical map forever.

We now know that 911 was the work of Al-Qaeda. The conflict between Al-Qaeda and the western forces is an example of asymmetrical warfare.

Standing US defence situation

A small handful of extreme religious zealots can never be prevented from exacting their revenge on their enemies, principally because America’s defensive forces cannot be everywhere all the time.

NONEEven now, the killing of Osama Bin Laden (right) will not help to diminish these intractable conflicts, because the seeds of hatred have grown roots throughout the Al-Qaeda world. The spectre of 911 will return to haunt the world in unpredictable ways.

Even as I write, the Americans continue to be filled with psychological trauma, a phobia of some new event of gargantuan destruction in their country, that may strike anytime within the next few weeks.

The homeland security apparatus of Fortress America will be on high alert for many more years to come. Americans must now live with a much diminished sense of security than before the events of 911.

The only ray of hope is to be found in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, where the Arab nations of the world are bringing about a political renaissance.

There, we witness the rising tide of democracy across these Arab lands, where feudalistic societies are reluctantly giving way to modern nation states. Even so, the political changes across the Arab homelands are full of dramatic challenges.

In an increasingly interconnected world, Malaysia, too, is not free from the vast social and political ructions that plague the world stage.

I am glad we stand slightly apart from the main stage of the 911 tragedy and subsequent conflicts, although we are ourselves influenced by shifting conditions in the larger Muslim world.

So far, we seem to have been spared the direct consequences of 911. But we should not immerse ourselves in premature self-congratulations.

The deaths of 911 and its consequent wars should serve as a perennial reminder to all Malaysians, that lasting peace must still remain in the hearts of mankind as our most treasured hope. We should persevere in our efforts to keep that hope alive.

SIM KWANG YANG was member of parliament for Bandar Kuching, Sarawak from 1982 to 1995. He can be reached at sky8hornbill@gmail.com. All comments are welcome.


  1. SKY is out of his mind here.

    Every year, there are more Americans murdered, killed in accidents, vanished, executed etc than the total casualties in 911.

    So get your muddied thinking straight!

    Comment by anon — October 10, 2011 @ 7:52 PM | Reply

  2. We learn that we need to sacrifice for peace. Being materially advanced is never enough.

    Comment by Analist — September 11, 2011 @ 9:58 PM | Reply


    It is unclear what point SKY is trying to make here.

    SKY’s instinct was accurate on the world holocaust but this falls short of explaining why 9/11 happened. Further we are SUFFERING from direct consequences of 9/11 such as the security measures imposed around the world.

    There are some skepticism about who masterminded the attack. The theory that is going around was that Osama was just the “patsy” – scapegoat (he was a CIA trained operative in the war against Russia in Afghanistan) and President Obama ordered his immediate execute to shut him up so as not to expose too much about the USA’s war crimes. (The same with the execution of Sadam a former US protege).

    This conspiracy theory whether true or not lays the blame firmly on the doorstep of the USA.

    The 9/11 incident was a convenient and ready made excuse which allowed the Western powers to impose a “new order” to tighten their security laws and to curtail civil rights in their own countries and literally install a new reign of terror and to extend this terror to Middle East countries.

    This began with the invasion of Iraq under the excuse of search for “weapons of mass destruction”- no one knew exactly what was this WMDs or ever found any in Iraq after the US mass destruction of Iraqi infrastructure and made money from the American “re-construction” of Iraq.

    During and after the US/UK invasion of Iraq over 1 million innocent Iraqis lost their lives (including 500,000 children)- more than 9/11 and more than what they accused their 2 proteges Osama and Sadam were accused of have killed.

    Before this the USA invaded Afghanistan to get rid of the Taliban government which the US cunningly used to get rid of the Russians. The US installed a pro-US/UK regime just as they installed the new friendly Iraqi government.

    The 9/11 incident was one waiting to happen to the USA after its over 200 years of imperialist adventures and the harm and sufferings its caused to other nations. It has conspired to overthrow governments, invaded and rape other countries and colonised them. This built a reservoir of HATE against the USA.

    SO when 9/11 happened not all the world were sympathetic over this tragedy. Americans have never experienced this type of mass destruction of life on their soil (apart from Pearl Harbour) and never really understood the destruction the US imperialist machine wreaked on others.

    This is not to justify 9/11 but we can draw lessons from it especially the US ruling clique and its allies. However, it has learned nothing and the US killing of other peoples goes on.

    So SKY is right on this. Let us not celebrate pre-maturely!

    Comment by ANON — September 11, 2011 @ 2:40 PM | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: