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Lessons from Pluto

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With the startling revelation that Pluto has no place under the sun – contrary to seventy-five years of misguided faith and mass worship of this mere rock as a planet – it is time we look into some other so-called concepts that are up for revision, including the meaning of “freedom”, “slavery”, “ignorance” and “strength”. After all, if the 21 st Century has taught us anything so far it is that concepts and definitions are flexible, malleable creatures that can take any shape or form that is politically correct, culturally convenient, practically accommodating or emotionally suitable for our modern sensitivities and desires.

Or that is useful for killing terrorists. After all, now that we are in a perpetual war against a concept (“terror”), the idea that we actually need to care about objective and permanent meanings of our vocabulary seems hopelessly archaic. In fact, the case of Pluto – gathering scientists from all over the world to actually have to debate the issue – seems to have been rather clumsily handled, unnecessarily complex, and feigning objectivity. As our crusade against Islamic fundamentalism (or terrorism, whatever) clearly shows, we should use words according to what we want them to mean, rather than some objectively verifiable definition from the rosy and naive 20 th Century. Nonetheless, by agreeing that Pluto is not a planet, we have clearly demonstrated our ability to adapt when feelings change.

The fact that this is necessary is best understood on the west coast of the Atlantic; they allow time and fear to improve the meaning of phrases, the validity of ideas, and – of course – the reasons for going to war. Yet, while here on the east coast of the ocean we seem a bit ambivalent and hesitant (with the obvious exception of Tony Blair who saw the light straight away), we still play along nicely. Sure, there exists some “critical” debate, some knee-jerk anti-American reactions, and some occasional half-baked outcry of protest – sometimes even by a government official -, but by and large the Europeans are good sports, unwilling to spend significant political capital or economic resources on offering a true alternative for the coming century. We even cooperate in terror-hunting operations in southern Afghanistan. After all, Madrid and London were also attacked and, more importantly, we wouldn’t want to endanger trade relations with our Anglo-Saxon partners, now would we? Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth. It is a wise path to take: past world wars have shown that silent European majorities are usually on the right side of morality.

Deciding that we were at war with terrorism was easy after 9/11: our holy temple of democracy, Manhattan, had been severely damaged. Just rounding up the direct perpetrators would surely have been too weak a response. It wouldn’t have allowed us to deal sufficiently with the psychological anguish inflicted upon our peaceful existence. Only a war was capable of rising to the occasion. And on the tenth day Bush saw that it was good. Versus evil. The war would be against “thousands of these terrorists in more than 60 countries…trained in the tactics of terror…to plot evil and destruction” (in his speech to Congress, 21-09-2001).

Obviously, the antiquated definition of a “terrorist” – those (intend to) cause sever bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants in order to achieve political or ideological goals – was no longer valid in the age of preemptiveness. There are simply too few of them, especially of the kind committing atrocities against us. Thus, the first step was to include any rebel or insurgent that fights a government that is recognized by us as legitimate. Still, this group remains depressingly small and located in too few places such as Iraq and Chechnya.

But hold on…if you are not for us, then you are against us, right? So how about the terrorists’ supporters and sympathizers, i.e. their enablers? Clearly this includes a number of governments, but it wouldn’t serve any purpose getting bogged down on details such as whether state terrorism exists. Embarrassing Israel is not going to do anyone any good. It seems therefore only appropriate to broaden the war to a more realistic enemy: terror. Defined – in our newfound plutonian fashion – as “anything we do not care for”, its inclusiveness allows us to direct our full wrath towards recognizable figures such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, rather than only towards the omnipresent yet faceless and unmarketable “terrorists”.

On a side note, killing Al-Zarqawi: big mistake. We can’t effort to lose any more faces of terror. Stay away from Osama!

Unfortunately, we still haven’t arrived at a politically correct, culturally convenient, practically accommodating or emotionally suitable understanding of our war: it could actually end at some point, at least theoretically. This simply won’t do, given that the pain in our hearts will last forever. Perhaps throwing in some subjective and culturally-determined terms that show the goodness of our souls could help make it last until rapture? “Prosperity”, for example? Not really, it would commit us to wasteful economic assistance to areas that don’t have terrorists. “Democracy”? Well, at times, if there is no chance of confusing our positions on Pakistan or Saudi-Arabia. Fortunately, freedom, justice, and peace (= war) also emphasize our good intentions:

“The United States and its allies in the War on Terror make no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support and harbour them, because they are equally guilty of murder. Any government that chooses to be an ally of terror, such as Syria or Iran, has chosen to be an enemy of freedom, justice, and peace” (National Security Strategy 2006, p.12).

Now, the only thing left to do is to determine whether we are fighting World War III or World War IV. I propose the latter; we shouldn’t risk belittling the accomplishment of Reagan, Thatcher and John Paul II in defeating the evil empire.

And there we are! We – the enlightened souls led by a true Christian – fight in a war of everything that is good versus everything that is evil. Forget about exact definitions of war, terror, terrorists, or any past descriptions of concepts such good, evil, freedom or Pluto. We need to wake up to realities of today’s world, and those diehard softies who don’t comprehend that fact only strengthen the terrorists even further. They will be sorry once Iranian nukes destroy their cannabis gardens, for we live in the Age of Terror.

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