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Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Posted by Jonathan Goodwin on 10/23/07 at 03:55 PM

I suspect that this sentiment from Doris Lessing is going to get a lot of negative attention, if it’s not taken out of context. (Well, even if it obviously is. You know how that goes.)

But I wondered briefly about what would have happened had the IRA decided to kill the same magnitude of people at once during Thatcher’s regime. Has there been a fictional treatment of this or a related idea? (Would they have attacked Boston or New York, for example?)


I haven’t come across such a treatment, though we fiction writers ought to be writing any number of them.

I did write one for the catastrophic US Plan Columbia, titled Plan USA. (Found at Mainstay Press’s new fiction journal Liberation Lit: http://liblit.wordpress.com/2007/10/07/plan-usa-by-tony-christini/)

“What if ‘Plan Columbia’ were applied to the US?”

Noam Chomsky: “When the IRA set off bombs in London, which is pretty serious business, Britain could have, apart from the fact that it was unfeasible, let’s put that aside, one possible response would have been to destroy Boston which is the source of most of the financing. And of course to wipe out West Belfast. Well, you know, quite apart from the feasibility, it would have been criminal idiocy. The way to deal with it was pretty much what they did. You know, find the perpetrators; bring them to trial; and look for the reasons. Because these things don’t come out of nowhere. They come from something. Whether it is a crime in the streets or a monstrous terrorist crime or anything else. There’s reasons. And usually if you look at the reasons, some of them are legitimate and ought to be addressed, independently of the crime, they ought to be addressed because they are legitimate. And that’s the way to deal with it.”

And not, in the case of 9-11, pursuing the path of “criminal idiocy” by bombing and invading Afganistan and Iraq, etc…

Chomsky on Plan Columbia:

“The number of Colombians who die from U.S.-produced lethal drugs exceeds the number of North Americans who die from cocaine, and is far greater relative to population. In East Asia, U.S.-produced lethal drugs contribute to millions of deaths. These countries are compelled not only to accept the products but also advertising for them, under threat of trade sanctions… The Colombian cartels, in contrast, are not permitted to run huge advertising campaigns in which a Joe Camel-counterpart extols the wonders of cocaine. We are therefore entitled, indeed morally obligated, to ask whether Colombia, Thailand, China, and other targets of U.S. trade policies and lethal-export promotion have the right to conduct military, chemical and biological warfare in North Carolina. And if not, why not? We might also ask why there are no Delta Force raids on U.S. banks and chemical corporations, though it is no secret that they too are engaged in the narcotrafficking business.”

By Tony Christini on 10/23/07 at 06:22 PM | Permanent link to this comment

This treatment provides more quotes from Lessing in a bit more context:



I suspect you’re right. From now one, when many Americans think of Lessing, they will think of these quotes. She probably doesn’t care, but I find it likely that some who might have been inclined to read her work now won’t. A quick Google search turns up quite a bit of outraged reaction: the charge of senility is the tamest.

What’s ironic is that in the weeks before the Nobel announcement, some commentators on a political blog I frequent have been citing Lessing’s harsh statements on communism. I tried to tell them that Lessing is not nor has ever been a friend to the Right.

By on 10/23/07 at 06:35 PM | Permanent link to this comment

The context doesn’t make her comment any less inexplicable.

By on 10/24/07 at 11:26 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Well, the IRA attacks considered as a whole killed 3,700 people; 9/11 killed 3,000 people.  But 9/11 was one event.  Lessing appears to place against this the attack on the British government, which she seems to consider to have a greater single-event importance because it was an attack on the head of government, rather than one on a financial center.  Lessing doesn’t say this, in the quote that I saw, but the IRA attacks also probably caused more ongoing justified fear for the general population, by their nature as multiple, widespread, local-scale events.

So I don’t agree with Lessing, in that I don’t think that she puts enough weight on the extra impact of one large disaster rather than many smaller ones.  But I don’t think that it makes her comment inexplicable.

By on 10/24/07 at 11:36 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I looked at the original interview. My Spanish is poor, but even so, it was clear that she was discussing many topics related to war. I hope a good translation of the entire interview becomes available. My take is that she thinks the United States has no perspective. Many countries suffer from terrorism, live with it and attempt to cope with it, without privileging their experiences as somehow the greatest and grandest of them all. The outrage over 9/11 was used as the impetous to topple an uninvolved country, and for years a large fraction of U.S. citizens believed Hussein was behind the attack. Many still do, if opinion polls are correct. This is ignorance on an enormous scale, and ignorance used by our government. Here in the United States most people do not seem to consider the consequences of our actions in terms of lives lost and shattered—and when those actions are justified by misplaced outrage ... well. I have no idea if such thoughts were in Lessing’s head, but I have no serious objections to her general characterization of Americans as naive.

At any rate, most of her comments are rather uncontroversial to many people in Europe and even in the United States.

I know this is not a political blog, so if I’ve crossed some boundaries, I shan’t be offended if this post is deleted.

By on 10/24/07 at 12:36 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Fromthe wikinews page:

“Lessing’s parents currently reside in Bakhtaran, Iran.”

Lessing’s parents? Both of them are still alive and living in Iran? Anyone know more about this?

By on 10/24/07 at 04:59 PM | Permanent link to this comment

James, I don’t know, but it is wikinews.

Gerrold--you’re fine. Had you transgressed some boundaries—well, I can’t say what John would have done.

By Jonathan Goodwin on 10/25/07 at 01:03 AM | Permanent link to this comment


Her parents are long dead—her father died more than a half century ago, and her mother, um, not sure, Lessing’s autobiography isn’t indexed. Decades ago, at any rate.


I feel as if that deserves a witty reply, but, good god, it’s 6 a.m. and I’ve not had my coffee yet.

By on 10/25/07 at 06:23 AM | Permanent link to this comment

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