Don't be anybody's lunch
Riveted by the timely sidelong glance at NYC and our world post 9/11, I found myself gripped by The Civilians production. Five years after the calamity that struck the City and the initial international spirit of fellow-feeling and cooperation, the US (and by default its poodle Britain) are more loathed in many parts of the world than our supposed aggressors. That is, assuming us and our aggressors are not merely one psyche transposed: an id unmediated by any cultural super-ego. Bush without a conscience? Now that is hardly newsworthy.
And this is not proposed with seditious or incendiary intent. Rather it is reflecting the already growing fomentation across the US and UK of the 'Truth Behind 9/11' movement, spurred by a disbelief in the government's spin. This past weekend's Guardian, showed a recent poll in the U.S. which found that 36% of Americans believed it "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that their government was involved in allowing the attacks or had carried them out itself. There are many people in the UK who agree with them.
Conspiracy theories abound, but their unifying theme is that a neo-conservative cabal within the US government staged the events as a pretext to wage wars, to justify the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. And this is not far from the blend of suspicion and apathy that is a recurring motif in (I Am) Nobody's Lunch, albeit via a song and dance. The production asks if post 9/11 uncertainty has not led us to turn away from the big questions (i.e. Bush's "Islam vs. Christianity" prostelyzing) for refuge in the distractions of smaller ones (i.e. peace-keeping in Afghanistan)? The Civilians deliver Michael Moore themes updated with humour by trendy New Yorkers, played to a hip, Soho audience.
By the end, I was left asking myself what conceit is more abhorrant: affirming that the US government did indeed fail to prevent and/or foil the 11 September attacks (as is generally contended); or rather that parties involved with and/or part of the US government had full prior knowledge and actively or passively favoured the 9/11 attacks and supported the cover-up that followed? What state is more egregious: an ignorant government or a befooled people?
And on that note, I am reminded of a quote by David Brooks in a NY Times op-ed piece on the problems confronting Democrats in the U.S: "The Greeks used to say we suffer our way to wisdom." But what if by refusing to confront with wisdom the bigger "good vs. evil" contentions of Grandmaster Bush, and instead focusing on interim conflicts, we are showing our inherent inability to, as Jack Nicholson famously posited at the climax of A Few Good Men, 'handle the truth'? Doesn't the question then become whether the postmodernist rejection of all grand narratives isn't the biggest grand narrative of all?
Thankfully, (I Am) Nobody's Lunch gives us a hopeful message for the taking: Don't be anybody's lunch. Have hope in yourself, in your knowledge, and even (it must be dreamt) in your government. Because in today's post 9/11 world we all deserve a light at the end of the tunnel.
I (Am) Nobody's Lunch at the Soho Theatre
6-9 Sept , 11-16 Sept, 18-23 Sept