The strangest thing about the days immediately following the September 11 attack was a strange sense of unity and community that I felt, even as the nationalism and war fever also began to rage.
I talked to my 80 year old neighbor and held her hand. I talked to another neighbor, a blue collar white tough guy, and he cried openly before me. I said hi to strangers on the street and had substantive conversations with people at the grocery store. A former political rival came up and spontaneously gave me a hug. And these weren’t isolated incidents. According to radio reports, normally tough New York City felt like a small town as strangers comforted and hugged strangers on the subway. This was a feeling of community, of solidarity, of society that most of us have never experienced before.
In many ways, recent events have brought out the worst in people (racist attacks, unquestioning support for Bush, etc.) but something about this crisis also brought out something good.
It seems to me that the essence of the anarchist society we seek to build would be a spirit of community and spontaneous solidarity and caring from strangers such as some of us experienced right after the attack. We need to remember what that felt like and realize how good it felt. In a future society, these feelings of caring – wanting to take care of other people just because they are other people – wouldn’t rise out of the nationalist impulse “we’re all Americans; we’re all in this together.
Such sentiment would arise out of the realization that we’re all human beings. We’re all in this together here on this planet, and life will be much better if we can love each other and take care of people when they need help.