chapter
9 Pages

Introduction: fear of a fast planet

This project started in despair and ended in hope; despair over the acceleration of the world and hope for the possibilities that speed can bring. I would be lying if I said this sense of fear and anxiety wasn’t in some way

influenced by my move to the United States from Canada in mid-2002. Arriving in a country still reeling from the September 11th attacks, I was overwhelmed by the runaway pace of events (and in this I’m sure I was not alone). The war in Afghanistan not even over, the Bush administration had already started the push to invade Iraq, justifying the rush to action by the imminent threat they claimed Saddam Hussein posed. We were told that action had to be taken immediately, that we could not wait for inspectors to determine if the threat was real, that we could not allow ‘the smoking gun to come in the form of a mushroom cloud’. Implicit in these statements was the exposition of the new temporal order of the political world: in this accelerated world, the pace with which new threats can materialize leaves no time for hesitation. Decisions must be made quickly and efficiently by a centralized and authoritative executive. Slow-moving processes of deliberation and debate (not to mention investigation) are no longer viable. Indeed, they potentially threaten our survival. I, like many in both America and around world, was not convinced by the

President’s claims of the imminent threat posed by Iraq, and joined the hundreds of thousands in the streets of Washington, DC (and millions in cities all over the world) in protest. However, as these protests were systematically ignored I was oriented to another worrisome aspect of speed. At the same time that the pace of events in the world encouraged the government to act in ways too fast for democratic deliberation, it also allowed them to act so quickly as to escape democratic censure. At this point, almost eight years into the war, it feels as if those in power have gone from one reckless action to another, always moving too fast to be held accountable for their destruction, lies and illegalities. A quote from an article in theNew York Times Magazine in 2004, profiling the character of the Bush administration, seemed to get to the heart of this new freedom. In it, reporter Ron Suskind interviewed a high-level aide within the Bush administration:

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge

from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”