About the Name of this blog

This blog's title refers to a Dani fable recounted by Robert Gardner. The Dani live in the highlands of New Guinea, and at the the time he studied them, they lived in one of the only remaining areas in the world un-colonized by Europeans.

The Dani, who Gardner identifies only as a "Mountain People," in the film "The Dead Birds," have a myth that states there was once a great race between a bird and a snake to determine the lives of human beings. The question that would be decided in this race was, "Should men shed their skins and live forever like snakes, or die like birds?" According to the mythology, the bird won the race, and therefore man must die.

In the spirit of ethnographic analysis, this blog will examine myth, society, culture and architecture, and hopefully examine issues that make us human. As with any ethnography, some of the analysis may be uncomfortable to read, some of it may challenge your preconceptions about the world, but hopefully, all of it will enlighten and inform.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Cut the Conspiracies


Another 9/11, and like clockwork we have another round of conspiracy theories about it being an "inside job" or "deep state action." I cannot begin to tell you how much this bullshit pisses me off. I worked on the rebuilding of Ground Zero. I was in New York working on the plans for rebuilding when the pits were still burning with the fires of Hell itself. I saw that same Hell in the eyes of the people I was working with, listening to their stories, stories that even now, I can’t repeat without coming apart myself.

I was in New York to see the walls of posters desperately pleading for someone, anyone to have news of the missing.  Every day, I walked past the makeshift shrines and candles lit as prayers and beacons of hope.  I saw the despair, and I saw the love, the love of survivors gathering together, holding on to what little pieces of hope they could grasp.

And it is because of the people I knew, especially the original project engineer, that I came to understand why the buildings fell the way they did.  Of course the collapses looked like an implosion, because, if you were going to implode them, you would blow the same members that melted in the fire.  Members, which by the way were nothing more than standard open web joists, that were not designed to be exposed to flame the way they were on 9/11.

Further, as a person who was there in the immediate aftermath, the statements of the buildings “falling straight down” are laughable, as the giant gashes in the sides of surrounding buildings show.  The zone of total destruction in New York City was as large as most cities entire Downtown.  Of course there were odd survivors in the cityscape.  Just like the devastation caused by a hurricane, some buildings are almost unscathed when others are obliterated.

These so called “facts” that prove it was an inside job piss me off.  Not only because of how ridiculous they are, but for how much pain they inflict on the survivors and those who lost loved ones.  Spreading the 9/11 conspiracies inflicts exactly as much harm and chaos on them as the conspiracies on Sandy Hook cause agony in the parents of the dead children.  There are real people being hurt every day by this crap.  

But most of all, the conspiracy theories piss me off because they suck all the oxygen out of the room for the REAL scandals and REAL evils that happened both before and during the events of that tragic day.

Evils like the fact that EVERY SINGLE PERSON who breathed the air in Lower Manhattan that day literally was inhaling steel shards and pulverized concrete. That was not smoke or even a benign dust that people were breathing, it was a toxic soup of lung shredding fibers of a collapsed building. Forget the asbestos, most of those who were caught in the toxic cloud will die from silicosis and emphysema long before the mesothelioma will get them.  And worse, no one on the news, or in city government warned any of New Yorkers about this.  They let them continue to breathe in this debris for days without protection.  There was no evacuation of people downwind, no general distribution of gas masks.  Nothing.  They just let them breathe unprotected.

Evils like the fact that that SEVENTY PERCENT of first responders from 9/11 have some sort of illness, that can be directly tied to the events of 9/11.  Even if the city didn’t warn the citizens, you would think they would want to protect the people in their direct employment.  But they didn’t, they let them stand unprotected in billowing clouds of some of the most deadly particulates ever inhaled by humans.

Evils like the fact that our Congress COULDN’T EVEN AGREE on an aid package to help those who sacrificed their health to save a small handful of lives.  It literally took almost 10 years to pass a bill that provided lifetime care for those who were on scene working to save lives.  And in that 10 years, many of the emergency personnel died or went bankrupt while waiting for the government to finally do the right thing.  Even then, it took Jon Stewart, a comedian, to finally shame the Congress into acting.

Evils like the fact the Rudy Giuliani DELIBERATELY GROUNDED the rescue helicopters on 9/11 because he was more concerned about how much they might cost to replace if they were damaged than the lives of the over 2000 people he doomed with that decision.  When the buildings were designed, evacuation above a fire was supposed to occur from the rooftop assisted by special rescue helicopters owned by the city.  That’s why there were helipads up there.  But Giuliani’s decision prevented the evacuation of thousands, all because he was more worried about the replacement costs of helicopters than human life.

Evils like the fact that the World Trade Center, being a government project, was LARGELY EXEMPTED from building code.  The stairs were narrow, few in number, and sheathed in nothing but drywall.  This meant that when the planes hit, the lifeline of every person above the fire was instantly severed.  Even though many people on the upper floors were not hurt in the attack, they were still doomed because there was no way out.

Evils like the fact that in World Trade Center 7, so many safety measures were SCALED BACK or eliminated that the building collapsed after only 8 hours of being on fire.  Yes, it suffered severe damage from the collapse of WTC 1 and 2, but it shouldn’t have fallen, except that the fireproofing was “too costly” and less expensive solutions needed to be found.  Those less expensive solutions depended heavily on a wet fire suppression system that got severed along with all of the water lines in the area when the towers came down.  As a point of fact, 90 West Street, built just after the turn of the 20th century, and grossly over-engineered, because they were new at high rise construction, burned for 2 full days without any structural failure.  In fact, the floors that didn’t catch fire from the flaming debris falling off the Twin Towers were virtually undamaged.  This doesn’t prove conspiracy to destroy WTC 7, it shows how much more we value money than life.

Evils like the fact that Larry Silverstein fought tooth and nail to BLOCK ANY memorial on the World Trade Center Site because of the amount of revenue it would take out of his pockets.  He said repeatedly that, in his opinion, the greatest memorial that could ever exist for 9/11 would be rebuilding the towers exactly as they were before, and not “wasting space for people to go cry.”  He said that at a conference I attended on the reconstruction.  He followed that up with saying, “people can cry in the cemetery or in their homes, they don’t need to do it on my property.”  As a side note, he held a long term lease on the World Trade Center, but the property belongs to the citizens of New York and New Jersey. 

There is no reason to go around talking about fictional evils when the REAL ones are so horrifying and heartbreaking. If there is a conspiracy, it is to spread fake conspiracies so that no one pays attention to the actual evil, and no one tries to do anything to correct the actual wrongs.  It is to keep people from suing the former mayor for his rapacious decision to not risk his helicopters, to keep people from demanding tall buildings have extreme safety measures to protect the inhabitants, to force the government to actually pay for the health care needed by probably a million or more people exposed to toxic clouds.  The conspiracies keep people focused of fake evil so that they won’t demand real, and expensive, solutions to actual evil.

If you are so concerned about 9/11, stop spreading false narratives and start demanding that people actually DO SOMETHING, DO ANYTHING to help those who still, 16 years later, suffer daily from the attack. Tell you Congressional delegation to approve help for ALL those who were caught in the debris.  Tell the building departments that we must have REAL safety for tall buildings, not just in case of attack, but for any disaster, natural or manmade, that might occur.  Demand that PEOPL start to be valued above profit for shareholders.  Demand REAL change.

Stop tearing out the hearts of those who lost people by telling them their own government killed their loved ones.  Stop spreading a narrative that gives a pass to the real evil in the world.  Do something that will make a difference.  It’s been almost a generation since 9/11, but we can still use it as a catalyst to make the world better, more human, more loving.