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Editor's focus.

Students of history can look back with detachment--and amusement if they so choose--at the activities of the Luddites, a group of English fabric weavers and their supporters in the early 19th century.

The band of Luddites, named for apprentice Ned Ludd, were fiercely opposed to changes taking place in the textiles industry that moved production from the homes of individual loom operators to factories where giant machines were staffed by shifts of workers.

The Luddites engaged in acts of confrontation and sabotage against the new textiles factories, but were ultimately unsuccessful in stemming the tide of industrialization that swept England, and then the rest of the world.

Over time, the word Luddite has taken on a generic meaning applied to anyone who might resist new technology, whether the fax machine, the personal computer or the automatic transmission. The word is most often used in a satiric manner, and office "Luddites" are not seriously expected to set off explosive charges in the copying machine or network server.

But while many of us were chuckling at those who would not appreciate what humankind has achieved in terms of jet travel, information technology and real-time communication, a band of latter-day Luddites carried out one of the most horrifying acts of mass murder ever witnessed.

Certainly those responsible for the hijackings and targeted crashes of September 11 espouse religious ideals and political aims. Citing a religious doctrine to murder more than 5,000 people is dubious, and it is difficult to imagine that provoking war with the world's most powerful nations is a politically prudent thing to do. (Ultimately, despite the successfully accomplished Pearl Harbor mission, the militant government of Japan brought about its own downfall with its act of war.)

What those who funded and carried out this mission seem to be striving for is to remain separate from the "free marketplace of ideas" that America and its allies offer and promote. This marketplace offers the freedom to choose from sets of different beliefs, and to explore the beliefs of others.

It is no coincidence that fanatics who seek absolute control over their perceived minions--and names such as Jim Jones and David Koresh come to mind here--also seek remote locations in which to isolate their believers. People cut off from the free marketplace of ideas are far less likely to question authority or to defect.

From what one hears and reads of the Taliban and its supporters, this is a group that seeks a similar goal on a grander scale. An entire region of the globe cut off from the free marketplace of ideas is perceived as the only way to establish a form of rule that can go unquestioned and undebated.

Such a mindset seems to have disdain not only for unwelcome ideas, but also the gathering places that bring different people and ideas together.

Many metals traders and import-export brokers who read Recycling Today called the World Trade Center their business home. Certainly, the traders and brokers lost and displaced by the attack of September 11 had no desire to become martyrs or banner carriers for a cause.

And yet their cause should not be forgotten. When people from different nations conduct business and trade with each other, they are, of course, seeking a profit. But they are also forming bonds of friendship and understanding that can make the world less hostile and less distrusting, one conversation at a time.

For those who brought down the World Trade Center, it is a form of progress that works against their closed-minded cause.
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Title Annotation:religious fanaticism; World Trade Center attacks
Comment:Editor's focus.(religious fanaticism; World Trade Center attacks)
Author:Taylor, Brian
Publication:Recycling Today
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2001
Words:590
Next Article:Blast shakes metals markets. (Scrap Industry News).
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