Dies Non, Not Dies Irae

by Gavin Keeney

The extraordinary events of September 11, 2001 will long resonate in the psyche of the world for reasons that transcend politics, religion, and real estate. The current calls to rebuild — bigger, taller, more defiantly — are premature and absurd.

The nature of the World Trade Center as a symbol laden with the unstable stuff of signifiers (signs), pointing to a signified (content) that is ultimately ill-defined and illusory in itself, calls attention to the reasons for its targeting and for its remarkable former presence and, now, absence.

New York architects are already clamoring to claim the site for the resurrection of a new symbol, either of defiance or reflection, but a symbol nonetheless.

There is but one significant gesture that might satisfy the need for reclaiming and recolonizing this hole in the tight knit fabric of Manhattan — a city within the city climbing over itself with significance and cluttered with clashing symbols.

This ‘void’ should remain a ‘void’ — as New York architects Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio have pronounced — an elegant encomium to the disaster and the only universally adequate and valid expression of a non-ideological claim.

Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek has identified, at the center of all ideologies, the persistence of an absence, a rift in consciousness, that is continually overwritten and obscured. This ghost or ‘absent center’ is the unstable foundation of subjectivity itself and the underutilized locus of ethics (Emmanuel Levinas).

The void in New York must not be filled with yet another symbol or sign of feigned stability and composure but instead remain a cipher for the human condition — a state of being that, uncertain of itself, must fashion an unremitting concern for every other thing and being not itself.

This site at but one center of the world must remain free of all statements of arrogance and ostentation — free of bombast and insipidness. The metaphysical ‘music’ that fills this ‘void’ needs not a Mozartean ‘Dies Irae’ but an inspired ‘Dies Non’, a ‘score’ without defiant spectacle or apocalyptic machinations; a sonorous ‘etude’ to comprehension and lucidity and, in fact, a blessed absence of any and all rhetoric. CP

Gavin Keeney is a landscape architect in New York City and author of On the Nature of Things: Contemporary American Landscape Architecture.



November 24, 2015
Dave Lindorff
An Invisible US Hand Leading to War? Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet was an Act of Madness
Mike Whitney
Turkey Downs Russian Fighter to Draw NATO and US Deeper into Syrian Quagmire
Walter Clemens
Who Created This Monster?
Patrick Graham
Bombing ISIS Will Not Work
Lida Maxwell
Who Gets to Demand Safety?
Eric Draitser
Refugees as Weapons in a Propaganda War
David Rosen
Trump’s Enemies List: a Trial Balloon for More Repression?
Eric Mann
Playing Politics While the Planet Sizzles
Chris Gilbert
“Why Socialism?” Revisited: Reflections Inspired by Einstein’s Article
Charles Davis
NSA Spies on Venezuela’s Oil Company
Michael Barker
Democracy vs. Political Policing
Barry Lando
Shocked by Trump? Churchill Wanted to “Collar Them All”
Cal Winslow
When Workers Fight: the National Union of Healthcare Workers Wins Battle with Kaiser
Norman Pollack
Where Does It End?: Left Political Correctness
David Macaray
Companies Continue to Profit by Playing Dumb
Binoy Kampmark
Animals in Conflict: Diesel, Dobrynya and Sentimental Security
Dave Welsh
Defiant Haiti: “We Won’t Let You Steal These Elections!”
November 23, 2015
Vijay Prashad
The Doctrine of 9/11 Anti-Immigration
John Wight
After Paris: Hypocrisy and Mendacity Writ Large
Joseph G. Ramsey
No Excuses, No Exceptions: the Moral Imperative to Offer Refuge
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS Thrives on the Disunity of Its Enemies
Andrew Moss
The Message of Montgomery: 60 Years Later
Jim Green
James Hansen’s Nuclear Fantasies
Robert Koehler
The Absence of History in the Aftermath of Paris
Dave Lindorff
The US Media and Propaganda
Dave Randle
France and Martial Law
Gilbert Mercier
If We Are at War, Let’s Bring Back the Draft!
Alexey Malashenko
Putin’s Syrian Gambit
Binoy Kampmark
Closing the Door: US Politics and the Refugee Debate
Julian Vigo
A Brief Genealogy of Disappearance and Murder
John R. Hall
Stuck in the Middle With You
Barbara Nimri Aziz
McDonalds at 96th Street
David Rovics
At the Center of Rebellion: the Life and Music of Armand
Weekend Edition
November 20-22, 2015
Jason Hirthler
Paris and the Soldiers of the Caliphate: More War, More Blowback
Sam Husseini
The Left and Right Must Stop the Establishment’s Perpetual War Machine
Mike Whitney
Hillary’s War Whoop
Pepe Escobar
In the Fight Against ISIS, Russia Ain’t Taking No Prisoners
Ajamu Baraka
The Paris Attacks and the White Lives Matter Movement
Andrew Levine
The Clintons are Coming, the Clintons are Coming!
Linda Pentz Gunter
Let’s Call Them What They Are: Climate Liars
Paul Street
Verging on Plutocracy? Getting Real About the Unelected Dictatorship
Nur Arafeh
Strangling the Palestinian Economy
Patrick Howlett-Martin
The Paris Attacks: a Chronicle Foretold
Vijay Prashad
Rebuilding Syria With BRICS and Mortar
Brian Cloughley
Why US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is the Biggest Threat to World Peace