Svetozar Stojanovic







Although I have been writing for decades about apocalyptic dangers,

even I was shocked by the American tragedy of September 11th.  It

touched me very personally as well because a part of my family,

including my grandson who was born just three weeks earlier, lives

right on Manhattan.


Here in the U.S. not only the short term but also the long term

"awakening of America" is constantly invoked.  Few are those, however,

who take a radical approach and draw radical conclusions.


Prior to that attack, many in the United States and beyond truly

believed in Fukuyama's thesis about the "end of history".  As we know,

more than a decade ago he expressed in Hegelian language the

conviction that the triumph of the West over communism secured the

democratic-capitalist culmination of history, which would further

develop, alongside more or less unsuccessful  opposition, exclusively

along the lines of that paradigm.  Will "Fukuyamists" today

acknowledge the end of that illusion of "post-history"?


Surely, Hiroshima and Nagasaki already heralded the possibility of the

self-annihilation of humanity.  By means of a radically new,

self-apocalyptic capability,  mankind initiated an absolute about-face

in its history.   Today even apocalyptic means are globalized.  The

extent of the tragedy in the U.S. can easily mislead: still it was an

attack by conventional and not apocalyptic means. It's surprising that

in the shock of great human and material loss, allegedly without

precedent,  few are those who recall the incomparably greater Japanese

tragedy.  Why, from the collapse of the Soviet Union until September

11th, was the world lulled into believing that apocalyptic danger had

essentially passed?


All our fundamental concepts, institutions and practices were created

and developed before the self-apocalyptic turn. In order for mankind

to be spared, a new, anti-apocalyptic way of thinking, feeling and

acting is called for.


The prevailing negative, competitive understanding and exercise of

power constitutes a good example of this unmet need. At issue is the

"zero sum game," tug-of-war concept and practice of power: one attains

only that degree of power that is lost by others.  I do not believe

that humankind has a future if it does not unite in avoiding a

self-apocalypse, but that presupposes a change to a positive,

collaborative conceptualization and application of power.


The U.S. was misled by the notion of a superpower that suggests

invulnerability, almost omnipotence.  For that reason, in my opinion,

it is more accurate to speak of the U.S. as a single global power,

since its power possesses planetary reach.  Nonetheless, in order to

bear in mind the relativity of even its power, it is useful to

introduce the category of apocalyptic power, be it total or partial.

That would of course include Russia, China, Great Britain, France,

Israel, India, Pakistan. . .  However, the greatest innovation now is

that, aside from nation states, apocalyptic power can be accessed as

well by non-governmental groups and organizations.  For that reason I

have, since long ago, applied the term of apocalyptic terrorism.  

Since, presumably, Americans too have realized that their fate can no

longer be secured in isolation from that of the rest of the world, I

hope that from now on U.S. presidents will link their yearly message

of “The State of the Union" with that of “The State of Humanity."


Another example of the inadequacy of existing conceptions is that of

great religions. I know not a single one of them that could, without

destructive self-contradiction, incorporate the possibility, much less

the likelihood, of the self-annihilation of the human race. Christians

would, say, have to acknowledge that humankind, itself divine creation, can usurp from the hands of the Creator the power of the Final Judgment.  That would be the absolute, definitive sin. That is why, twenty years ago in a public discussion with me in Washington DC, the French theologian J.H. Calvez acknowledged that he was unable as a Christian to admit the self-apocalyptic possibility and that, accordingly, what was left to him was solely the firm hope and faith that the Lord would not allow us to do this.


Secular morals and legal systems are no more than religious and theocratic ones capable of confronting that which I call apocalyptic dilemmas.  It has long been easy to envision a statesperson who is notified of the threat of a terrorist attack by, say, biological means, from some corner of the world, and can only by means of a preventive apocalyptic attack save tens of millions of lives, although at the cost of numerous no-less-innocent victims.  The US president's order to destroy planes that may eventually fall again into suicide-terrorist hands is mere "child's play" in comparison with such apocalyptic situations and decisions.


I have said that all our fundamental institutions and activities as well are not up to the self-apocalyptic potential of humanity.  It is common knowledge that there is a growing, global gap between rich and poor, the comfortably populated and over-populated, the centrally positioned and marginalized, the educated and uneducated, those with very long and those with very short life expectancy, the main ecological polluters and their victims…That gap exists as well within many countries. Nevertheless, in terms of power that gap is now largely

relativized since the poor, over-populated, marginalized, uneducated,

those with short life expectancy, ecological victims…can access

apocalyptic means and begin using them e.g. to blackmail others.

Enlightened egoism, if not  humanism, should motivate the more

fortunate part of humanity to undertake as soon as possible a

voluntary radical redistribution of goods, benefits, wealth.


The major issue is whether in the final analysis it is in fact

possible to do so  without establishing some kind of world

(con)federal government.  Without it, how can we successfully resist

the danger of apocalyptic conflicts  of nationalisms, chauvinisms,

religionisms, civilizationisms, and other collective identitisms?


It is unfortunate that many in the U.S., at least up until the

September 11 tragedy, disparaged the United Nations, although the

latter probably constitutes the only possible embryo of a "new world

order," whose fundamental goal and task must be the battle for the

survival of humanity.  One should wholeheartedly welcome that the Bush

administration has, by launching a "world anti-terrorist coalition,"

begun in practice to abandon its sovereignistic and unilateralistic




The author is Professor Emeritus both in Yugoslavia and the U.S. This text was first published in Serbian in the Belgrade daily “Politika” October 17, 2001 and is included in the forthcoming book by the same author entitled “Democratic Revolution in Serbia in the International Context”, Humanities Books/Prometheus, Amherst NY. (All rights reserved by the author who can be contacted at: STOJANOV@INSTIFDT.BG.AC.YU)