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“meteor strikes”

with 4 comments

From the NYT today: 

The agreement came despite a series of setbacks in Afghan-American relations, including the burning of Korans, the massacre of 16 civilians attributed to a lone Army sergeant, and the appearance of grisly photos of American soldiers posing with the body parts of Afghan insurgents.

“In the midst of all these meteor strikes, we were able to still sit down across the table and get these documents agreed to,” one NATO official noted. Many Afghans, including some who are ambivalent about the American presence, believe that the country’s survival is tied to having such an agreement with Washington.

More meteor strikes, slightly older ones, from the Guardian this weekend. One example, if you don’t feel like clicking through, although you really should:

I saw Patrick Keiller’s exhibition at the Tate yesterday. It features, among so many other things, a few meteorites that had fallen in Britain. The most interesting one of all – at least to me – is the Wold Cottage meteorite, the one in the middle in the picture above. It fell in Yorkshire in 1795.

What is important about it, as Wikipedia summarizes, is this: “The Wold Cottage meteorite was the first meteorite observed to fall in Britain and is the second largest ever recorded to land in the United Kingdom. It was used by scientists as proof that extraterrestrial matter existed, and was made of the same materials as terrestrial matter.” In other words, it wasn’t until they found this one in a field that they believed that meteorites were in fact real rather than superstitious fictions.

What’s fascinating about that, of course, is that while we’re accustomed to thinking of the progress of human thought (or Enlightenment, if you will) as a process that involves the dispelling of myths (things that weren’t true that were thought to be) in some cases, as with this one, it works in reverse: things that were thought to be untrue, to be a matter of myth, were proven to in fact be true.

The usage of the phrase “meteor strikes” by the NATO official in Afghanistan, which have threatened to undo the persistence-despite-withdrawal of American power there, seems to me to partake of the pre-Wold Cottage meaning of the phrase. Events like these are taken as random and immaterial, lacking a physical foundation or cause, meta-effects like fireworks projected onto a screen rather than, as the photos in the Guardian begin to illustrate, part of the predictable weather patterns of our world as it is currently arranged.

Written by adswithoutproducts

April 23, 2012 at 10:23 am

4 Responses

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  1. excellent post – yes, interesting isn’t is how the on-going atrocities of the ‘post-colonial’ period are continually represented as aberrations or the work of a few ‘bad apples’ rather than the inevitable consequence of such imperial interventions

    • Yes. Bad apples or, in this case, unpredictable bits of rubbish, falling randomly from the sky.

      adswithoutproducts

      April 23, 2012 at 12:30 pm

      • Terrorism – a familiar horror story to scare kids at night.
        Imperial terrorism – ‘debatable’ Fortean phenomena, known unknowns.

        David W Kasper

        April 24, 2012 at 9:32 am

  2. Known unknowns is right.

    I’d love to know if that “meteor strikes” language is just a poetic turn on the part of the NATO guy or if it’s become a going-phrase at HQ. Watercooler argot etc.

    adswithoutproducts

    April 25, 2012 at 2:40 pm


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