Letters Against War, 2002

January 3, 2009

Tiziano Terzani was
the Asia correspondent for German weekly Der Spiegel for over
thirty years. The Florentine journalist also wrote for Italy’s
respected broadsheets La Repubblica and Corriere della
. After a lifetime of activity, he retreated to a secluded
corner of the Himalayas. A sudden event and its fatuous analysis by
another Italian journalist roused him to return to a war zone and
write his final message to the world. The event was al Qaeda’s
attack on September 11, 2001, against the United States, and the
article was Oriana Fallaci’s “La rabbia e l’orgoglio”
(Rage and Pride). Letters Against War, 2002, a sincere and compelling book, is his response to
both, originally published as letters in the Italian daily Corriere
della Sera

September 10, 2001,
was a day like any other, Terzani tells us, a day easily forgotten.
But most of us unerringly remember where we were and what we were
doing the following day, before rushing to the closest television set
to see the blazing Twin Towers collapse – those images that
were to be played over and over for weeks to come.

Having spent most of
his life travelling and living in the mystical and superstitious
Asian continent to better understand its inhabitants’ culture
and way of life, Terzani left his Himalayan retreat for Afghanistan
and Pakistan to gain a first-hand perspective of what happened after
September 11th. The result was this puzzling version of
the war.

The attack on the
Twin Towers and the Pentagon represented an opportunity for Western
societies to evaluate their political behaviour towards and
intolerance of peoples who did not conform to traditional Western
beliefs. His argument was that this created a time for serious
reflection rather than for vengeance. It explored the West’s
aversion to accepting dissimilar – and hence “inferior”
– societies. Thus, as Terzani states, “Religion becomes
an ideological weapon against modernity, the latter seen as
pertaining to the West.” He believes we should be grateful for,
rather than afraid of, being different from one another.

Following the brutal
acts that took place on that September day, the western world –
as represented by the United States and its British manservant –
responded by projecting military power in a war that has not ended
seven years later. Instead of using rationality, the West once
against struck with guns.

Terzani’s book
calls to each of us to take a moment to question the violent world we
inhabit. It is a world of intolerance and injustice, but one we can
change. The author urges us to reflect on the deeper spiritual
meaning of our lives, reminding us that tolerance, not violence, is
the solution for living in a better world.

Tiziano Terzani died
on the July 28, 2004
, in Valle d’Orsigna, Italy.

Reviewer Kiki Deere
is a freelance travel writer who has written for the Rough Guides,
Time Out and Fodor’s.