Surviving the Unabomber
David Gelernter is professor of computer science at Yale, chief scientist at Mirror Worlds Technologies, contributing editor at the Weekly Standard, and member of the National Council of the Arts. He is the author of several books and many technical articles, as well as essays, art criticism, and fiction. The "tuple spaces" introduced in Carriero and Gelernter's Linda system (1983) are the basis of many computer-communication and distributed programming systems worldwide. According to Reuters, his book "Mirror Worlds" (Oxford University Press, 1991) "foresaw" the World Wide Web and was "one of the inspirations for Java"; the "lifestreams" system (first implemented by Eric Freeman at Yale) is the basis for Mirror Worlds Technologies' software. Gelernter is also the author of "The Muse in the Machine" (Free Press, 1994), the novel "1939" (Harper Perennial, 1995), "Machine Beauty" (Basic Books, 1998), and most recently, "Judaism: A Way of Being" (Yale University Press, 2010).
Question: How has\r\nsurviving the Unabomber attack changed your life?\r\n\r\n
David Gelernter:\r\nZero. It was my responsibility—I\r\nthink it would be anybody’s who had been attacked in a particularly \r\ncowardly\r\nand despicable fashion—to go on. \r\nIf I had said "This attack had changed me in the following 10 \r\nways"... I’m\r\nnot interested in being changed by criminals, murderers, and terrorists. I’m interested in being whoever I was\r\ndestined to be as a member of my family and my community and that’s what\r\n I’ve\r\nbeen doing. It slowed me down,\r\npresented physical challenges, but it didn’t change my worldview, or the\r\n sort\r\nof broader sense... Worldview in the\r\nsense—there’s a tremendously useful German word used in philosophy:\r\nweltanschauung. Worldview meaning\r\nnot just looking around, but how to make sense of things, how I put it \r\ntogether\r\nin a coherent way. So, my\r\nworldview is the same.\r\n\r\n
Question: Has being the\r\nvictim of an attack changed your feelings about terrorism?\r\n\r\n
David Gelernter:\r\nI’m not a victim. I never was,\r\nnever will be. Victimhood is\r\nsomething you choose, or something you reject. I \r\nand so many others have done before me and are doing\r\ntoday, they rejected, hate the tendency of society to glorify victimhood\r\n and to\r\nspeak of oppression and victimhood and persecution as some soft of badge\r\n of\r\nhonor, or something of that sort. \r\nI’m not a victim.\r\n\r\n
On terrorism, on the other hand, I guess it’s fair \r\nto say\r\nthat I had a close-up personal look at terrorism. I\r\n don’t think my views have changed any. The fact \r\nis, any member of the American\r\nJewish community has relatives who lived through the Holocaust, and who \r\nhas more\r\nimportant, has relatives or close friends in Israel, who were either \r\nattacked\r\nthemselves or whose family has experienced terrorist attack because \r\nterrorism\r\ngoes back many centuries, but has always been a weapon of choice of \r\nJew-haters\r\nand Israel-haters... So, the tragic\r\nfact is that the reality of terrorism is fundamental cowardliness, is\r\nfundamental anti-human character. \r\nI think it's familiar to everybody... I’d should say not just in \r\nthe\r\nAmerican Jewish community, the fact is that America is unique in its \r\nsympathy\r\nfor Israel. Europe certainly\r\ndoesn’t feel this way, Asia doesn’t feel this way. This\r\n is not a feeling only of American Jews. In fact,\r\n in many cases, the Christian\r\ncommunity has been—has shown itself as much more interested in Israel’s \r\nfate\r\nand well-being than the Jewish community, which has its own political \r\naxes to\r\ngrind. I think America in general\r\nhas felt close to, in some ways, because the states are so similar—there\r\n is no\r\nnation in the world set up by people with bibles in their back pockets \r\nas a New\r\nIsrael, there’s no nation that has been set up on that basis aside from \r\nthe\r\nUnited States and Israel. So,\r\nthere’s always been the sympathy, and growing up one has the feeling, \r\none had a\r\nfeeling in this country, I mean back in the 1960s and ‘70s, that \r\nterrorist\r\nattacks on Israel were hitting close to home. It \r\nwas impossible not to be aware of the nature of\r\nterrorism, the threat of terrorism. \r\nIt’s something that I’ve always lived with, tragically, as has \r\neverybody\r\nwho has felt close to Israel.
Recorded on April 1, 2010.
The terrorist attack David Gelernter experienced in 1993 left his body injured, but his mind unfazed.
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