I see that Amitav Ghosh had the misfortune of reviewing Updike's The Terrorist in the WaPo. Ghosh has struck the pitch perfect note here:
With innumerable lives at stake, when Jack Levy finds himself faced with the task of giving Ahmad a reason to live and let live, he says: "Hey, come on, we're all Americans here. That's the idea, didn't they tell you that at Central High? Irish-Americans, African-Americans, Jewish-Americans; there are even Arab-Americans." Not a word about humanity, family, friendship, sport, poetry, love, laughter. It is as if a belief in American multiculturalism is the only good reason a human being could have for staying alive. Why indeed do the billions of non-Americans who walk this Earth refrain from blowing themselves up? I suspect that Updike really cannot see that they have any good reason not to.
This better not be up for any Bookers. Also, heh.
Updike, as a yank, is ineligible for the Booker, though I guess he is eligible for the Booker Int'l, which is a prize I've never heard of, and only have heard of while making sure that I remembered the rules of Booker eligibility right. As for your point--it's a pretty valid one. What's abandoned are universalizing claims, as all that is universally binding is the neolib market. No one wants to say, "hey--all of us--we're all free agents, theoretically able to enter into and leave contracts." Any other claims to universality could lead to movements that challenge the seeming inevitability of the market, so, instead, we're perversely united in that we all have our separate identity groups. *shrug*. I'm not doing a good job of explaining this, but I could give Updike a short reading list so he wouldn't look like such a clown. In fact, just one book will do: "Black no More."
Yes, the Levy character appears to give a lame reason why Ahmad should not blow himself up, but Ahmad himself ponders a better reason: God wants to create, not to destroy. Sadly, Ghosh missed it.