Plus ca change

Given the instant christening of September 11, 2001 as “the day everything changed”, it was just about inevitable that the most common observation on September 11, 2002 is that “nothing has changed”. Even if there had been big changes they would not have been significant on the scale of a century in which million-person death tolls were a tragic commonplace, in which technology changed the world beyond recognition and in which borders were drawn and redrawn repeatedly. But I have to admit that I’m struck by how little has changed, particularly in US politics. In terms of daily life, the impact has been far less than that of AIDS, which came similarly out of the blue. In world historical terms, I think September 11 will eventually rank equal in importance with the Balkans War, but well below Vietnam or the fall of Communism. Sadly, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans will barely rate a footnote, since they died far from the nearest TV camera.
Of course, this analysis presumes that Al-Qaeda doesn’t manage a successful nuclear or bioweapon attack and that any war with Iraq doesn’t, as has been threatened, “open the gates of hell” in the Middle East. If either of these presumptions is wrong, things really will change.