"Give me back the Berlin wall
give me Stalin and St Paul
I've seen the future, brother:
it is murder."
Lenoard Cohen, The future
During my first year at university, I learned from my teacher of history of literature that a century never arbitrarily starts with an 00 year, or an 01 year. It is an event that changes the time period, as history has to be changed. Originally, a century meant a period of time of unspecified length, not a hundred years. So, in spite of the big fuss we made then about it, the 21ct century and the new millennium did not start on the 1st of January 2000, or 2001 as it should have been (as the alleged birth of Christ was year 1, not 0), but on September 11 2001. This day, our perception of life, history, and our consciousness of our place in history was transformed.
Like everybody (of course I am not being original here, I doubt anything in this entry is), I remember that day vividly. I remember waking up late, a few minutes after 9:00. Seeing the first images of the World Trade Center, I had the feeling of watching an abyss opening. I remember my anger at what the Islamists had done. It was pretty clear to me from early on it was them, although I knew nothing about Bin Laden or Al Qaeda. The year before, I had as a roommate an American from New York, Jewish, very smart man, who was studying international relationships in the UK. We had discussed about many things that year, he was into history and so was I, so among other things we had speculated about what would be the next great war. We both agreed that this would be against Islamists. (I was worried about him, but he ended up alive and well). We were right, but I never thought we would be right so quickly. It was Western civilisation that was attacked, not only America. To paraphrase Salman Rushdie civilisation was attacked because it permitted consumption of alcohol, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, pork, because it taught evolution in class. I hoped then that the answer to the attack would have been firm and devoid of any kind of ambiguity, that it was going to take a firm stand for Western values. Sadly, I was wrong.
Yes, we went to Afghanistan and got rid of the Talibans, which was a good thing, but Bin Landen is alive and free, and unpunished for the crime he committed. Then Bush went into Iraq and fought a petty tyrant who had nothing to do with 9/11 and was no threat to America. The answer to 9/11 got more and more timid, to the point of being cowardly. Some members of the Muslim communities tried to condone the attack, or to excuse it. Then certain Left wing people did the same. When Islamists tried to legalize the sharia in Canada, some liberals, in the name of cultural relativism, thought it was a good thing. In the UK, the archbishop of Canterbury even thought it was inevitable! And what about the Right? During the Danish cartoon controversy, instead of making a firm stand for freedom of expression and the right to mock God (even God, especially God), Bush, the Vatican and other world leaders first said that the cartoons were disrespectful and shocking. Before condemning the violence, before condemning the anger, before condemning the fanaticism, they condemned an act of free speech because it was provocative. I sometimes suspect that they are in the core God fearing idiots (as most God fearing men are, Muslim or Chritian), envying the Islamists for expressing their anger so openly.
So many innocent lives taken during 9/11. But it was our own innocence that was taken in the meantime, our own insouciance. It had crumbled and shattered with the attacks. Freedom can be hated so much, its manifestation so repulsive for a fanatic that it can be threatened through an act of wanton destruction. Sometimes, I wonder if our freedom did not get buried in the pile of debris in the meantime. The threat is still there, sometimes more subtle, but very much potent. I wonder if we still have the strength and will to fight it. I also wonder if we love our freedom enough.
I already put this song on another blog entry. I never found a satisfying clip made on youtube, but what matters are the words. They are prophetic. On September 11, 2001, the new millennium started, and future became, indeed, murder: