It still has quite an impact to suddenly notice that date “September 11” over in the left column, doesn’t it? On this day three years ago I (along with just about everyone else in Australia and the world) was sitting in my loungeroom numb and transfixed, watching those planes smashing into the buildings again and again and again in replay, and the buildings come tumbling down over and over with all those unseen people still inside. And the world really has been a very different place ever since.
Actually there have been two truly earth-shattering watershed events in world history in fairly recent years: September 11 and the fall of communism in 1989. Both have caused us to see the world in radically different ways than we did before, and the consequences of both events are still playing themselves out on the world stage and in people’s hearts and minds.
In the case of September 11, the wounds remain very raw, as we’ve seen on this blog over the last couple of days. There’s still nothing resembling a consensus on what it meant, even in the wealthy West, and none of us has any real idea how future events will develop as a result. That radical uncertainty breeds fear and hatred.
But we still need to keep trying to make sense of our world, and we do that by asking questions, discussing and analysing, not by vitriolic abuse or falsely (and egotistically) imagining that any of us has a monopoly on victimhood or compassion, or evil for that matter. One of the main conclusions I’ve drawn from my own life experience is the critical necessity to psyche oneself into letting go of hatred, fear and desire for vengeance. Those emotions lead to misery and spiritual death. It doesn’t mean abandoning vigilance or rational (and intuitive) judgments about right and wrong, or succumbing to fuzzy marshmallow moral relativism. But it does mean rigorously cultivating good will and civility for reasons of moral and social hygiene. Here endeth the lesson, brothers and sisters.