“The same strength which has extended our power beyond a continent has also interwoven our destiny with the destiny of many peoples and brought us into a vast web of history in which other wills, running in oblique or contrasting directions to our own, inevitably hinder or contradict what we most fervently desire. We cannot simply have our way, not even when we believe our way to have the “happiness of mankind” as its promise.”
― Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History
Oh the irony of history!
The world came to a standstill 20 years ago when 9/11 happened – lives were lost, first responders risked life and limb to save whatever and whoever, while shedding blood, sweat and tears around the clock. It was the rendezvous with destiny that nobody wanted and regards with contempt to this day.
International politics was gutted and turned inside out, while social undercurrents went into turmoil, dividing the world into pro or anti islamic, believers and non-believers, with security issues becoming a veritable nightmare for travel around the globe. Fast forward 20 years and where do we find ourselves? In familiar territory, with international politics in disarray, social structures in complete shambles, everyone trying to restructure personal and professional fields, the world divided into pro and anti vaxxers, believers and non-believers of the virus, and International travel a virtual mess. The difference being instead of hyper paranoid inspection for concealed weapons we are in hysterical overdrive for health issues COVID-19 related. Vigilance was the name of the game in2001, and we are back to square one in 2021. Bizarre doesn’t even begin to cover the uncanny similarities.
Do you remember your history lessons from Primary and Secondary school and University? How many history teachers and professors drilled us with past events that repeated themselves in similar manifestations in subsequent periods, warning us that if we do not learn our lessons from history we are bound to make the same mistakes again? History does indeed repeat itself, but not on its own volition or self-serving reasons, it is all man-made and built on murky foundations of greed, power hunger and self-destructive obsessions. Like it or not, the devastating destruction we witness in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America at the moment, are all fallouts of human failure, neglect of safeguards, and ignorance of the law, political systems, social dynamics, religious fervour, and narrow-minded sense of public duty. Have we learned nothing from our historical ghosts?
The Taliban and Al Qaeda and the fearless wrath they brought with them 20 years ago has resurfaced in a modified version in 2021. Once again the eyes of the world are on the Middle East, and the lives of the innocent bystanders are at stake, as well as those of the international armed forces called to duty. Families are torn apart again, keeping in mind that those who suffered 20 years ago never really recovered and are still reeling from the aftermath of 9/11, regardless of what side of the fence they were on.
It is not enough to organise memorial services and salute the fallen. We owe it to the future generations to prevent Ground Zero from ever happening again anywhere in the world. Change begins with individual determination to safeguard local, national and international security, strengthen communities, and eradicate ignorance.