On This Day

Ten years ago, I had had a dreadful dream that morning. Someone had planned to blow the supports beneath Westminster Bridge, of all places, and kill thousands of people as they made their way to work.

On a bright, sunny Tuesday, I remember taking my little pager with me. The last time I ever used my pager - I'd begun using texts on my mobile phone instead. I don't know why I'd chosen to take my pager with me. Perhaps for old times' sake, sentimental reasons or something. The service had long given up on me anyway. I'd subscribed to receive news a couple of times a day. Little else.

I remember standing in a New Age store, ten years ago, looking at incense, when I felt the pager buzzing. I checked it, and could not believe the news.

The time: around 15:00. The attacks had begun some minutes before.

I made my way home, and en route the report came through that the second plane had struck the other tower. Then the report that the first of the towers struck had collapsed.

I made it home just as the final report of the second tower's collapse arrived.

The rest of the day, the TV only had one thing on.

So I do remember what I did on that day, as much as I remember how the media broke the news in 1997 of Princess Di's death.

So what does this mean today, ten years on?

Since that time, the West has gone steadily mad, riddled with bigotry, and with greed taking the advantage of our distraction to carve so deeply into the fabric of society as to become entrenched and almost irremovable without catastrophic damage. We've become nations of CCTVs and informants peering through net curtains, snitching on one another for being "just a little bit different" to the nice white folks.

We've reached a point where we pay footballers and celebrities obscene amounts of money, where non-domiciled journalistic hacks can rant and post drivel and net a fortune, while an Eton toff who has never been poor rails and scolds those who have never known wealth, telling us that it is our fault that his cronies have made Britain "broken" because we do not know our place, and hatches insane plans to make the lives of the majority of Brits even more miserable while his Eton toff friends make lives easier for the 2% of people who hold 98% of the country's money hostage in their fat, sweaty little hands.

We're all walking around in a daze, drugged by despair and rubbish TV reality shows, drunk on the delusions of fame and the illusion that reality TV presents the only way out for those mired in poverty, providing they have a sexy body and look good on the stage. Don't worry about the singing - that's what auto tune is for.

Was all this caused by those planes ten years ago? Not a bit. Not in the least bit. Let's not heap this thought on the memory of those passengers of those doomed planes.

No, this madness was building up in intensity since the Nineties. We could see it happening; the Tories pressing for compulsory ID cards in the first seven years of the Nineties - a battle Labour were only too glad to continue once they took over. The "Back To Basics" anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-choice fundie Christian message promoted by John Major, even as one of his MPs was dying with a satsuma in his mouth and wearing ladies' lingerie; even as John Major himself was conducting an extramarital affair with MP Edwina Currie.

The rot in the markets coming out now was there in the Nineties, with all the protests taking place then to stop the builders coming in to clear out forests and wipe out Iron Age hills to make car parks and out-of-town shopping malls.

It was there from twenty years ago, when the US stormed the desert, and pulled out of Kuwait despite the then President Bush fulminating that the withdrawal was too soon, leaving his dreams of invading Iraq unfulfilled.

It was there when, not long after the Soviet Union collapsed, Yugoslavia died, taking away its peaceful cosmopolitan identity, its comparatively tolerant culture, its nudist beaches (the envy of Europe) and replacing them with sniper alleys, ethnic cleansing, more concentration camps and mass graves uf burnt bodies.

The madness has been there since Thatcher's day, the Eighties. So it has been there, polluting the West, reversing its progress, for thirty years and more. And 9/11 was just the biggest inciting incident that accelerated this slow rot, giving it the excuse it needed to bring it out into the open in its foetid glory, rather than skulking behind the scenes.

So, then, ten years on, and people are mourning the people who died on this day. But will they mourn those who died after this inciting incident - the dead soldiers, sent in to fight battles on battlefields with guns, where the real wars are being fought in the stock markets and on the internet with ideologies and fundamentalism versus reason and peace?

Those who died on this day were not "the fallen," "the heroes" or anyone in particular. Some of them would not thank you to call them "the martyrs" either, because, like so many people who survived that day, they weren't heroes, or villains.

Just ordinary people. People who'd set off on what they thought would be just another normal, boring day at the office.

What's the best way to remember these victims? By going about your day as normal. By not letting thoughts of death and terror fill our heads.

By recalling the peace you felt the day before, 2001 09 10. When the world was still relatively sane, and the only thing you were looking forward to when going to bed was the first coffee of the morning.

By telling the vocal hysterics, the uneducated bigots, the insane Tea Partiers and all the nutjobs riding on the apron strings of 9/11 and calling for warfare and fear and hate and bloodshed to go and take a hike. This is the West. Not an armed military camp. Not the fundamentalist nation of Gilead from The Handmaid's Tale.

Remember the dead, by going about the business of living.

"What you are about to say to the world is true. This is a moment. A moment to repeat the mistakes of the past, or to work together for a better future."
-- Professor Charles Xavier, X-Men 2

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