Last week, while strolling down Les Champs Elysées, I entered the Virgin bookstore to have a look at recent French publications. I also wanted to have a look at the (in)famous French bestseller spreading the conspiracy theory that the Pentagon was not in fact attached by a plane. While that seemed to be as boring as expected, another one attracted my attention – a book that claimed to have identified the 16 most important events in world history: Les 16 majeures de l’Histoire : Les dates qui ont changé le monde by Pierre Miquel.
I think identifying the 16 most important events in world history would certainly be an achievement. I just doubt it is possible. And just by looking at the back of the book it became clear to me that this was just another attempt to benefit from the post 9/11 histeria: Miquel puts 9/11/2001 on par with the birth of Jesus Christ.
I think that – while I agree that nothing is quite as it was before 9/11 and it certainly was some sort of cataclysmic event for my generation – history’s verdict on the importance of the attack won’t be available for another few decades.
And one more thing – Paul Krugman, Princeton economist and NYTimes columnist – wrote back in February that, in his opinion, in ten years the Enron affair and its consequences for corporate governance in the US will be considered to have been far more important than the terrorist attacks. Now Miquel certainly does not appear to think that Enron is that important. And most people would probably agree that it will never be an event as important as the birth of Christ.
A friend of mine put the whole “nothing is quite as before” discourse in a very funny caricature, which you find below. The German caption reads: “… and even though nothing was as it was before September, 11th, Mr. Killian again had to run to catch the tube this morning…”. Quite right.