I don’t fly that often, and I certainly didn’t intend to fly on September 11th 2011. In fact I realised the significance of ‘flying home on Sunday’ only when I checked in for the outward flight on Thursday. As it happened, it was probably the safest day to fly in the past decade, but it still came with a certain frisson. My own view on ‘9/11’ is that it will – with hindsight – be seen as a way marker both of the end of the long boom of the second half of the 20th century, and in the re-balancing of the world from west to east. But it wasn’t a neutral event; instead, it was one of those which gave history a push, in particular by accelerating America’s financial, military, and diplomatic overstretch. The article I’ve read recently which best captures this is by the Indian author and essayist Pankaj Mishra. There are some extracts from this, and a couple of other pertinent pieces, beneath the fold.
There was a moment in the recent Robert Plant and Alison Krauss concert when Krauss sang part of the traditional English song Matty Groves. The band, led by T-Bone Burnett, was from the American South, and it was a reminder of the connections between the English folk song and the musical traditions of the white American south. But it was also a reminder, at a high profile event, that musics which have been marginalised are pushing themselves into the mainstream. This is partly a story a diversity coming full circle. In England, at least, it is also a story about politics.