The history of our age will defy our calendars and mark 2008 as the beginning of the 21st century. This year we now pass is the final departure of the 1900s; the cold reboot after a buggy, bloated system finally kernel panicked. 2008 was the year everything old finally stopped working. The money, the politics, the lifestyles, the philosophies and faiths, the mores and folkways that made the last hundred years what they were learned just how unwelcome they are in the next hundred. This is the year the twentieth at last surrendered. This is the year we learned what this millennium will mean.
Though the discovery had been long coming, we found out this year that this Earth is one. Shrinking with the startling swiftness of its icecaps, this planet for the first time shared whole all its inequities and its failures. Exposed finally through the prisms of trials, tragedies and trainwrecks, we suffered through this hangover of a hundred year bender together in a manner unlike any in human history.
This year we learned how interconnected we are, with our pitfalls illustrating in greater brilliance than our prosperity. Material losses written down in American banks were felt by African farmers. Wild swings in oil prices were suffered by Spaniards as much as Saudis. Gunshots fired by young men Mumbai startled old women in Manhattan. Sludge spills served warning to Taipei as well as Tennessee. Ponzi schemes pilfered accounts holding any currency while pirates hijacked ships flying any flag.
From Cancer to Capricorn, all that mattered bore consequences globally. Olympians awestruck by Bejing’s pageantry shared the implications of that spectacle with the world. War in Georgia closed opportunity of war in Palestine. Fortunes in Germany and Japan were made and lost with the value of the American dollar and the Euro. For every drop of oil produced, for every red cent transacted, for every asset mortgaged, the point of sale ceased to be hindered by geography. The borders of our balance sheets are now as blurry as the borders of our nations.
The 20th century acquainted us well with the fall of dominos. An Austrian prince was assassinated and the whole of Europe is swallowed by war. A ship is torpedoed in the Gulf of Tonkin and two superpowers cement their rivalry. A U2 shot down over Cuba brings the industrialized world to the brink of nuclear holocaust.
The difference between then and now is that burden no longer respects the dominion of the industrialized. Security is no longer only decided by the UN Security Council. Credit is no longer only the concern of the G8. Nations large and small, rich and poor now share their losses with one another. Instability in Zimbabwe will cost the rich and powerful as much as instability in Somalia. The lessons of coup in Burma warn us of coup in Thailand. Opium from Afghanistan kills the youth of South Africa as easily as America. Damage is no longer localized. Threats no longer can be contained by no-fly zones, sanctions and embargoes. Should we ever see another World War, we can be assured it will be truly worldwide.
From here until forever, our portfolios and our ports will only be secure if we ensure they are all secure. Our treaties and our contracts will only bind if we all assent to their binding. Our loves and our livelihoods will survive only if love and livelihood can survive everywhere.
Were there any question before, 2008 rid us of the illusion of isolation. We are now in this thing together. This was the last year for going it alone.