You can learn a lot about someone’s perspective from what they find reassuring at a time like this. This week I saw a private briefing from a bank, soothingly reassuring its clients that “this feels more like 9/11 than 2008”. I think the point was to let investors know that this crisis is not systemic. It felt a bit like updating the old wartime spirit for today’s hyper-capitalist economy: “Keep well-capitalised, and carry on.”
I can think of a host of reasons why 9/11 does not bring calming thoughts to mind, but one is the long-term impact it had on human rights. Back then I was in the early stages of becoming a human rights lawyer. My very first day in court was with the team defending a victim of extraordinary rendition, where Britain had helped facilitate his torture. By the time I was practising, the 7 July London bombings had happened, and so had draconian new laws – 90-day detention without trial, plus sweeping surveillance and monitoring. Many Muslims remember this as the time that racial profiling and state harassment – in airports, on the tube, in the street – became the new normal.
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