Many historians date centuries based on relevant events, not the turn of a calendar page. (From the collection of the State Library of Victoria, Australia. Click here to see it as more than a thumbnail.)
The 20th century, in other words, did not start on January 1, 1901. It started with the Guns of August. World War I ushered in the Great Power era, the wars of ideology, the mass murders, and the auto civilization for which the 20th century will always be known.
We are still living in that century. We still depend on cars, and oil. We still obsess over ideology. We still die over resources, and in vast numbers. We are still divided.
But this old order is dieing. If the War in Iraq should prove useful in any way, it is to kill these presumptions about ideology and resources. Capturing Iraq's oil did not make its price manageable. The "good vs. evil" Cold War game the Bush Era created has been shown to be a sham.
The 20th century is not going out with a bang, but with a whimper. What began in shock and awe is going out in economic and environmental dysfunction.
Most of us have known for many years what the 21st century will be about:
- The Global Crisis of climate change.
- A single planet requiring a single set of standards.
- The Infosphere, science vs. reality.