Waiting for Princip, by Michael S. Malone.
“Another Model 1910 is one of the most notorious weapons in history. That pistol was used in Sarajevo on June 28th, 1914 by the 19 year-old Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip to assassinate Austrian Arch-duke Franz Ferdinand and his wife – the event that triggered the First World War.
As it happens, I’ve been thinking about Princip lately – not the pathetic little man – but what he represents. When, amazed at his luck that the Imperial motorcade had stalled in front of him, Princip pulled out that pistol and started shooting, he unknowingly tripped a series of switches in palaces and ministries across Europe – and eventually around the globe – that would lead to a four year war that would pull down the royalty of Europe, murder millions of soldiers and citizens, and set the stage for an even greater slaughter a quarter-century later. [...]
[...] I learned a long time ago that when things seem crazy, they usually are – no matter how much smart people try to convince you otherwise. There is a lot of crazy going around right now. . .and it won’t disappear just because we look away or tell ourselves it’s not as bad as it seems.
Ours is not Auden’s “low, dishonest decade” before World War II, but it certainly has been a decade of denial and distraction. But no amount of ignoring the magnitude of the threat, or busying ourselves with other matters, changes the fact that there are not only millions of switches out there waiting to be tripped, but that, in our networked world, all of those switches are wired together. Or that even one of them, snapping at the right moment, could send trillions of chains of consequence around the world in less time than it takes to say “Sarajevo.”
Read the whole thing, and sleep tight.