It’s the end of the decade. Yes, it really is. Mathematical pedantry aside, we’re entering a new, arbitrarily-determined time unit, and that’s something to be kind of excited about. People seem to be complaining about the last ten years, though, and I do think that they were a pretty nasty time, all told. But, they weren’t all bad. There’s a lot to like about the past ten years. Here are a few things:
It Has Been Much, Much Worse
Think about the twentieth century:
1900s- Not much
1910s- WWI, Spanish flu, millions dead
1920s- Decadence, stock market crash
1930s- Great Depression, WWII, millions dead
1940s- Great Depression, WWII, millions dead
1950s- Cold War, Korean War, nuclear paranoia
1960s- Cold War, Vietnam War, JFK assassination, general unrest
1970s- Cold War, Vietnam War, Watergate, recession
1980s- Cold War, decadence, hair metal
1990s- The Cold War is over! WOW! HUZZAH! (Gulf War happens, though.)
2000s- Iraq War, Recession
Our parents and grandparents faced existential threats to the U.S. in the form of the Great Depression, Nazi Germany, and the USSR. We no longer have that. As much as some might attempt to remake Islamic terrorists into the Nazis or Commies of our time, they do not pose a serious threat to Western civilization. Think about it: The biggest and most complicated thing that they were able to do was destroy a significant portion of downtown New York. As devastating as that was, it was nothing compared to what Germany did to Poland, Japan did to China, we did to Dresden, and any nuclear bomb could have done to anywhere.
Moreover, as awful as the current recession is, it’s remarkable that we don’t have people standing in bread lines or trying to sell pencils in the street. Yes, Detroit has suffered quite a bit, but the economy has started growing again. The Dust Bowl destitution from the thirties stayed in the thirties. We don’t have any Hoovervilles. Think about that: We’ve been through a long, crushing recession, but have managed to avoid absolute destitution. In its own way, that’s great.
Remember the internet ten years ago? It was full of dancing hamsters, pirated music and porn. Now, it’s full of lolcats, pirated music and porn, but also a bunch of other neat stuff. Think about this: Let’s say you want to learn how to decoupage. So, you Google “how to decoupage” and WHAM-O! There are a bunch of sites telling you how to do precisely that! That is really, utterly, super profound. That access to information is unprecedented in human history, and despite all of the annoying memes and pictures of cats, the Internet really is the greatest thing since bread or slices. Cyberpunk (remember that?) was a SF genre chiefly characterized by the existence of a giant web of computers all across the world connected to each other. Now, Cyberpunk is dead because it’s central tenant is real. This past decade, we made a subgenre of SF obsolete. How cool is that?
The Decline of Bigotry
Yes, there’s lots of problems with the health care legislation, and no, Obama didn’t magically fix everything with his ultra-charismatic Jesus-like wizardry, but it’s still fantastic that the U.S. elected a black dude. And, despite Proposition Eight passing in California, gay people are getting married in the U.S., and we will have it sooner or later. There’s gay marriage in Iowa! That’s pretty amazing. If, thirty years ago, you were to tell someone that in 2009 the president would be black and gay dudes would be setting up wedding registries they probably would have said “Shut your pie-hole, hippie!” HA-HA! Take that, you imagined Archie Bunker-like hypothetical conservative person! Woo-hoo!
Carl Sagan (one of my heroes) once said “We live in an extraordinary age.” He said that back in the eighties, and he was right-on then. He’s extra-super-mega correct now. As much fun as it is to bitch, we do live in an extraordinary age, and it really is getting better all the time. Here’s to the next decade.