My life has spanned four decades. The 80s were about surviving. The 90s were about clawing back the time I had lost, so I could act what society classes as ‘normal’ for my age, and the 00s were about ascending to heights nobody expected me to reach. Those first sixteen years weren’t particularly kind to me for a number of reasons I’ve expressed before, but from that point on the first decade of the 21st century was all about looking outwards.
Very few look outwards. Quite possibly because many people largely perceive such thought processes as a luxury. Who cares what’s going on politically if you’re sick, or looking for work? Who cares about society’s cultural fabric if your partner just broke up with you? However, most people don’t see that all these problems are interconnected: big and small. I believe I’m atypical in the sense that I prefer big picture discussions.
As we enter a new decade I actually think about how I will perceive events in the one just past when I reach my parents age, or even my grandmother’s. Will the events matter as much to me as they do now? More importantly will they matter as much to society in the future, when generations not even born yet become decision makers? Was the 00s the decade of lost opportunity? The one where we scorched the earth and did nothing? Where we were fixated on reality television stars whose names will long be forgotten?
It is timely to consider a retrospective quote on what it was like living in the first half of that decade in a country, which was the world’s only superpower.
In November 2000, the United States held a presidential election, and nobody knew who won, so we just kind of made up an outcome and tried to act like that was normal. Less than a year later, airplanes flew into office buildings, and everybody cried for two months. And then Enron went bankrupt, and the U.S. started acting like a rogue state, and The Simple Life premiered, and gasoline became unaffordable, and our Olympic basketball team lost to Puerto Rico, and we reelected the same president we never really elected in the first place. Later, there would be some especially devastating hurricanes and three Oscars for an especially bad movie called Crash.
Things, as they say, have been better.
I'm only 33 years old, so I'll concede that my life experience is limited. But the past five years have been an especially depressing stretch to be an American, and I don't think many people of any age would disagree with that sentiment (except for maybe Kelly Clarkson ... things seem to be working out OK for her). If it's the era of anything, it's the Era of Predictable Disillusionment: a half-decade in which many long-standing fears about how America works (and what America has come to represent) were gradually -- and then suddenly -- hammered into the collective consciousness of just about everyone, including all the people who hadn't been paying attention to begin with.
Chuck Klosterman, 2006
Sentiments like ‘only in America’ will only take you so far when making comparisons. For I live in a country that elected John Howard twice in the 00s and tolerated Pauline Hanson for far too long, actually making her a credible political threat. When studying Australia’s cultural icons, lets look at one example. The two highest rated domestically produced television shows last year (on average) were : a glorified fat camp, and a reality cooking program that somewhat defeats the purpose of the program mentioned above. The same rule applies when looking at music, or books: it is always the lowest common dominator that is the most popular. But, the biggest failing of society is that any time these legitimate concerns are noted critics who make such points are labelled intellectual snobs.
Bare with me while I ask you to participate in an exercise: (feel free to post answers in the comments section if you are inclined to so)
Name the most significant moment in society during the past decade?
Why did you choose it?
When you explain this moment in 30 years time to someone else do you think it will be just as important?
Now do the same with any pop culture moment (books, TV, music etc)
Next time you have a party, this would make a great point of debate. If you have any guests who refuse to participate because they ‘have other things too worry about’ know this:
Political, cultural and personal issues are all interconnected. You should care about all these issues equally.