The Year and the Decade in Review, Short Version: Yikes!
And what a year and a decade it’s been. We’ve come a long ways since the odometer rolled over in 2000, and are a decade into a century I could barely imagine when I was a young lad. Even the year 1984 seemed to be in the far future when I was in high school, 2010 might as well have been on Mars. Yet here I am, older, wiser, and in many ways more perplexed than ever by the human condition. Are we an intelligent species? Damned if I know, but I don’t see a whole lot of evidence for it. Yet we muddle through somehow. And we muddled through a lot of stuff this past decade, here, in no particular order, is my take on the whole mess:
9/11. For good or for ill this was a defining moment for the decade. At least in the USA. However, what happens in the USA affects the whole world, so 9/11 was a global event on par with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in 1914. What can I say, we needed a Lincoln or a Truman, we had a Bush. Instead of decisive action, like sending the 101st airborne to Afghanistan capture Bin Ladin and his henchmen, Bush gave the green light to every sycophant and crony with an axe to gride, in most cases a pretty corrupt ideological axe. A decade later, trillions of dollars spent, countless lives wasted, foreign nations turned into failed states … and the “War on Terror” is a zombie monster still dragging us down and creating more terror and debt every day. And OBL is still at large, though the government apparently now thinks that searching American’s crotches may bring him to justice. Yeah, this is going to end well.
The Economy. The nineties showed us that having a cool web site address wasn’t the secret to wealth after all. The last decade showed us that banks, real estate offices, and fast food joints aren’t much to base an economy on. Or should have shown us, despite giving endless buckets of cash to the people whose greed crashed the economy in the first place, the American economy is still a disaster and most seem clueless as to its cause. Meanwhile the rest of the world built factories and is muddling through somehow. Yes, there is a connection here. We’ve done what the Spanish Empire did, spent our money on weapons and glitter. How long did the Spanish Empire last anyhow?
Space Exploration. Well, some good news here at least. There have been many amazing discoveries the past decade, we are truly in a golden era of space exploration. American manned space exploration, well, that’s hosed, but robots are the future in space exploration anyhow. Still, three in a row here, three major areas where the USA has lost its way … foreign policy, the economy, and space exploration. What can I say, it wasn’t supposed to turn out like this when I as a kid in the sixties. No Moon Bases, no flying cars, just a pile of debt and a war that is designed to last forever.
Cosmology. It’s also been an amazing decade for cosmologists. It now appears that there are testable theories about the origin of the Big Bang, not to mention the ultimate fate of our Universe. And oddly enough, there is no need for supernatural influence anywhere. The cosmological argument for God is now dead, possibly the biggest development in theology in 400 years. Trust me, this will be a big deal someday.
Other Sciences. From preserved dinosaur soft tissue to Gobeli Tepi, there have been all sorts of scientific advances the past decade. I hardly know where to begin, so I won’t. I don’t think there’s been anything epochal like the invention of the aeroplane or the napkin, but I could be wrong.
The Media. This will be remembered as the decade where the mainstream media completed its transformation into little more than a shopping flyer for corporate and government America. What Free Press remains is on the Internet. Will the Internet be subsumed by the beast, or will true freedom return via the Internet? Beats me, none of the above?
Politics. The US government stopped even pretending to pay attention to the will of the people this decade, and set itself up as the arbiter of what is right. Historically, this rarely ends well. Consider yourselves warned.
Popular Culture. There’s 837 million blogs about popular culture, this isn’t one of them. Prince Philip could be marrying Lady Gaga on Survivor for all I know.
Personal Insights. I’m an atheist now, that’s the big personal development of the decade for me. On a broader level, science is starting to come to a much better understanding of why people believe in absurdities. There’s a lot of absurdities out there, I’d say the widespread belief that the Earth is only a few thousand years old is one of the most prevalent ones. People who believe in absurdities are not stupid or ignorant, there’s a host of evolutionary reasons why people process data in fallacious ways. Will understanding this lead to new ways to enlighten people … or new ways to manipulate them? Stay tuned.
What will the next decade bring? My suspicion is that it’s going to make the past decade look rosy in comparison. As is so often the case, I hope I’m wrong.
I wish everyone who reads this a Happy New Year and Happy New Decade.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. There’s a zillion reasons why its use here doesn’t hurt the copyright holder in any conceivable way, arguably the opposite. It’s Oliphaunts in one of the Lord of the Rings movies. In the Lord of the Rings world, gravity must have been below Earth normal, and possibly with denser air, to allow such things as these giant beasts and flying dragons and such. I chose the image to represent the decade because of its outsized and bizarre violent imagery. That’s certainly the War on Terror and the decade to me, a huge violent Kafkaesque Juggernaut raging violently, mindlessly. Who knows how and where it will end but it’s likely to be a hell of a mess until it does.)