I’ve always loved the word decade.
Not only does is it three letters short of one of my favourite words (faves include quaquaversal, supercilious, oraculate and flibbertigibbet), ‘decadence’, it is also very close to the word ‘decide’. A decade is when the next half-generation comes into the fore, carves their own path and essentially decides the route that they and their peers -and ultimately everyone after them – will take. The 2010’s will have people born in the sixties enter more positions of power, whereas the Noughties were defined mostly by people born in the fifties. That means in Britain, we’ll have people whose political education was mostly during Thatcher’s government, in Ireland they’ll have learned during the reign of Haughey and in America, Reagan. The movements in our society since their will shape them, which shapes us and vice-versa. The next decade could to be awesome. We’ve travelled so much since the fifties. As societies, we are far more advanced technologically, scientifically and legally than they were. As products of their environment, let’s see how much our environment becomes a product of them. This decade will be where most of my peers fully form their adult politics. Let’s hope this decade shapes a more beautiful one in the future!
This is, in absolute terms, the happiest period in human history! We are the safest, cleanest, happiest, longest-living, healthiest, smartest, kindest people that have ever lived on this planet! The arc of the universe tends towards justice, happiness, liberty, delight and efficiency. The real question is whether or not the next decade is going to be one of great progress, stagnation or even regression.
No matter what, the fact that this is 2010, this is what we used to view as the distant future,. The technology that we can expect to have is going to blow our minds! Well, as that great philisopher Calvin once asked: Where are the flying cars? Where are the jetpacks? Where are the moon bases?” Good question! Where is our wonderful technology? Where’s world peace? Where’s an end to hunger? Why are we still on this planet and where is the armada set for Alpha Centauri? Where’s the phone that has a camera, camcorder, internet, bluetooth, toothbrush, needle and thread, bottle opener, ocular implants, vibrator, washing machine, face scanner, taser, music player, holographic display, memory downloader and sub-machine gun? What the hell kind of future is this? Oh, wait… Japan already has that phone? Balls. The future is only going to be this awesome if we make it this awesome. I, for one, cannot wait to see the video games, films, internets to come in the next few years. The new gadgets, phones and computers are going to be able to do things that will shock and awe us.
If there’s one thing that keeps me from calling quits on the world, it’s sci-fi. The future tech is going to be so much fun.
Unfortunately, the last few decades also had several dumptrucks full of bullshit to add to that ever-expanding pile of poor political processes. We spent too much on crap like battleships and APC’s and not enough on research – and our leaders spent too much time idling, pontificating and procrastinating instead of progressing, advancing and marching onwards through the now and into the bright, cosy future we could have if we actually stopped enjoying sitting on our asses for a change (we need more arse cramps as a society because only then will we get up, stretch and go do the cleaning).
As we turn into this decade, after coming out of a decade that could best be summarised with a shoulder shrug and a “meh“, I just hope that the bullshit of the world hasn’t piled too high that we can’t clean it up or waltz past it to cleaner pastures. The last decade sucked serious amounts for practically everyone outside of Europe (Western Europe I should probably say… Eastern Europe, well, uh… so… so, how are you? Good… we’re doing fine, too…p- please don’t kill yourself. At least wait for us to leave before you do, thanks).
What We Have To Put Up With
I gave a speech in Finland a few months ago where I laid out a very rough sketch of the problems facing our generation. Before I begin, I would like to thank every preceding generation for their consideration, thought and love in gifting us this world (sarcasm):
All too often, we allow people to get away with the worst crimes if they are part of a powerful enough group or entity in our society – or even if they have sufficient money. Murder, rape, pollution, species extinction, child abuse, etc. go unpunished – and, even worse, we fail to right them. We spend too much on war and not enough on peace. If we spent as much on military growth as we did on peace, we could feed, clothe, bathe and maybe even buy a sweet HDTV, laptop, Google phone or car for everyone on the planet. We have developed weapons that can – and some people have the desire to – annihilate every living thing on the planet within several hours.
Many of us have difficulty making the distinction between that which we do not like and that which does us or others harm. We live in strange societies that glorify violence and demonise love and sex. We give medals to the men who would kill other men, yet we forbid them from loving one.
Many do not have the rights that we enjoy, many are deprived of the right to pursue their happiness in the way they wish to; many do not have the right or ability to defend themselves in a court of law; too many live in constant fear of their governments, their neighbours, their friends, their family.
No other species kills its members as much as we do. There has not been a moment in recorded history when the whole world has been at peace, free from organised violence and warfare.
Our world is one of great inequality. 20% of the world’s population owns access to 80% of the world’s resources. The history behind this gain is dark, bloody and the problems it created plague us to this day (and will for the foreseeable future).
Distrust of science, education and the simple facts prevent people from attaining the intellectual level that would solve many of societies ills. Bigotry, arrogance and discrimination is rife. Poisonous ideas of racial and genetic superiority have led to the deaths of millions.
Wars are fought for resources, nonsensical politics and demonstrably false claims of ownership over the lands of others. Many old, proud peoples have been forcibly removed from their homes by outsiders or by the radical elements of their own society.
We have polluted our land to the point where our city’s air is killing us slowly, our children suffer innumerable illnesses from poisons in our soil, rivers, lakes, seas – even in our own houses. Our atmosphere is heating up. The north pole will soon be a sea for the first time in millions of years. The seas could rise and flood our coastal communities, displacing up to a billion people.
The 21st Century is, no matter which you look at it, going to interesting.
So I go into this decade with a pool of apprehension in my mind – but with an ocean of hope. Rest easy as the rest of the speech was nothing but pure, silky inspiration about why it is important to know this stuff, why we should fix it, how we can fix it and what we can do as individuals. I would sometimes define a ‘Cynic’ as someone who is incapable of understanding the power of cooperation. These things can be fixed if we are not complacent and our leaders act responsibly. The things I describe above are a tiny, tiny amount of the things that need to be sorted. We must be aware of our history and we must form judgements upon it. Only then will we truly learn from our mistakes and make the future that bit more sexy for all.
A healthy dose of cynicism, combined with optimism is my policy. It’s essentially just shouting out: That’s a load of crap! That doesn’t work! You’re doing it wrong! and then adding But it could be better! to the end of it.
The State of the Unions
Presuming that the worst things that could happen don’t happen, this could be a great decade. A decade is a long time. The EU could collapse completely in ten years – though it seems unlikely. The EU is showing itself to be a pretty decent, if clumsy, source of clever, benign politics. It’s taking its time in doing stuff and it could really pull the finger out when it comes to corruption and transparency among Member States and multinationals, but with a bit of luck, we’ll see some growth and exceptionalism over the next few years. I am hopeful, but if more turd buckets like Mr. Dicks-In-All-Business Berlusconi or Climate-Change-Clown Klaus gain power, we could have a pretty rocky patch.
The United States, on the other hand, could quite easily fall to pieces. After Clinton, the United States emerged as a pretty reprehensible Corporatist society where the oppressed fawn over the oppressors while rich white oligarchs thrive as they are propped up by racist, ignorant peasants unaware that a bunch of oily tycoons seized control and basically screwed the entire population that lacked the willpower or cognitive capacity to know they’re being screwed over. Why this sucks so much is that we Europeans, especially Brits, tend to follow them – even if it involves squashing the rights of everyone, demonising entire classes, ethnicities and sections so that the economy can thrive. Forget a system that sacrifices liberty and the pursuit of happiness for uncertain economic growth – like the Soviets and every empire that ever existed, it is bound to fail. The problem is, they didn’t get the economic growth they wanted, their wars were too expensive, their resources poorly allocated and the now-facked political system is an incomprehensible, lumbering mass of ineptitude and corruption and the populace -quite used to complacency that allowed them to get on with their own lives – is incapable of doing anything to rectify the situation.
Greater Europe(the EU and the Colonies of America, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, etc.) is waning as some of the other major civilisations like China and India are waxing. The state we enter this decade will be completely different from how we leave it. The balance of power will be more evenly spread, the nature of our relationships will hopefully be much improved. Or there could be war, economic hardship and a really shitty global political situation. Either way, let’s just get on our grubby knees and beg our leaders not to completely fack this up.
I just we have the balls and brains to leave the 2010’s that bit better off.