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Farewell to the Great Dismal Decade

January 1, 2010

10:47 p.m. EST, December 31, 2009.  At this moment the Eastern Hemisphere is a decade ahead of the West, though Newfoundland has already made the leap. Soon the other Maritime Provinces will follow, and the midnight meridian will continue to sweep across our planet like the Scythe of Death. The 2000s… the Zeroes… the Aughts… the Noughts… the Naughty Aughties — whatever you might call it, this name-defying decade is being dumped into the dustbin of history.  High time, too.

I generally hesitate to dub anything “the worst” — movies, restaurants, books, people or decades. Personal judgments are so subjective, after all. But it’s probably not much of a stretch to commemorate the 2000s as the worst decade of our lifetimes — and by “lifetimes” I mean any living mammal under the age of 150.

If you doubt me, let me refresh your memory with partial catalogue of the past decade’s lowlights:

  • The dotcom crash of 2000-2002
  • The election of George W. Bush
  • Messrs. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle and Wolfowitz
  • 9/11
  • Reality shows dominating prime-time TV
  • The invasion of Iraq on false pretenses
  • The disastrous aftermath of the invasion of Iraq
  • The Southeast Asian tsunami that eliminated a quarter-million souls in a matter of hours
  • The re-election of George W. Bush
  • Bush Derangement Syndrome: an allergic reaction by “progressives” to anything sp0ken or done by George W. Bush
  • Hurricane Katrina
  • The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina
  • The aimlessness of the U.S. manned space program — let’s go somewhere!
  • Somali pirates
  • The Taliban
  • al-Qaeda
  • The widening gap between the super-rich and everyone else
  • The outsourcing of white-collar jobs to India and points beyond
  • Out-of-control illegal immigration across the U.S.-Mexican border
  • Out-of-control political correctness stifling free speech and ideas
  • The prospect of perpetual war against Islamist fanatics
  • The prospect of a slow-motion Islamic takeover of Western Europe
  • Endless despotism in Sudan, Zimbabwe, Myanmar and Iran
  • Dubai, the world’s greatest monument to wretched excess
  • The baseball steroid scandal
  • Texting and its wretched effect on written English
  • Texting while driving
  • “Sexting”
  • The public self-destruction of Lindsay Lohan, Michael Jackson, John Edwards, Jim McGreevey, Eliot Spitzer, Tiger Woods and numerous other willing and unwilling tabloid celebrities
  • The perpetual conflict between Israel and its Muslim neighbors, with no solution in sight
  • Our increasingly futile war in Afghanistan, with no solution in sight
  • LOLcats
  • Extreme reliance on the Internet at the expense of “real life” (What’s that?)
  • The lingering death of newspapers, magazines, bookstores and the American auto industry
  • The real estate bubble
  • The reckless repackaging of subprime mortgages into fanciful “credit default swaps,” “derivatives” and other  incomprehensible “financial products”
  • The fact that those incomprehensible “financial products” triggered the worst worldwide financial collapse since 1929
  • The fact that we used taxpayer money to bail out the companies that caused the collapse
  • The fact that the beneficiaries of the bailout still expect $10 million personal bonuses
  • Bernie Madoff
  • The Great Recession
  • The woeful state of our 401(k)s
  • Saying goodbye to retirement
  • Moderate Republicans and Democrats being forced to leave their parties to keep their seats
  • The Henry Louis Gates arrest, which caused nearly everyone in the country to take sides according to racial affiliation
  • Octomom, the “balloon boy” incident and other idiotic pseudo-news concocted by desperate celebrity wannabes
  • The rise of “Birthers,” “Tea-Baggers” and other manifestations of right-wing Obama Derangement Syndrome
  • Prominent polarizers Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Keith Olbermann, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi
  • Double-digit unemployment
  • 14-digit national debt
  • After endless debate, still no affordable health insurance for the self-employed and unemployed
  • The sickening suspicion that lobbyists and rich financiers really do run our government
  • The icecaps and glaciers that continue to melt

Had enough desperately depressing recaps of the past ten years? Before you jump off the nearest bridge, remember that the decade wasn’t all bad. The Red Sox, White Sox and Phillies all took turns as World Champions. Harry Potter spawned a new generation of readers — at least until they reach high school. Facebook has been fun. And Obama actually turned out to be a moderate.

Still, based on all the evidence listed above, I think we can safely affix a descriptive label to the nameless 2000s: The Great Dismal Decade. In fact, I can’t think of another decade so dismal on such a grand scale, with the possible exception of the 1860s. (Even during that bloody decade, we still had colossi like Lincoln, Dickens, Melville, Walt Whitman, Longfellow, Victor Hugo, Brahms, Wagner, Disraeli, Tennyson and Queen Victoria strolling the earth.)

Will the new decade bring us a renewal of hope, success, vitality and high spirits? Or will it just be more of the same? Will we look back on The Great Dismal Decade as the last golden age before the final collapse of society as we know it? All we can do is tighten our seatbelts and hope for a smooth ride.

I just looked at my watch, and the new decade is here. Happy New Year, and God help us!

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Priscilla permalink
    January 2, 2010 11:37 pm

    ENG 371WR:
    Writing for Nonreaders in the Postprint Era

    Prerequisites

    Students must have completed at least two of the following.

    ENG: 232WR—Advanced Tweeting: The Elements of Droll
    LIT: 223—Early-21st-Century Literature: 140 Characters or Less
    ENG: 102—Staring Blankly at Handheld Devices While Others Are Talking
    ENG: 30—Advanced Blog and Book Skimming
    ENG: 231WR—Facebook Wall Alliteration and Assonance
    LIT: 202—The Literary Merits of Lolcats
    LIT: 209—Internet-Age Surrealistic Narcissism and Self-Absorption

    Required Reading Materials

    Literary works, including the online table of contents of the Huffington Post’s Complete Guide to Blogging, will serve as models to be skimmed for thorough analysis. Also, Perez Hilton’s Twitter feed.

  2. January 3, 2010 9:33 am

    Ha… good one, Priscilla! And frighteningly close to the truth.

  3. January 4, 2010 2:57 pm

    I like all the points, but I would also mention the election of Obama, as this was proof that the soundbite generation has shown its power. I’m trying to look back to find a less-experienced and less-qualified president that has attained the office (including GWB) and can’t find one. Way to end the decade with a stinker!

    • January 4, 2010 5:31 pm

      Well, Obama sure looked impressive enough during his campaign despite the inexperience. I could have mentioned Obamamania, though: the widespread conviction that we were witnessing the coming of the Anointed One.

      • January 5, 2010 3:16 pm

        I wasn’t so sure Obama looked impressive. It more appeared his competition was weak at best, and the American people have become more interested in style than substance. Unfortunately, the lack of substance has become more apparent to most after the election.

  4. January 4, 2010 3:06 pm

    I Knew the decade sucked….but now I am truly depressed……lol….great list!

    • January 5, 2010 3:17 pm

      This guy (lobotero) has a pretty sweet list himself. Check it out.

  5. January 4, 2010 5:32 pm

    Thanks, lobotero; I just hope the summary I write ten years from now isn’t more depressing than this one.

  6. Taliesin Knol permalink
    January 8, 2010 10:05 pm

    Ah, Rick, you had to say it. Cynics(not to be confused with pessimists) should always know, it can and probaly(“probaly” the difference between Pessimists&Cynics) will, get worse. I won’t write a list of things that can go wrong, I will proceed to ruin your decade by letting your imagination think of some… Say hi to your eventual therapist for me!

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