03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

A New Year: Adieu To The Oughts

The thought is just dawning on many of us that we are not simply celebrating a new year, but a new decade. And even more to the point, nobody's talking much about the dawn of a new era. In fact, it feels like we barely made it through the first decade of the new millennium. We who suffered through these last ten years are apparently too shell-shocked, exhausted, cynical and/or surrendered to expect any better from the decade to come.

But I'm here to give at least the possibility of good news. Decades matter. Think about the 1950's versus the 1960's, for instance. That's how different one decade can be from another. So there's no reason we shouldn't start putting the past behind us and thinking about how we'd like the next decade to be--hopefully one that is far, far better than the one we left behind.

Every millennium deserves a second chance. So, we got off to a bad start in 2001. Time to shake it off. Give it another go. Learn from our mistakes. There are some practical ways we can help this along. For instance, it would be helpful to give the first and second decades of the new millennium their own special names. We can begin by looking back to the 1900's for guidance.

Back then, our grandparents called the 01-09 years "The Oughts." (As in "Grandpa was born in Ought Eight" for example.)

The Oughts fairly reek of pull yourself up by the bootstraps optimism. They convey the sense that all the best that modernity might have to offer lay just ahead. Fueled by the grit and hopes of waves of immigrants, coupled with the still beating heart of the pioneer spirit, the American dream is compelling and potent.

So, now we've just gone through our own version of the 01-09 years of the new millennium. But with the American dream in disarray, it hardly feels justified to call this last decade "The Oughts." In fact, it rings truer to me to refer to these past ten years as "The Ought Nots."

We Ought Not have had to go through such a dreadful decade. Terrorists Ought Not act out their grievances through violence directed at innocent people. Wall Street Ought Not be so greedy. People with differing political perspectives Ought Not be so disrespectful to one another. You get the idea.

Looking forward, what could come after The Ought Not decade? Comprised as they are of both pre-teen and teen numbers, it doesn't feel quite right to call the years of '10-'19 of any millennium "The Tensies." Nor does referring to them as "The Twixt" or "The Tween" years embrace the complete set.

Looking to the 1900's for inspiration falls short in this regard. Rather than come up with something snappy like "The Roaring Twenties," they simply defined them as the First World War era, and left it at that.

Lacking a helpful precedent, we are left on our own in the effort to put a more positive spin on our hopes for the decade that is dawning. And perhaps, even with the best of intentions, one Ought Not to name something before its time. But when we do (and I welcome your suggestions!) let's do our best to earn a name for our era that will be worthy of us.

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