About a dozen years ago, a discussion began about a subject that was important but kind of petered out without a resolution. It's been kind of hanging out there ever since, and with the end of the year quickly approaching, I figured that a definitive resolution might be in order. The question is what to call the decade whose final year is about to begin. With all that's gone on in the past eight years, much less the last eight months, we're stuck in the '00ze and we're going to have to dig ourselves out well into the '10s.
Names are important. Generally the naming of decades is a no brainer. The '60s were the '60s, whether you liked them or not. The first decade of every century was problematic, but until the 20th, no one reckoned time by decade. There were no references to a decade as something coherent until the 1890s, when a "Gay (original definition) '90s" aura was nostalgically recalled well past the Second World War.
People still talk about the "roaring '20s" and controversies of the '50s and '60s. Decade-ism took over the reckoning of history long ago, and decades have proven to elastic things. The 1950s lasted through the Kennedy Administration and the '60s lasted well into the 1970s, which culturally only lasted about five years. The 1990s was a long decade, lasting from the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 though 9/11. It was a coherent whole, but we didn't know what its parameters were until it was over.
What we're in is definitely a coherent whole. North America and Europe has been in a miasma that is not only military, but also cultural. The new glossy tabloids that took over the newsstands in the late '90s took over popular culture and what followed was a superficiality that dominated everything, especially that fear-based politics that the Republicans used to such devastating effect after 9/11.
We were clearly stuck in something. The Bush administration's deliberate incompetence -- after all, you can't make people actually want to get rid of the programs they depend on unless you make them unworkable -- made this miasma even worse. I'm not sure whether or not the global scale of the thing was our fault or the fault of other others. Europe had it just as bad as we did. Germany re-elected a lousy government just to spite us in 2002. Yes we were stuck in something, something we're still in. The lack of linguistic suffix "-ties" for the first decade of the century leaves us with a perverse opportunity. An apt name for a decade: We're most definitely in the '00ze. The question is, are we going to dig ourselves our with the coming of Obama, or will we sink through it at the dawn of the '10s (pronounced "tens", no use alienating a generation of adolescents even further), which may, God forbid, turn out to be worse.
We cannot know, as in the cases of the Kennedy assassination or 9/11 when the '00ze will or has ended until we can identify what exactly the '10s first hallmarks are. But the first step to a cure is to identify the problem, and to identify the problem is to name it. It's name is the '00ze. Let's get out of it already.
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