Eugh, opinions

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Requiem For A Rubbish Decade (Unamusing Version)

As I write this sentence we have 700 hours left of this decade. For me, and millions of others, this is a pretty big deal. It is the decade in which we came of age, the decade which birthed our adulthood, the decade that killed our innocence. And, so far, our decade has been a failure.

We entered this century on a wave of fear and anxiety, consumed by gloom over the phantom millennium bug and myriad other impossible Armageddons. Just over 18 months later on 9/11, our fears seemed to be realised, as scenes from a nightmarish action movie were spewed into our newsreel. They are the images which our decade will most probably be remembered for. Thousands died, and with them, our great hopes for a bright new millennium. What followed from those eclipsed dreams was a tornado of destruction that wiped out the lives of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Though we marched, though we voted, Blair resigned to a standing ovation in 2007, and Bush walked from the White House unimpeached.

The irony is that an atrocity which cost just half a million dollars to commit, and involved less than a hundred people, could wreak greater terror from our response than its perpetrators could ever have hoped for from its implementation.

That heinous act of asymmetric warfare ushered in a new epoch for human interaction. This has been the age of the individual, the age of ingenuity, the age of the connected. It was an age in which television was democratic, while our governments were not. Twitter, Facebook and Youtube forced the networks to make stars of ‘ordinary’ people. We voted for our gods with our phones and with our wallets, then cast them down into the pit of collective revulsion when our deities became too dull. Much of the story of this decade can be told in these two tales - the unwanted, undemocratic war that churned through the bodies of countless thousands overseas, and the over-responsive, creatively bankrupt culture, which fed off of our democratic instincts to create a cacophony of trivia that absorbed us in the hyperactive zeitgeist.

But there is another side to this story. In Britain, bloggers gave a home to rumours of a scandal in MPs expenses, a story which would come to rock the Palace of Westminster. In Iran, acts of dissent and rebellion which would have once been impossible were made workable through the decentralised network of Twitter. And in America, the power of the Internet broke the power of the party machinery, putting a man who would once have been kept as a slave in the White House. That these achievements all came in the last two years shows that we leave this decade with tools undreamed of by the generations that preceded us, generations that ended slavery, brought us the vote and defeated fascism.

But our decade is not yet finished, and it is not yet failed. As we enter this final month we, the people, have one last chance to redeem our age. In Copenhagen, five days from now, the most important talks in human history begin. Our leaders, weakened by false perceptions, and distracted by false solutions, have already declared the summit a bust. But in 2009 power is no longer the preserve of the few. Power is ours. This can be the decade in which the bright future we dreamed of back in 1999 begins. We can change our masters’ by making our voices too loud to be ignored. The old institutions are crumbling in a way unprecedented in human history. 2009 can still be the year we saved the world, if that's what you want.

Then come to Copenhagen: march, take action, blog, film, tweet, do whatever it is you do, because now is the time to do it. We are not the prisoners of history, we are its authors. Come, write your story. Do it now.

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