Wed 30 Dec, 2020 06:25 pm
Weird question that I sometimes haphazardly, semi-coherently wonder about — apologies in advance for the rambling to come. (In fact, I vaguely feel like I already did this at some point..)
Most decades of the 20th century conjure up a pretty clear image. They carry strong connotations. The 1960s? Hippies, rebellion, cultural transformation, revolution, etc. The 1950s? Economic growth, the emergence of a prosperous middle class, rock and roll — but also a stifling cultural conformity. The 1930s? Mass unemployment, poverty, crisis, the rise of fascism.
When it comes to the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s, associations might be more mixed depending on where you're coming from — we'd probably end up with some contradictory keywords when free-associating. But there's no denying that most of us have a pretty clear feeling about what embodied each decade for us, at least — what we instinctively think made it stand out.
For the 1980s, for example, you probably immediately think of yuppie culture, consumerism, the rise of finance — but, at least if you're European, you might also think of the flip side, the massive anti-nukes protests, the peace movements, squatters, post-punks and goths, etc — and in any case Reaganomics and Thatcherism loom large over both. Or maybe you just think of the imagined suburban, pre-digital, more innocent childhoods of "Stranger Things". Regardless, whether you think of a stock-trading, coke-sniffing yuppie, a PLO-scarf wearing squatter, or a Dungeons & Dragons playing nerd, it's all very.. "eighties".
You can do the same for the 1990s, and that would be cool — but from the nihilism of grunge to the hedonism of rave culture, from gangsta rap to Britpop, against an overarching backdrop of Clinton/Blair-ite neoliberal optimism, there are things that are very 90s, right?
But for the 21st century, I'm lost. Did I get too old, or to distracted by personal stuff, to get a grip on the driving moments and phenomena that would normally define a decade in the public imagination? Or did culture, broadly defined, just get more fragmented, with too many countervailing trends and subtrends?
Broadband Internet and mobile phones — digital culture going from niche to something all-encompassing — sure, that defined the 21st century overall so far. But specifically, the 00s? The 10s? What are your visceral, intuitive, immediate associations — culturally, politically, musically, whatever?
Social chaos media took off. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the such.
Then there was the end of the dot com bubble as the internet highway grew and matters began stabilizing, shifting.
Social isolation became more common. First cellphone usage grew, then texting, eventually smartphones which are able to supply YouTube, Netflix and newspapers, as well as television and radio stations.
The political landscape across the globe had some interesting and often fascinating as well as difficult shifts. Not only in the United States.
Brexit began to redefine what had become Europe.
India took huge strides forward, as it starts to grow into a more robust and formidable part of international trade and economy.
Terrorism took a new and decidedly frightening approach and hit the U.S. in ways that the nation had not seen or felt in such levels before.
Global warming grew by leaps and bounds, finally waking up some people. Unfortunately, not enough and a bit too late to avoid the devastation now kicking at the door.
Music continued, often bringing in new stars and sounds and almost as quickly snuffing out their careers as one or two hit wonders.
Michael Moore contributed to attempting to educate folks on various issues. Some of his initial appeal faded as he became annoying and sometimes less relevant in the time of cellphones with video cameras in them
Oh, blogging became a thing. It also has added to dividing as bloggers are able to easily select who they will allow to have a voice. Much like many of the other platforms.
More things happened which can define the decades. It will be easier to figure in another 20 years.
I associate the 00s with the G. W. Bush/Dick Cheney administration and it's response to 9/11, and it's irrelevant invasion of Iraq that exacerbated the problem of Islamist terrorism in the world, and the perpetual War on Terror that it spawned.
The 10s I associate with the Obama Administration and the increased divisiveness between the political far-right and the center-left in the US. Around this time I noticed a breakdown of societal norms in the form of automobile drivers not using their turn signals to signal turns and lane changes. The disuse of signaling has become more pervasive. I suspect it has to do with the attitude of individualism that has exacerbated the situation with COVID-19 in the US.
In my perception self-optimization has become viral during the 10's. Before, that had not played such a big role for most people. I am thinking of all kinds of different things like weight lifting, a healthy diet, veganism or cosmetic surgery. But this is just my perception.
Online learning has also become quite popular in the 10's. For instance, I am thinking of online learning platforms liked edx.org or coursera.org. Even many students nowadays rather watch youtube learning videos instead of consulting a textbook.