Cheers! The '00s are over at last.
Even though it's easy to pinpoint the worst aspect of the first decade of the 21st century (George W. Bush) there are many other things to dislike about it. Here are just a few:
The decade's over and still nobody can figure out what to call it. ---
It's not like we didn't have any advance warning about it -- people knew the '00s were coming for weeks and weeks at least. Ample time to come up with a good name.
Now, technically, the single-digit years in the first decade of a century are collectively known as "The Tens," while the second decade is "The Teens". But this was confusing since most people feel that, logically, tens should be immediately followed by twenties.
So, for awhile, people were making various suggestions (e.g., "The Zeroes," "The Oughts," and even "The Oh-Ohs") in hopes theirs would catch on. None did, and the effort sort of petered out around 2003.
It's not really over.
Remember 10 years ago when everybody was so excited about it being the 21st century?
We were partying like it was 1999 until some pedantic dork did the arithmetic and discovered that, since there was no year called "0", the century wouldn't begin until 2001. (Way to bring down the party, pedantic dork!)
So the 10th year of the 21st century -- the year which concludes the decade -- is actually 2010, not 2009.
Still, even though by the Gregorian calendar the presumed year of Jesus' birth was 1 A.D. (give or take a few years), nobody living at the time called it that. In addition to all the systems that were in use throughout the world, people in that particular region would mostly have used either the Roman or Jewish calendars. It wasn't until 500 years later that a monk named Dionysius Exiguus (Dionysius the Little) devised the A.D. system.
But we're well rid of this dumb decade so, since calendar numbering systems are so arbitrary anyway, we may as well declare it good and dead.
It's the decade that finally broke America.
Other decades looked like they might destroy the nation -- the 1860s, 1930s and 1960s were all tough customers, for instance -- but it was the dumb old 2000s that finally brought us down.
The electoral system will never work again; the treasury has been siphoned off to private corporations which now conduct our wars and are largely immune from our laws; fear has replaced optimism in out political system to such an extent that now half the nation regards the other half as evil; and decades of starving the education system has produced an electorate that distrusts rational arguments and is capable of responding only to emotional appeals.
But, hey -- maybe we can fix that in 2010!
It's the decade we learned we could do without talent.
It started way before 2007, so we can't blame the Writers Guild of America strike. Still, reality programming was a neat way for TV producers to cut expenses -- in the form of actual plot development and dialog.
Decades ago, Broadway producers discovered a handy pennysaving tip: Musicals are cheaper when, instead of paying a writer/composer team, you buy the rights to 20 pop songs and get your cousin to string them together with some hack dialog. But after the 1999 success of that Abba travesty Mamma Mia!, the whole "jukebox musical" thing took off to an unhealthy extent, and throughout the 2000s, Broadway was flooded with such unforgettable works of devastating genius as Our House (featuring the music of the 1980s British pop-ska band Madness), Movin' Out (featuring the music of perennial New Jersey mope Billy Joel) and Lennon (featuring the music its producers could bring themselves to cynically strip-mine from the vault of rock genius John Lennon).
Newspapers gave up on investigative reporting when it become more economical to either lay off their top writing talent, or simply force writers to crank out daily dreck.
And books? Nobody reads books anymore.
It's the decade we learned we could do without us.
Communications technology made it possible for us to stay in contact with each other to a greater extent than ever possible.
And then we discovered it was easier to deal with technology than with actual people.
So now we text those who are absent, and ignore those in the same room. Human contact is outré, and unless you're in a theater or classroom, it has become an affront to turn off your cell phone, since that might mean you'd miss the latest vital status update about Helen's experience with a rude customer-service rep.
We're constantly available, so we have no real privacy -- yet we don't talk, so we're lonely. Time that was once spent socializing with friends is now spent "social networking" with strangers -- a pastime which, lacking normal social constraints, has mostly devolved into an ego-driven quest to maximize one's followers.
Still, why dwell on the negative, particularly during National Denial Week (Dec. 26-Jan. 1) (which really should be extended throughout the whole year)? Better to focus on the task at hand: celebrating a Happy New Year and happy new decade. May the next one be much better!
It could hardly miss.