Saturday, January 2, 2010

The 21st Century Gets Under Way

by Richard Crews
How shall we assess the "Oughties"? It was a time of worldwide terrorism; the emergence of global warming as a stark scientific reality; the world's only remaining super-power stomping around in cowboy boots promulgating torture, preemptive warfare, and anti-diplomatic international snubbing; and Alan Greenspan strong-arming Keynesian economics into the worst rich-poor disparity the world has ever known with financial greed of epic proportions finally collapsing into the Great Recession. Time magazine has called the first decade of the 21st century the "Decade from Hell."

On the other hand, history is more a stodgy dowager than a hysterical mistress. It sits back, aloof, in its ivory tower and refuses to pass judgment on the turmoil in the streets below until after the smoke and dust have cleared. Perhaps history will see the Oughties as, more predominantly, the decade when the Internet transformed our lives through Google, Wikipedia, blogs and video on demand, YouTube and e-readers and GPS in our pockets, email everywhere we go, on-line connectivity from airplanes, and Christmas shopping from Amazon.

Perhaps also of powerful significance (though in a very different dimension--from a very different point of view), in the Oughties we learned, more than in any other prior time, to be calm and accepting, even playful, in the face of surging technological change. And that, in the longer historical view, may turn out to be the most important hallmark of this puzzling decade we have just survived.