A Decade So Bad, It Didn’t Even Have a Name And No One Even Knows It’s Ending

The twin realities are this: on September 11th, 2001, every single member of my generation plugged in a computer and started staring at a screen and no one has turned it off or looked away since.   What followed is eight years of the worst American politics since Richard Nixon and a decade where absolutely nothing new happened.  No new genres, no new styles, no new forms, ideas, anything.  There were new versions of things that had already happened.  There are a thousand depressing and brain-damaging reasons why everything is different and everything is exactly the same but when Lewis Lapham said that in the advent of the Internet that “history would be flatlined” he was right.  The Beatles have new albums out, Nabokov’s final novel was published, Nirvana just released a live DVD, and the other day I got a big compliment on a sweater I bought in 1996.

Look don’t get me wrong: I’m not in a bad mood.  I had a pretty boss morning, this morning: an incredibly cold commute by foot and MAX to work, for sure, but bolstered with a piping hot cup of Stumptown and a digital copy of Mississippi Records “The Way Up The Hill: 20 Gospel Hits from the 70’s” singin’ praise through my headphones.  At work I got to unwrap a copy of the Sunday Times from its blue plastic sheath — what an awful thing, in 2009!  The plastic wrapper, the home delivery by truck, the sacrificed trees to make pulp: all things that lots of folks can easily convince you are terrible, terrible stuff.  And yet there it is, that glorious feeling, a big-ass Sunday Times to unfold and flip through, browse, dig, absorb…ah…Sunday. If there were ever a more appropriate day for — now don’t reach for your revolver just yet – but yeah I gotta say it: tradition, maaaan.

Still, it’d a decade that bothered me, and not just for all that bad music and bad politics: every decade has that.  What bothers me is the missed opportunity, and the displacement of the values that matter.  I don’t mean frackin’ family values or religious values or political values, I mean who’s yr fav’rite band in the whole wide world?  Who’s America’s greatest author?  Who is the world’s mightiest painter?  Which composer do we value the most?  It’s been a long, long ass time since anyone could agree on an answer for any of these questions, and lately you’ll be hard pressed to find any answer at all.  These days best you might get is “Wait, the greatest what?  Ok hold on [type type type] let me look it up.”

The equation is leaps in technology = falls in culture.  The more you interact with that keyboard and click with that mouse the less you’re going to be doing pretty much anything else.  And “They” — come now, you haven’t gotten so pragmatic, sober, and informed that you no longer believe in “They”, right? — “They” have taken note of this.  Let’s clear the paranoia up first: “They” are just the geniuses of capitalism.  They are those who made the most money.  A lot of Them are You, now, as you read this Blog, looking for the thing that I am telling the people that you can tell the people that you can sell back to the people, and so forth.  Right then.

Maybe the World’s Greatest Band was just what they were selling you, but ever since you started stealing it with your computer they started watching you, sitting there in your chair staring at that screen, and they asked themselves, what kind of screen is the most stared upon screen in all of the world, throughout all of history?  That’s easy: the mirror.  And they found new ways of getting you to look at yourself, your JPEG, your avatar, your profile, your website, your live journal, and they are continuing to find ways to make money off of the assured fact that you will continue to do this because who doesn’t look into a mirror every day before they leave the house?  Except now you can check your mirror while waiting for the bus, while riding the bus, while walking to work from the bus — and you can even check it at work just like you are doing so right now. You’re the greatest painter, the greatest poet, the greatest cellist, the greatest bassoonist, the greatest basketball player ever to live.  Why pay money for someone else’s product, the inferior one?  Pay for yourself, the greatest there ever was and ever will be.

I don’t have a lot of answers just yet — I don’t have a “Best Of” list either but I am incredibly surprised that I’m not  seeing this sort of thing everywhere with what — three weeks left in the decade?  Honestly, does anyone even know its ending?  Compare this to December, 1989, 99…where’s that sense of the “new”?  New is something you track on Macrumors.com, perhaps, or is it announced on Twitter first?  Ok, Ok, I know, I sound grumpy, but I am telling you I am not.  I am hopeful.  What do I want for this upcoming decade?  I do want a Greatest American Author.  I want a music we can Agree on.  I want “change” that actually changes.  I want us to be a whole lot happier than we were for the last ten years.  Or angrier.  Yeah or maybe much angrier.  But goddammit I want us to feel shit.  I don’t want anyone to curb their enthusiasm.  You don’t need a pill to pretend it’s not wrong.  Maybe it is wrong.  But there’s nothing wrong with feeling that.

The Age of Feelings.  I mean holy crap, can you even imagine?

24 thoughts on “A Decade So Bad, It Didn’t Even Have a Name And No One Even Knows It’s Ending

  1. This post sums up the general lethargy that’s been plaguing pretty much everyone. We’re only a few weeks from New Year’s Eve and no one cares.

    I thought it was just this year, but I’m with you that it’s this whole damn decade.

  2. hohummm well good points i guess and ya know until i read this i actually had no idea that we were at the end of a decade, i also had no idea how much i actually really do look like sarah palin holy shitballz. i think you should look at the brightest side of all of this, you made your goddamn blog SNOW and you are still getting compliments on a sweater you bought in ’96. so ummm yeah good shit, happy fucking new years.

  3. Okay, a couple things:

    I like how this guy writes. It’s very conversational and accessible, and not too pop-culture referency to seem trite.
    I don’t like how disconnected the writer seems. I enjoy cynicism when it’s equal parts inward to outward. The craziness of being a cynic comes from being able to critique the world around, but to also be aware enough to think, “But who the fuck am I, anyway?” Which brings me to my next point:
    Who the fuck am I, anyway?
    Nothing new? If you look at all technology since the lightbulb, it’s all been slightly altered variations on the same goddamn thing. If we had the ability to experience every single variation of the lightbulb from conception to the computer I’m typing this on, which one stage would we pick to be the most influential? I guarantee you’d be hard pressed to find several moments where everything was radically altered. The reason that we can look back and pick out these moments is because:
    We were not alive then and therefore only have what’s passed down to us.
    What’s passed down to us is what was monumental to the people then.
    Those people weren’t constantly following each new upgrade in technology, but instead were only alerted when there was some new giant breakthrough.
    When you apply this thinking to all things, (music, movies, culture, fashion, people) it stays true. Fact of the matter is, big things were happening every single day, but there was no way for people to be constantly updated on every single big thing that happened. Then the internet happened. Now every single little change that occurs we are made immediately aware of. I would say once a week I see something that blows my mind. How often do you think this came for the people in 1960? 1970? How about the 80’s or 90’s? Every couple of months, if you’re lucky? When everyone is so tapped in to one another, every single bit of information seems less special because it’s commonplace. People become less passionate about any one band or movie or anything because there’s so damn much of all of it, and that’s the way it fucking should be. Nobody agrees because no one has ever agreed; the problem was that there were only a couple of voices. Now everyone has a voice, and all those people who had been disagreeing get to disagree and be heard (well, if not be heard, they get to be lumped into a group of people who think kind of similarly to them and that group gets to be heard). Yes, on the other end, this just comes out sounding like noise. Tons of people talking and no one left to listen. I understand this plight. But this is what people always wanted. Which brings me to my next point:
    I don’t believe everything happens for a reason, but I do believe everything happens. To argue that something is worse today than it was however long ago is short-sighted bullshit. The scope of things are changing, yes. People care much less that this decade is ending, because who cares? It’s a decade. We saw the turn of a millenium, motherfucker, call us when that happens again. We are not so delusional to think that January 1st, 2010 will be unrecognizable next to December 31st, 2009. Imagine if we found intelligent life on Mars, do you think cities would seem like such a big deal? No, the second we found those aliens playing backgammon, cities became microscopic on the scale of things. That’s what the internet has done, it has made everything smaller, more accessible. The turn of a decade is not a big deal because it isn’t. Your band is not a big deal because it isn’t. Everybody’s everything aren’t big deals because they aren’t big deals. Everything is a borrowed idea from somewhere in the past, just slightly altered. That slight alteration is a big fucking deal. That is new, that is now, and every single time it happens, everyone on the internet rejoices. Every band that comes out is someone’s all-time favorite band. Equally incredible. Same goes for t-shirts and movies and vacuums and politicians. Every single one is someone’s favorite. Gone are the days of, “Who is your favorite band?” “The Beatles!” and that’s a damn good thing.
    The internet is new, and so, people are abusing it. But give it time; like everything else in the history of humanity, a gray area will be found, and then we will find something else to be extremists about.

  4. If you don’t mind a half-assed historical analogy: We’re in 1497. The printing press has given us… Bibles, pornography, Aristotle, and Plato. Sure, Ficino’s got some interesting ideas on the soul, and Pico della Mirandola’s seems really upbeat about human nature… but where’s the new Aquinas? Where are the new ideas?

    The 1510s.

  5. What part of this post is so cynical as not to be Truth? None of it! The author is absolutely correct. The lost decade going into the New American Century has been an absolute disaster. Not only is there a dirge in imagination, but there is an unacceptable apathy surrounding the American population, who will follow anyone or anything anywhere but to a place of critical thought, self-actualization, or a reasonable view of the world that is imploding around us.

    Let’s all city around with our PBR-induced beer guts in a daisy-chain of social net-jerking until we live in an automated society of goons and morons. Or, let’s not. Perhaps it’s already too late for that.

    Anyways, enough griping. I’ve going to listen to some Belle & Sebastian on my iPod and Facebook it to all my friends.

  6. from Zizek, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce:

    “We have to accept that, at the level of possibilities, our future is doomed, that the catastrophe will take place, that it is our destiny – and then, against the
    background of this acceptance, mobilize ourselves to perform the act
    which will change destiny itself”

    and

    “…a new revolutionary agent capable of instigating the long-expected radical social transformation … takes the form of the old Hopi saying, with a wonderful Hegelian twist from substance to subject: ‘We are the ones we have been waiting for’ ( a version of Gandhi’s motto: ‘Be yourself the change you want to see in the world’)”

  7. Wow that post had me startled and intrigued. Maybe we’re the decade of Fusion? As in with music and culture? Or micro, or short attention spans or Facebook/Ipod. Maybe we’re the decade of being “so accessible we’re inaccessible”

  8. Very good article. I’ve found your site via Yahoo and I’m really happy about the information you provide in your posts. Btw your blogs layout is really messed up on the Kmelon browser. Would be great if you could fix that. Anyhow keep up the good work!

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