The errors of a decade

It is perhaps necessary at this point in the year, before January slips past and we stumble head long into 2010, to reflect on the significance of the passing of the first decade of the 21st century. Looking back it is perhaps the great misfortune of our generation that we were to come of age in the ‘noughties’; a decade which began shakily and went on to implode in a spectacular fashion.

‘9/11 ruined the prospects of the decade’

In retrospect the disasters of the later years were foreshadowed by the of tragi-comic images that greeted us in the early years of the new millennium: Tony Blair singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ with a bored Queen whilst hundreds of functionaries saw in the New Year stuck in public transport en route to the Dome, the inauguration of George W Bush as 43rd President after an election which he almost certainly hadn’t won, and then, as if on cue to cement these unpromising portents, came 9/11 which was turned from a human tragedy into an excuse for a group of academics to start justifying the carpet-bombing of slums from Fallujah to Jalalabad.

Essentially, 9/11 ruined the prospects of the new decade. There seemed little possibility after that any world power would behave in a responsible way. While Cheney set the Justice Department to work to find more Byzantine methods of justifying torture, America and her allies lost sight of other parts of the world, and from Myanmar to Grozny and Lhasa governments quietly got to work on the violent repression of minority groups.

Throughout, the one axiom we clung to was our own economic invulnerability. Even if the British had become partners in crime with Bush Jr, even if we were widely despised in Europe and the Middle East for our spinelessness, even if our country had become unhappy and dispirited – at least we were still rich.

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As if inevitable, came the crash and we were left laughing emptily at old footage of a younger Gordon Brown announcing an end to boom and bust. A broke and unpopular Britain has emerged into a new decade – which will no doubt have its own chances ruined by being a given a name like the ‘teenies’ – and our generation is left wondering what exactly to do with ourselves. My advice: start learning Chinese, maybe Hindi.