by Rich Herschlag
We have never known more about others and less about ourselves.
How bad did this decade suck? Well, let’s put it this way. The damn thing never even got a name. Not one that stuck. The aughts never did it for me, nor did the ‘00s do it for anyone else, which is really saying something for a nothing decade.
But it’s worse than that. There is almost no mention of this sorry decade’s impending end. Saddam Hussein’s funeral was better attended. This decade is headed for a burial in the Potter’s Field of cultural history. You might argue that we’re still hung over from all the VH1 top one hundred lists at the close of the last millennium, but ten years was certainly enough time to string together a few clips of a doped up Paula Abdul stammering on American Idol and call it a retrospective.
This was a decade during which the Dow opened around 11,600 and closed around 10,500. Meanwhile, the national debt began around $5.6 trillion and reached around $12.9 trillion. Don’t worry, though. Lots of people got rich. Just not us.
This was a decade in which we all feigned surprise when the banks collapsed and feigned more surprise when they were rescued like Miss USA drowning in a lake. It was business as usual edited for television. What Bernie Madoff did was standard practice. He just did too much of it to too many powerful people. Somewhere, somehow, Bernie deserves a medal for distracting public attention from the fact that we sent in renegade U.S. corporations like Blackwater to occupy sovereign nations and act with utter impunity.
This was the decade of the reality show that bore no similarity whatsoever to reality. This was a decade that began with Kelly Osbourne popping Vicodin and ended with Jon and Kate Gosselin’s agents pursuing spinoffs. This was the decade in which the dramatic plot died and in its place was put an HD camera recording every inebriated trailer park spat, catfight, liposuction procedure, girl-on-girl hookup, and crystal meth factory raid cable producers could dredge up on Craigslist. We faded in on Monica Lewinsky and faded out on Tiger Woods.
The Internet wasn’t invented or even popularized during the decade. It just got better at selling porn. Sure, some of the other technological advances were impressive. You can call anyone anytime from anywhere in the world for next to nothing. God is on our friends and family plan, but we have nothing to say.
This decade our children answered billions of standardized statewide multiple choice questions without ever learning much. That same time might have been better spent going to class, but in the New World Order every right answer is worth half a school lunch. Quick—who is the vice president of the United States?
This was a decade during which a man with the equivalent of a sixth grade education appeared to run the Western World. This was a decade in which the political hacks who actually did took the “free” out of “free market” while pirating U.S. coffers like crack-addicted sexaholics in a Tijuana whorehouse. This was a decade in which the methodical thinker who replaced the Three Stooges in the White House was given eight weeks to recreate the Garden of Eden.
This was a decade in which Americans gained billions of pounds while Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, and Slim-Fast made billions of dollars. More athletes than ever had to pee into a cup, and only twenty-three men over the age of forty-five were able to get it up without a pill. Fifty is the new twenty. Unfortunately, twenty is the new fifty. We have never known more about others and less about ourselves. Money still can’t buy love, but it’s coming so close why split hairs? Vacant-minded opportunist shills are given five million dollars to put their name to books no one reads. We treat stem cells better than kids.
We defend our marriages against non-existent threats before destroying our marriages all by ourselves. Politicians make it in bathroom stalls and we get screwed. We take our GPS everywhere but have no idea where we’re going. We text, blog, and twitter other texters, bloggers, and twitterers, guaranteeing that when we perish in a Ford Explorer tumbling down an embankment, the virtual community will know exactly what we were feeling.
We are no longer world leaders in manufacturing, medicine, research, education, civil rights, quality of life, or life expectancy. What we are world leaders in is telling the world what awesome world leaders we are.
We are the world capital of disillusioned delusional drugged-out desperados opening fire on innocent people in schools, offices, malls, post offices, and public squares. We don’t call this terrorism. Therefore, we are safe from terrorists.
Of course, a decade is just an arbitrary designation of an entity we call time marked by a number of revolutions of the Earth around the sun equaling the number of fingers on two hands and neither beginning nor ending coincident with a natural periodic phenomenon such as a solstice or equinox. And it is, of course, not the decade itself that is to blame but rather the folks who acted poorly during it.
In spite of all the negatives, then, there is hope because we are in control. That’s great, because frankly I don’t think I can take too many more decades like this one.
Rich Herschlag is the author of Before the Glory: 20 Baseball Heroes Talk About Growing Up and Turning Hard Times Into Home Runs (HCI, 2007). His other books include Lay Low and Don’t Make the Big Mistake (Simon & Schuster, 1997) and Women Are From Manhattan, Men Are From Brooklyn (Black Maverick, 2002).