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Ten Years Gone


This is the last week of the decade. Some thoughts:

(1) As far as cyber-pedantry goes, one of the more annoying manifestations is the “actually the new decade starts in 2021 because there’s no Year Zero” crowd. (Remember the whole when does the new millennium really start controversy? Good times.) Decades are conventional concepts, and the conventional concept of a decade starts with the zero year. Saying the conventional concept is wrong is an oxymoron, since what makes conventional concepts conventional is convention.

Actually this objection to the pedantic objection might actually be more pedantic than the objection itself. Sorry about that.

(2) It’s going to be a relief to get back to decades that have non-problematic names. I literally never heard anyone call this one “the teens” or “the tens” or anything else for that matter. Did it even have a name? And “the aughts” was ridiculous. I’ve also literally never heard any American use the word “aught” in any context, except when clumsily trying to give the first decade of this century a name.

(3) Culturally speaking, decades don’t really track the calendar except loosely. For example, as a cultural matter the Sixties really ran from November 1963 to August 1974. Etc.

(4) In America, what will this decade be most remembered for? Let’s review the past century.

1920s: Easy: The Roaring Twenties. That one stuck.


For fear the hearts of men are failing,
For these are latter days we know.
The Great Depression now is spreading,
God’s word declared it would be so.

1940s: THE war.

1950s: Now it starts to get trickier. The essential nature of every decade after the 1940s is currently a subject of fierce political contention. Were the 1950s about stultifying conformity and McCarthyism, or was that when America was really white great?

1960s: Vietnam, civil rights, the counter-culture. The meaning of all three are of course still being contested every day.

1970s: Hmmm. Disco or punk rock? Stagflation or cocaine? Watergate or Saturday Night Live? So many choices.

1980s: Reaganism. The beginning of the New Gilded Age. Remember when respectable people were worried about how maybe we were getting too obsessed with money? Gordon Gekko! Those were the days my friend.

1990s: The internet. The End of History (whoops).

2000s: Terrorism and the New Normal. Twenty years later, almost, and we’re still taking off our shoes at the airport. A black man was elected president and half the nation went permanently insane.

2010s. This one is again super easy, unfortunately: The comeback of fascism.

Feel free to share your own misty water-colored memories.

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