Our Homophonic Decade

So are you guys sick of decade reviews? Yeah, me too. But suck it up! Put on some Radiohead and switch out your Vans for a pair of New Balances, cause this ride ain’t over.

Don’t expect any lists here, no best bands or great assassinations, best George Clooney movies. Leave that to the professionals. Instead, please enjoy this random assortment of musings. I know you like it.

I think the change in decade this go around is a bit weak, though I suppose our having just moved into another millenium might have left us a bit unenthousiastic for something as unremarkable as a ten year mark. It’s a strange phenomenon given the fact the we have otherwise organized the past century by decade, each one like a character in a pulp fiction: the hard worn thirties, the clean shaven fifties, the douchebag eighties–they’re all here for your delight. But I’ve had considerable difficulty pinpointing who this past decade might be. I have similar difficulty with the nineties, but even then I rather picture them as a hippie who has matured into a more real idealism, a love of the earth and its peoples, its angst, rather than of the cosmos. But the zeros, the aughts–I’m stumped.

Perhaps the idea of the aughts might be of use. Consider its definitions. Only one decade has the privilage of being nominally recognized by something other than meaningless numbers (though I will jump on board with anyone who argues that numerals have characteristics beyond their numeric value, like 5 is a yeoman, 7 the dark queen–but I digress), and why not look, seriously or not, at how these other definitions might apply to this our most recent decade.

Anything whatever–well isn’t that just what I was saying. This was a decade of anything whatever, a wonderful mashup of expansive possibility with insouciance.

cipher, zero, naught–well, that’s the number definition.

to own, or, strangely, to owe–extremely interesting here given our recent market debacles and the beautiful, complicated, financial “instruments” that themselves obscure precisely these opposites.

eight–yeah, got me. Or maybe not. I read in a publication recently this decade described as the aughties, which is pretty close to the eighties, and well it certainly was a decade dominated by neo-conservatism and gross political delusion. Mega fun! I know, I’m being a bitch.

Okay, but maybe back to this ownership thing and the hidden homophone (I think): aught=ought. Was this the decade of oughts? We ought to have had Al Gore as President? We ought to have cleaned up Wall Street? We ought to have been writing original screenplays, tv shows? We ought to have stayed out of Iraq? It seems this list doesn’t really have any purchase. As much as we might have missed the boat on some things, we certainly jumped on others: Obama, hybrid cars, the glorious, glorious internet.

And it’s this last item that intrigues me most. While my thin, button pushing finger points to the nineties as the real birth of the internet (don’t even start talking to me about how the internet was around way before then–you know what I mean), I can’t help but feel it defines the aughts in some way that far exceeds its significance to the nineties. Beyond the fact that those real issues that otherwise took up the attention of the nineties: AIDS, multiculturalism, etc, are now once again safely in marginalia, it seems the internet means something more to people now–perhaps so much so that its meaning is fundamental, like the ability to walk.

Perhaps this could extend to consumer technology in a larger sphere that includes all the enabling devices, the crazy phones we have, the tvs that can stream anything, months worth of music in something the size of a wallet. Now I am a great believer in all these things. There is no doubt that these technologies have brought worlds together in a global community that might be down right utopian, depending on your definition. But the fervor that embraces it all makes me pause a long, conservative, Luudite pause. As my friend said over New Years, “science has a lot to make up for.” He is a brilliant individual, and he means that science has basically screwed us with its internal combustion engines and a-bombs and plastics and corn syrups, and now it has to right all those things with solar cells and smart grids and etc etc. Is it possible that we have just invented the CFCs of information, and we are going to regret it? I really don’t think so, but short of imagining some kind of Orwellian future of ADD citizens letting the colors juice their synapses, everyone a Google-badge wearing ruminant, I think some caution is warranted. We ought to do more than entertain ourselves, even if I can’t begin to imagine what that more could be.

So I’ll see you guys on the farm. Wear your feet well. Bring the words you have in your mind. Invite anyone who hasn’t eaten something in awhile. We’ll just sort of watch the light as it changes over the horizon and its trees, and then maybe we’ll know what to do next.

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