“May you live in interesting times.” – Anonymous
“On second thought…” – Me
Growing up, I sometimes regretted that I had missed out on the “Swingin’ Sixties”, with all of that decade’s societal upheavals and explosions of creative freedom. Sure, you had a divisive and costly war, and I could have done without all those assassinations, but at least big stuff was happening!
As I look back on the past ten years of the “Still-Unnicknamed Zeroes”, I’d like to formally request a little less turbulence in the next decade. Please?
No era is devoid of history, but certain periods do seem to exceed their allotment of tumult, and we are mired in a doozy. I find myself reaching for “Superman”, “Seinfeld” and “Saturday Night Live” for the appropriate label.
I believe we’ve been living in the Bizarro Decade.
The Bizarros, for short.
Or, if you prefer, Bizarr-Os, although that makes it seem less like a momentous period in history and more like a sugary breakfast cereal.
As you may recall, Bizarro was the topsy-turvy opposite of Superman. From Wikipedia:
In the Bizarro world of “Htrae” (“Earth” spelled backwards), society is ruled by the Bizarro Code which states “Us do opposite of all Earthly things! Us hate beauty! Us love ugliness! Is big crime to make anything perfect on Bizarro World!”
Basically, it’s the “War is Peace” newspeak of Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” but with poorer grammar.
So many events from these past ten years make much more sense when viewed through a Bizarro prism.
From 2000 (“Me get less votes! Me President!”) to 2009 (“Us in debt! Us get money from Communist China!”).
From the frivolous (“Us network called Music Television! Us not play music!”) to the deadly serious (“Me in charge on 9/11! It not me responsibility!”).
Think I’m off base on that last one? Just this week, President Bush’s press secretary Dana Perino stated:
“We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush’s term.”
She made this claim to Sean Hannity on the Fox News Channel, whose slogan, “Fair and balanced,” surely emerged from a focus group on Bizarro World.
This is the same network where Craig T. Nelson brought new meaning to the name “Mr. Incredible” with perhaps the bizarro quote of the year:
“I’ve been on food stamps and welfare. Did anybody help ME out?”
Just as no conveniently-labeled generation is monolithic in its beliefs and behavior, no umbrella term for a decade is ever wholly accurate. The Twenties didn’t roar for everyone, and the last ten years were arguably more “Gay” than the 1890s, depending on your definition of the word.
And things haven’t been all bad. Just try getting through your day without an iPod (born in 2001), MySpace (2003), Facebook (2004), YouTube (2005), Twitter (2006), or even the Huffington Post (2005).
Yet as technology becomes more integral to every aspect of our lives, the certainties of science are sneered at by legions of global-warming doubters and evolution ignorers. For them, no amount of evidence is ever enough, just as “birthers” cling to their conviction that our president was not born in America, as if Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have eagerly seized on that to blast Obama out of the presidential race when she had the chance. (I do give anti-evolutionists credit for their internal consistency: their arguments don’t change over time.)
Our civil discourse has become less civil and more coarse, to the point where, not only can’t we agree on the proper solutions, we often can’t even agree what the problems are. In an envirionment so polarized and fractured, no wonder we haven’t found a consensus descriptor for the past ten years.
As we wind down the Bizarros and enter our new century’s Terrible Teens, desperate to steer out of the skid in which we find ourselves, it would be wonderful if our better angels and collective wisdom would lead the world to a new epoch of benevolence, prosperity, and peace.
But me not optimistic!