Everywhere I turn, people are happy, nay, ecstatic, that the aughts are over. Just in time for us to pin a name to it. Paul Krugman’s retrospective may be the grumpiest I’ve found to date, with the proclamation that, “It was a decade in which nothing good happened.” Nothing good happened! New York Magazine has been a little kinder, a little more balanced, justifiably pointing out that, “If, at the start of this decade, somebody had told us that New York would shortly be attacked, leaving thousands dead and the city’s two tallest buildings a smoldering pile, leading to two wars in distant lands against a mostly unseen enemy, and that the economy would later collapse under the weight of bad debt, driving the local unemployment rate north of 10 percent and pulverizing three of the five largest Wall Street firms, well, we might have asked if there was a fast-forward button we could press.” And well, yes, that’s hard to argue with. Also, can my fast-forward button include skipping things like anthrax, crocs, and this guy?
But with everyone beating up on the wee little aughts (the new millenium ages zero through nine! it’s just a baby!), I’m sticking by ’em for a couple reasons. So, off the top of my head and in no particular order, here’s my “Despite Everything” list of thanks:
- Graduating three times in one decade, from middle school (shut up, it counts) to high school to college. Even if I only wore a cap and gown for one of them, the aughts still bestowed mounds of educational generosity on me — and almost all my friends.
- Google (not a verb ten years ago!), iThings, Facebook, blogs, etc. Which have forever changed our dinner table conundrums from “Go check in the World Book” to “Go Google it,” resulting in greater speed, accuracy, and multiplicity of opinion. I know grouches out there who find it terribly fashionable to explain that such hyper-connectivity is making us more isolated. But I can tell you what my seventh-grade best friend studied in college, and I haven’t seen her in eight years. And spare me the “hyper-awareness does not equal intimacy!” spiel, because the thing is, I can call OR write OR text her. Whenever I want. Can you? Of course not, Grouch, you still think a tweet is just a bird call.
- Thank you locavores. Even though I make fun of you, even though I haven’t read Omnivore’s Dilemma, and even though it’s a fairly elitist movement complete with stupid things like celebrity butchers, which indeed suggests that our culture hasn’t achieved gastronomic balance at all, but simply replaced its mindless consumption of Big Macs and blood bananas with an entitled fetish for organic swiss chard and single-origin coffee beans — STILL. It’s cool people care about where their foods come from. For the world’s ecology, for the local economy, for personal health and for taste’s sake, it matters. And how cool that we’re starting to care.
- Thank you Obama for (pay attention, dear reader) conclusively proving that my generation isn’t passive, bored, boring, disconnected, apolitical, and, in short, doesn’t suck. Which is something many grouches have felt terribly fashionable proclaiming for the last ten years. Can middle-aged white men stop using the Times editorial page to hand down judgments like, “Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy didn’t change the world by asking people to join their Facebook crusades or to download their platforms. Activism can only be uploaded, the old-fashioned way — by young voters speaking truth to power, face to face, in big numbers, on campuses or the Washington Mall,” please? Your arguments are just that: old-fashioned. And you’re only convincing yourself.
- Harry Potter, the death of bell bottom jeans (again), the burgeoning availability of cheap travel, Jurassic Park on something hardier than VHS tapes, and the fact that I have aged ten years away from listening exclusively to boy bands and bubblegum pop.
Thank you, aughts, and hello, twenty-teens, a brave new world that will hopefully contain as much messy, delicious fun as its first night.
What are some of your aught thanks?