Tuesday, 29 December 2009

The Ballad Of The Naughty Noughties

By Euclides Montes @gatulino

What will be the feature that comes to define the ‘noughties’ whenever future generations cast their critical eye on us? Would it be perhaps the belligerence of our political and religious systems? Or, maybe, the Warholian accessibility yet ultimately transience of celebrity? Or, perhaps, we’ll be judged under a more positive light as the generation where the seeds of environmentalism finally took roots?

As this decade draws to a close, we’ve had lists aplenty organising in a neat order the greatest moments/songs/places/etc of the decade but I’ve been instead pondering about that one defining feature that will always be associated with the ‘noughties’. Regrettably I don’t have the advantage of a magic ball to look into the future but as an avid observer of the “western experience”, I personally believe that the feature that will define the ‘noughties’ generation will be its quasi-instinctual belief that everything they want is not only possible but easily achievable as soon as they want.

This Veruca Salt-like mind set has been the feature that has shaped most of this dying decade and I wonder where it will eventually lead us. The 'I Want It All, I Want It Now' mantra of the noughties reached its logical conclusion in the rather fitting financial crash that plunged us into an uncertain economic environment for the last part of the decade. What the crash also revealed was an almost caricaturised version of the inherent greedy nature of our society in the form of the fat cats bankers and financial gamblers that led our economy to the edge of financial oblivion and also exposed the ideological bankruptcy of our collective political and social systems.

I understand many will view the statement above as a rather critical assessment of our society, but we have reached a point where the ideological glue holding us all together has been stretched to breaking point, revealing its weaknesses and giving us in turn a massive opportunity, if not a mandate, to take the reins again and shape our society into a fairer and more equal one.

It’s said that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince humanity he didn’t exist. Similarly, the greatest trick that greedy and unchecked capitalism pulled was to convince us that we can have anything we want, whenever we want it and at the lowest monetary cost possible. Do you want your fast food burger and chips? Pay a couple of pounds for it, never mind the Amazon being destroyed to breed cows. Do you want a £1 top? Go to your high street chain and buy it, never mind who made it and under what conditions. Do you want to have 6, 8, 10 holidays a year? Book and check in online and while you’re at it, put it on your credit card, never mind the cost to the environment or the fact you can’t really afford it yet. Do you want an 8 figure bonus at the end of the year? Gamble with someone else’s money, never mind the OAP who’ll have to do with less money since you’ve just lost their pensions.

Make no mistake about this, we’ve all bought into the ‘Veruca Salt mind set and we are partially responsible for the state of where things are. We need, almost like children, to learn the value and worth of ‘no’. No, we shouldn’t always have everything we want. Sustainability shouldn’t have to be a life choice but instead it should be part of the way we interact with our surroundings. I believe we are at a pivotal stage in our development as a species where a few tweaks in our ideological mind set could set us in the right path. And here’s where the heart of my ponder lies. How can we achieve that? We are about to embark on a whole new decade, how do we want the future to judge us? And are we capable of change at a social level and move on from the ‘I want it all, I want it now’ mind set to a fairer one where ‘at any cost’ is no longer part of our vocabularies? Or am I perhaps a raving dog barking at the wrong tree? I don’t know. What do you think?

O, and Happy New Year!

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1 comment:

  1. I think the noughties has to be remembered as the year we went to war - war on Iraq, war on Afghanistan, war on terror, war on sense.

    Excellent piece though. I know that very few will agree with me on this one but I've always believed that the financial crash was not only inevitable but it was actually a good thing. That's not to belittle or disregard the suffering that already poor families have experienced over the last 18 months. BUT, we shouldn't have whatever we want whevenever we want. Credit does not make us rich and "stuff" doesn't make us happy. The pity about it is that "we" didn't take any responsibility because it was easier to blame Gordon and Sir Fred and all the while doom ourselves to the start of yet another boom and bust cycle.

    That said, new decades give us a clean slate (don't ask me why, that's just the rule)... a new start and a new chance to champion a fairer society just as you say Euclides. Anyway that knows the "how" of that feel free to shout it out loud and proud.