Contributors to h+ magazine were invited to submit their choices for the best and the worst of the 2000-2009 decade.
As the bad got a lot worse…
Future historians may look back and refer to the decade just concluding as The Bush Era. From the flawed, flummoxing election of 2000 to the disastrous decision to invade and occupy Iraq, and from his bungling of the economy to his criminal disregard for the Constitution, no single figure had a greater impact on the world in the last ten years than George W. Bush.
The terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 were traumatic, but their historical perspective would loom much less large if not for a disproportionate and misguided response — including the Iraq War, secret prisons, torture, and the extensive but illegal warrant-less domestic spying on U.S. citizens.
The global economy lurched from one setback to another, resulting in stagnating real incomes for everyone except the tiny minority of the ultra-rich who got a lot richer as wealth disparity reached historic heights. Meanwhile, the decade’s actual worst problem, and quite possibly the whole new century’s worst problem — rising temperatures and melting ice caps, leading toward runaway climate chaos — was largely ignored.
Our tools got a little better…
Mobile telephones were not invented in the 2000’s, but their arrival as fully functional handheld multimedia devices — carrying voice, text, photo, video, GPS, and web-surfing capacities — is an astonishing break from the recent past. We’ve not yet seen the full impacts of this people-empowering phenomenon, but we are witness to the birth of a remarkable change in human communication and connectivity.
The best thing that happened during The Aughts was the rise of new media, including social networks. MySpace, Twitter, and Facebook, among others, enabled people to make connections in new and surprisingly productive (if often trivial) ways. Blogs took huge strides toward supplanting and improving upon traditional news outlets, and online organizing made it possible for many new voices to be heard.
The ultimate triumph of an emerging 21st century sensibility was the election of the first African-American U.S. President, a signal achievement that could not have occurred in the absence of these powerful new tools. How Barack Obama’s term (or terms) in office will play out is a matter to be determined in the next decade, but for now, we can simply celebrate the arrival of a new dawn, cloudy though it might be.