But our hangover from the 2010s will last forever
As the world gets hotter, older and faster, we are dislodging from time and place. The speed at which we get information is faster than ever before. The dreams of the internet as a great democratizing force dwindled in the 2000s, now buried with the “war to end all wars” sentiment of 100 years ago. The idea morphed into something else — an optimistic sidestep.
Technology, we felt, would always improve, and therefore, enhance our lives. The torchbearers of new knowledge were busy in labs and factories, making the future.
Ten years ago, the first decade of the 21st century came to a close. It was a decade marred by war, tech advances, panics both economic and moral, and the familiar drone towards the future. The light that shone in the developed world for every generation since the 1940s — the light that promised each generation that its children would have a better life — stayed shining. But torches flicker.
Fast forward 10 years. Do we even know where we are? As journalist Katherine Miller put it in an essay for Buzzfeed, “the 2010s have broken our sense of time.”
The events of 2011 foreshadowed the shape of things to come. In earnest, that year set the stage for where we are. Occupy Wall Street was born that year, with Idle No More coming to pass in 2012 and Black Lives Matter in 2013, with the overseas roar of the Arab Spring making headlines all the while.
Politically, the 2010s saw the cementing of former prime minister Stephen Harper’s legacy and the start of Justin Trudeau’s. And of course, south of the border, Barack Obama’s promise of change came to an end after two terms with Donald Trump’s election, amplifying far-right extremism.
But with the political horrors of the decade came individual liberation. Millions of us now check social media more habitually than our shoelaces, while Apple’s early claim that “there’s an app for that” has come true universally. “We’re all so connected, and all so isolated,” feels like a cliche from our grandparents’ era. It’s boring, but it’s true.
We once had murky visions of the future that included terraforming a frozen Mars, operating flying cars, and enjoying virtual worlds with our loved ones. It was all very Jetsons.
These visions still exist. There is nothing brave or honest about consigning oneself to defeat. Thought leaders and politicians often advocate for increased civic engagement, but that concept must go beyond disciplining oneself to be an “informed voter.”
It is up to us, up to those who will fill the decade with our joys and terrors to harness what we once knew to be true. Hope, devoid of murkiness and fantasy and turned into a sharp vision of the future, is essential. There is nothing naive about hope when it lies hand-in-hand with power and progress — not the crass political power of high office, but the actual power of common people.
This power, in our now-sealed decade, took “Indigenous reconciliation” from an academic buzzword to a central issue of Canadian politics. That power took “the 99 per cent” from placards in Lower Manhattan to the main stage of national elections around the world. Our understandings of gender, class, ability, sexuality, race and mental health have advanced for the better in ways that make discourse from the recent past unrecognizable. Every political party has to have a climate plank in their platform — an issue that a majority of Canadians are now concerned about.
Go home this holiday season, whatever that means to you. Log off. Feel alone, then don’t. Watch your old favourites and soak in the comfort. Log on. Connect with the people you love. Remember that most of them need another 10 years from you, maybe more. And when you come back, with your belly warm and your nose cold, remember that we really are all in this together.
Mars is colder.