I wonder whether a lot of people have noticed it, but the first decade of the new century (and millennium) is over.
Many of my readers are too young to remember the (frequently synthetic and exaggerated) worldwide excitement that surrounded the turn of the last century. People like me, on the other hand, who were old enough to remember well because it all seems to have happened yesterday, have reason for both mirth and bemusement as we look back.
There were ‘millennial’ expectations galore, from the most gloomy sort (the world is soon going to come to an end…) to the most adolescent fantasies (we are soon going to migrate en masse to Mars, computers are going to educate us while we sleep). Most of the hyperbolic expectations have been – predictably enough – belied. Despite 9/11 and the Airbus A380 and Facebook and bird flu and the Harry Potter phenomenon and the current recession and the rise of China, I think the world of 2010 would be entirely familiar to any worldly-wise man from 2000 A.D. If that man also happened to be someone with a lively sense of history (meaning one who can easily go back a few hundred, or even thousand years in his mind, and can therefore remember so many things that have happened so often before), 2010 could in fact have been boring by its over-familiarity – coming after all the hype and hoopla, that is to say.
I should like my readers to disagree with me here. I should like them to tell me about all the really epoch-making things that have happened in the last ten years: things that are going to change our lives drastically and forever, and therefore will be remembered vividly a hundred years hence. The way, I mean, that (picking great events roughly ten decades ago at random) events like the publication of Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, Einstein’s annum mirabilis (1905), the first aeroplane flight, the discovery of the electron, the passing of Queen Victoria, the Russo-Japanese war which cracked the myth of white invincibility after a three-century run, the first great successes of the women's suffrage movement, the early political upheaval in Russia (which would lead to the world being torn into two a little more than a decade later) shook up the world…? Or would they agree with me that it has in comparison been rather a damp squib?