Well, it was just 14 years ago when we opened up a shiny new century, but now it’s all dusty and smells like old people.
I don’t know why we can’t take better care of our things.
As it turns out, the 21st century is a lot like the 20th, except with more twerking. I can turn the lights in my house on and off with my cell phone now. Couldn’t do that back in the old days. Don’t know why I’d want to do it now, but it’s good to know I can. Well, I can’t, because I can’t figure out how to do any of the things my phone is supposed to do, but I could if I wasn’t, you know, an idiot.
Oh, and Congress is even less highly regarded than it was then, which I wouldn’t have thought was possible, but then I always tend to underestimate ineptitude. As reported in this blog right at the start of this year, Americans responding to an opinion poll ranked Congress below colonoscopies (really), even though they both involve assholes. By October, it was ranked lower than zombies (again, really), possibly because the walking dead at least have the good grace to be fictional.
Of course, we have a lot more security in this century. In fact, so far this is the most secure century ever, if you don’t count the Fourth Century BC, when anyone entering Greece had to have a cavity check (at least that’s what the guards said, but then they were ranked higher than colonoscopies*). Even with all the security, however, I think we felt safer last century, except not from 1914-1918, 1940-1945 and 1950-1991. The 20’s were mostly okay, I guess, if you like spats.
I think people feel poorer so far this century, unless they’re very rich. Much has been made of the widening gap between the wealthy and the rest of us, but I don’t think we’d mind that so much if we had more money. I mean, if I only had a thousand dollars, I might resent someone who had a million. But if I had, say, five million dollars, I wouldn’t care if some Wall Street banker had five billion, even though, in both cases, the other guy has 1,000 times what I have.** Put another way, it’s not the ceiling that’s the problem, it’s the floor.
If I had to put my finger on the biggest difference between this century and the last, it would be all this texting and tweeting and posting and Vining and whatever else probably got invented while I was typing these words. It’s no secret that we have a lot less privacy this century; I just don’t understand why we have so willingly ceded it. Sure, it was shocking to learn this year about all the ways our government is spying on us, but it’s not like we’ve made it difficult for them. We put the minutia of our lives online in the hope that somebody out there cares about our lives or, failing in that, that the video we posted of our wedding proposal will go viral and we’ll be invited to go on Ellen.
Why do people suddenly have this desire to instantaneously share their lives with complete strangers? Is it that we’re hard-wired to be impulsively public, and technology has finally caught up with evolution? Maybe YouTube is just the modern equivalent of cave drawings.
I don’t know–maybe I’m being too hard on this century. After all, it has seen the resurgence of the banjo in popular music, so there’s that. I’m sure sociologists would say it’s significant that we’re listening to folkier acoustic music from the likes of Mumford & Sons, that it’s a reaction to having technology take over our lives, and maybe that’s true.
Or maybe it just took four decades for the banjo to recover from Deliverance.
Keep in mind, though, that, while it seems to have been around forever, the century is still relatively new. I know it’s been a disappointment so far, but maybe it hasn’t really gotten going yet. Although, frankly, by this time last century, we’d already had three major theories (quantum, relativity and sexuality); two major earthquakes (Italy and San Francisco); a bunch of assassinations; and the introduction of Kelloggs Corn Flakes. Oh, yeah, and there was the little invention without which almost none of our current technology could exist: plastic.
So, come on, 21st Century–pick up the pace, will ya?
See you next year.
*Because they were gentle.
**On the other hand, maybe I would still resent the billionaire. It would be interesting to find out. If, in the interest of a social experiment, someone would like to give me five million dollars to research it, I’d be willing to be the guinea pig.