What Just Happened | by Stephen Whitworth
It’s the end of another decade. That means it’s time to review selected events of the last 10 years and fabricate a grand metaphor about what it all means.
Here’s you’re stinkin’ metaphor for the twenty-tens: this was a decade that will be defined more by what came before it, and what comes after it, than by what happened in it.
The fact I just made that up doesn’t mean it’s not true.
Think about it: the first decade of this century was defined by 9/11 and its villains: George W. Bush, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and the rest of that gang of criminals. Those evildoers lied their country into two major wars, both of which continue to pile up bodies.
In 2000–2009 Canada, the scandal-ridden Jean Chretien era gave way to a pedantic, banal and brief Paul Martin minority before Stephen Harper’s arrogant petrocracy seized power. Among other nonsense (homophobia, racism, sexism, anti-science propaganda), Harper’s Conservative hobgoblins blocked Canada from climate change action for a decade. Rarely has any Canadian government at any level fizzed with the kind of naked hatred for the environment of Harper’s reformed Conservatives. Their ecocidal corporatism could go down as one of Canada’s most vile governments, assuming there’s a recognizable civilization recording history by the end of this century.
Yes, Harper’s sole majority came this decade, from 2011 to 2015, but despite (or maybe thanks to) the belligerence of its angry, radicalized and balding white male base it became so unpopular that Canada came close to electing the NDP. I mean, we didn’t, instead choosing Justin Trudeau’s Liberals over Angry Beard. (Well, most of the country did; Saskatchewan and Alberta’s ongoing experiments with self-inflicted electoral lobotomy make it unclear where we’re going. All I know is we’re getting there in a coal-powered pick-up truck. I digress.)
The 2010s also saw the rise of the far-right populism currently tearing apart the United Kingdom (see: Gwynne Dyer’s column this issue) and, umm, maybe pushing the United States into civil war? It would be nice to think Trump was an aberration, but there’s a very real danger he’s the first of a line of American strongmen.
We’ll see how this impeachment business goes.
There were of course notable developments in the 2010s: the rise of accountability movements like #meetoo, the climate movement symbolically led by Greta Thunberg, the actual possibility that more people than ever are starting to grasp the magnitude of societal maladies like systemic poverty, racism and sexism.
It was, arguably and with many caveats, a good decade for the LGBTQ community, which saw massive gains in acceptance worldwide.
There’s a LONG way to go on all fronts but it’s okay to take a minute to celebrate progress.
But drama? Even with Trump (and Rob Ford, and Jason Kenney, and Boris Johnson, and whatever deranged kangaroo is Australia’s current PM), the past 10 years can’t beat the decade before it for excitement.
And what about the next 10?
Unfortunately, it looks like we’re headed for terrifying times. The last two or three years gave us a taste, with one climate horror story after another: super-fires, massive floods, storms of ever-increasing violence and warning signs of ecological collapse (the bees! The beeeeeeees!!!). On deck: crop failures, regional devastation, global food insecurity, a billion climate refugees. Fun!!!
We’ve been in the eye of a storm for 10 years. Enjoy your coffee while you can afford it.
This paper is taking the first two weeks of January off; see you on the 16th. Until then: Merry Christmas, happy holidays and all the best for the new year! Let’s hope it heralds a future so bright and happy all my doom-and-glooming looks asinine.