The 21st century just got realer.
I minored in history while at college in the late 90s/early 00s. I had an amazing American history professor who brought it alive with passion and sarcasm. He made us read Horatio Alger and Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock. It was a pre-Bush, pre-9/11 different time when music was angsty, but life was not (in hindsight). But I remember something he said then that I balked at initially – he made a point of telling us that the Internet would change the world in ways we couldn’t possibly imagine happening.
This was not long after the time AOL took off and everyone had to wait for hours to dial-up their connection. I couldn’t imagine how something that putted along at that bandwidth could cause the kinds of changes – and realizations about ourselves – that he warned us about.
I thought he was being an old ninny, but I was a real asshole then.
The world didn’t end at the millennium and the computers didn’t take over or die. Then when I was in grad school 9/11 happened. An understandable sense of doom and newfound vulnerability swept over people old enough to grow up afraid of nuclear winters. Then unending wars, Hurricane Katrina, economic collapse, and totally stagnant wages. Me and the local wags who sit outside coffee shops thought every new catastrophe was “the other shoe dropping” after the towers came down.
We were wrong every time. The real other shoe just dropped and it has steel toes and swastikas.
The extremeness of 9/11 should’ve tipped us off that the 21st century is a whole other bowl of nuts. My favorite period in history is the 20th century. You’ve got to admit as wild as all of history is, the 20th century was super awful and super exciting. Two major reasons – technology and genocide. The entire paradigm of our scientific view shifted and we started waging massive wars against civilian populations. We created more moonscapes than we explored.
As for the 21st century, such as it now is, I don’t know what the hell the major themes will be but I suspect we are genuinely in a pickle here. Looking out my window right now the street is hazed with choking smoke from the forest fires raging near my home in Tennessee. The Tennessee Valley hasn’t had a drop of rain in months and fires lit shortly after Halloween are making the air barely breathable.
And everyone around me voted for a tangerine primal scream.