Something I wrote back in 2009…
It occurred to me today, for no apparent reason, that in just 10 year’s time it is going to be the twenties all over again…the 2020’s. That’s when I realised that, if, by some strain of the imagination muscle, I actually manage to live out a full life span of 100 years, I will live through a whole new 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and I will live through the 80’s – twice!
I never expected this at all! Never even thought about it! Perhaps everybody else already has and I’m slow on the uptake but I’ve always viewed the 20’s as the 1920’s, it has never occurred to me that there will be another 20’s? I thought they were just eras of the 20th century, and specifically the 20th century. When we look back at the 1860’s for example we don’t view them as a decade of the 60’s, we just view them as a part of that whole century, rather than describing them as the 60’s we would say – ‘The Victorian Age’, or ‘the late 1800’s’, although strangely enough the 60’s of the 1800’s and the 60’s of the 1900’s were both extremely turbulent decades in the world, coincidentally they were both decades of numerous cultural, social, and political upheavals in Europe and America, so what will the next 60’s have in store for us, will it follow this burgeoning trend?
I guess it just depends where on the time scale you land. People today are always going to view the 1970’s as the 70’s, the one-and-only 70’s, in which rock ‘n’ roll peaked and punk exploded, the Vietnam war raged and the people stopped it, proving the government could be changed by the populace and giving rise to many cool movies. Elvis Presley, Sid Vicious and Jim Morrison died, and roller blades and walkmans were invented. But nobody considers 70’s as in the 1870’s when the telephone, the lightbulb and the gramaphone were invented, or even the 1770’s when submarines were invented and the American Revolutionary War kicked off! And who remembers the 1670’s, when calculus was invented and pirates roamed the seas?
So that means when I’m sixty, in the year 2045, a twenty year old then is going to view the 30’s as the 2030’s – when wars over water and oil took place and we resorted to mining space asteroids, and not as I’ll view the 30’s, as the period in which the Second World War took place and resulted in economical planning etc. And that seems a little weird to me? When I reach a hundred and start to die (not that I expect to see 50) I will be living through the 80’s all over again! But to the kids of the 2080’s, the 1980’s will not be described as the 80’s like it is now. They’ll just mention our 80’s as part of the 20th century, or the Second Elizabethan Age when microwaves and mobile phones were invented, Lennon was shot, the miners went on strike and the Falklands war took place.
To us, photography wasn’t invented in the 1820’s, but in the early nineteenth century and to someone born in 2084 television won’t have been invented in the 20’s, but the early 20th century…does anybody else find this fascinating? It gives you a great sense (as a young man in his mid twenties) of the sheer scale of time just your short stay on this planet will encompass. All the things that could possibly happen between now and your dying days… Scary and exciting!
You just have to look at the vast magnitude of things that took place throughout the 1900’s, it was definitely a turning point in evolution unparalleled by any other recent one. The 1800’s concerned themselves mainly with smalltown economies, minority culture, whereas the 1900’s with its widespread tabloid circulation, endless television media networks, and the World Wide Web, has opened up the planet…to the planet! In the 1900’s for the first time ever, unlimited information became available to a massive cross-section of the human race on a global scale! Also, advances in sanitary engineering have developed the control of the diseases of filth, which in turn has led us to controlling water supplies and freeing them from contamination.
Surely more fatal diseases than ever before have been cured in the past 100 years, especially with the introduction of penicillin and antibiotics, the same goes for psychoactive drugs, having invented more of these little beauties in the past century than in the past five centuries combined. Hats off for instance, to the clever children of the 20th century that managed to come up with Valium, Opium, Cocaine, LSD and Ecstasy to name a few of our friends!
There’s always a dark side of course – the last ten decades bringing with them; the flying missile, germ warfare, more and more powerful guns, advanced bombs, terrorisim and perhaps worst of all, the nuclear bomb! But with nuclear energy comes hope, through the rise of electricity in countries that otherwise could never have developed as nations.
We’ve seen education grow stronger too – in the late 1800’s people were trained in a ‘skill’ or ‘trade’, whereas in the 1900’s people are continuing a broad and varied education right through adolesence and beyond. This has led to a generation of new-breeds – lawyers, doctors, teachers and technocrats.
The past century of evoloution has also achieved many social revoloutions – including the almost total abolition of sexism, racism and slavery to name a few nasty human traits. The last century has been the first to see governments turn their hands to economic planning, mainly because the Second World War showed us that economic planning was sorely needed, and on a scale larger than that of a nation – universal economics. Also this was the first century to see governments take an active role in charity through world programmes.
Not to mention the motor car, the electric train, and most notably, the aeroplane, all spawning a century of mass worldly travel at superhuman speeds. In the mid 1800’s for instance it would take a person two and a half months to travel from Glasgow to London (horse n’ cartin’ it) but now, you can fly to Australia in a matter of hours, and Glasgow to London – twenty minutes! Quite the drastic difference I’m sure you’ll agree. I could go on for pages about great political change, the end of colonialism, the decline of communism, the age of the superpower over nation state, the era of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, New World Order, extraordinary achievements in space travel, robotics, nano technology, plus information superhighways.
The million dollar question, what is the meaning of life? Is being slowly, carefully unravelled by rapidly advancing techniques in technology and modern science – but my point is well made – if all this, and more, can happen in the space of one human lifetime, only 100 years, imagine what we are due to see in our lifetimes, the next 80 years, with things advancing at an increasingly faster rate we are set to take an even bigger evolutionary step than the colossal one we just made!
In the space of a century we have firmly grasped the ability to control our own environments, for good or bad. With this ability comes the opportunity to reach out into the other worlds of space. So with that in mind, what could the next century have in store for us…
“Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.” ~ Bill Hicks