The Decade From Hell

As we approach December 31, it’s time for the news media to wallow in their annual end-of-year lists and other reviews.

Except that 2009 also marks the conclusion of the decade (the aughts?) so we also are forced to look back at the past ten years.

1101091207_400.jpgTime magazine calls it the Decade From Hell, and after reading their long retrospective, I’m inclined to think that’s an appropriate title.

It’s pretty depressing to read in one article all the crap that happened in a relatively short period of time.

It’s even worse to realize that almost all of that long list of disasters “came about at least in part or were greatly exacerbated” by four societal attitudes.

Attitudes that, unfortunately, only seem to be getting worse as we head into the next decade.

Neglect. Our inward-looking culture didn’t heed the warning signs from around the world – and from within our own country – that Islamic terrorism was heading for our shores.

Possibly a better word in this case would be hubris, the swaggering attitude that the US is too big to fail.

Greed. Our absolute faith in the markets, fed by Wall Street, combined with the declawing of our regulators to undermine our financial system.

Don’t stop at Wall Street. On Main Street there’s also the rampant attitude of “I refuse to pay for anything outside of my little bubble”.

Self-interest. The auto industry disintegrated while management and labor tangoed from one bad contract to the next, ignoring their customers and their competition, aided and abetted by their respective politicians.

Auto industry? What about the naked self-interest demonstrated daily by many (if not most) of the politicians who are supposed to represent us and the news media that’s supposed to hold them to that responsibility?

Deferral of responsibility. Our power grid needs an upgrade and our bridges are falling down because we have not mustered the political and popular willpower to fix them. New Orleans drowned because authorities failed to act before Katrina busted the inadequate levees.

Which also applies to anything else that requires commitment, change to the status quo, and/or money (other than the military and other stuff that goes boom, of course).

I’d like to think we as a society might have learned some difficult lessons from the past ten years.

However, that kind of optimism requires more energy than I can muster right now.

Maybe next year.