Monday, December 13, 2010

A decade to forget, a decade to remember

It was somewhere along the 20th century that the media started to count time by decades and naming them: the Roaring Twenties, the Hungry Thirties or the Swinging Sixties (in Spanish “la decada prodigiosa). When it came to name these past ten years they’ve come up with “the noughties” still in want of an adjective.

This season journals and televisions will come up with various renditions of what the past ten years have represented, commemorating events and affairs at the end of the decade. The fascination with round numbers will keep hem from considering the decade actually ended a year ago, the 31st of December 2009, as the Anno Domini dating system does not have a “year zero” and we all celebrated the end of the century and the millennium at midnight the 31st of December 1999, that is eleven years ago.

If I remember correctly it was Julius Caesar who imposed the 365-day year, fed up with the whimsical lunar calendar used by the Roman priests who took to change the dates of feasts and celebrations to their convenience. That made difficult the organisation of the military world Caesar needed to expand the Empire. It was hard not knowing when your legions were going to walk out of a war to indulge themselves with Saturnalia or Lupercalia as they saw fit. He beheaded a few priests and got rid of the rest and chose the Egyptian solar calendar more in pace with the seasons. (I think it was his nephew who rounded up the idea adding two missing months to the original ten: July for Julius, his uncle, and August for himself Augustus, pushing further down the year the seventh month (September), the eighth (October), the ninth (November) and the tenth (December). But it was a Romanian monk, Bede, the Venerable, who in the Sixth Century reorganised the calendar and established there was no “year zero”.

But I am sure that no matter this past decade had ten or eleven years, everybody will set the clock on September 11th 2001 as the actual date of the beginning of the decade, the century or the millennium.

It was a turning point for many and determined also many of the following and disastrous events such as the re-election of GW Bush to the US presidency, the (Second) Iraq War, the (Sixth if I am not miscounted) Afghan War, the Al Qaeda bombings in Madrid, Bali and London in whichever order you want to place them. Throw in a couple of big earthquakes, a murderous tsunami, an unpronounceable named erupting volcano clouding with ashes all the European air space, some assorted draughts, famines and floods and you’ll have a pretty forgettable decade.

But for some 800 million it has been the first decade of their lives and for the many who survived it there will be many good things to remember. The measure of how good the times are is, alas! very personal and depends of many details and circumstances.

To all those and to you reader, I just wish you a very happy new decade of which, as I said, we have already consumed one whole year.

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