This Magical Decade

If a pantheon of human culture by decade is ever assembled, the mannequin for the ‘00s will be listening to an iPod and reading Harry Potter. In a decade when our technology caught up with our imaginations and escapism (Lord of the Rings, Transformers and many a vampire movie would have been impossible to direct a decade prior), Harry stood tall not only as our Little Nell but also as our Lindbergh. Millions followed his adventures, although they were distinctly and self-awaredly of a bygone era. His was a world of clear-cut morals, prep-school chivalry, and Latin-quoting, detention-giving teachers, from which J.K.Rowling was a romantic refuge to ours as much as we are to theirs.

Sacrifice was Harry’s dogma; risk, ours. Never before this decade had the human willingness for risk-taking this high. Just after a bubble burst at the onset of the decade, we began to invest in another. We individualized deficit-spending, but are still reluctant to contribute to tackle climate change. Meanwhile the American government thought it was a great idea to start one war after another in the Middle East.

Many took this risk-proclivity to mind-boggling levels on television; we handed out more than their 15-minute share of fame to those who have awful sexcapades, eat bugs and crash presidential parties. Things less savory and sanitary than bugs were eaten on the Internet, which in this decade grew from a mediocre mean of communication on the fringes of one’s existence to a receptacle of our Scarlet Letters and other useless information. A third of the world’s population is connected today, a scenario unimaginable ten years earlier. However, various sites are banned for various reasons in the places where the Internet was supposed to educate and liberate. In this second decade after the Iron Curtain, an Information Curtain had descended.

Or at least a self-inflicted veil of ignorance. As many Americans are unaware who their vice-president is as they were a decade ago. Yet, millions follow the tweets of Aston Kutcher, Tila Tequila and Stephen Fry. Millions who enjoyed a kid after the dentist’s on youTube were squarely misinformed about healthcare, European constitution and financial crisis. The CIA, whose decade involved being forced to reveal everything it once hid, was wrong: truth didn’t set us free.

As I write this, there are middle five Harry Potter books on the bookshelf behind me. For me personally, they were a metaphor for the decade. I borrowed the first book from the library; the last I read on my computer. In between, I lined up for the first editions, got my first credit card, had my first intercourse, invested in hedge funds, supported Barack Obama and blogged (though not necessarily in that order). Many of these events–Obama’s election, a global financial meltdown, iPhones and me reading Harry Potter on computer–would not have been there if not for the ubiquity of the Internet. However, we lived through this decade’s seminal events–terror attacks, Katrina–from a safe distance. The voices from the cockpit of Flight 94 disturbed us, but now Twitter broke the story of the miraculous landing on the Hudson. We followed an Iranian revolution through blogs. These are not the reflections of the tumultuous decade that just ended. They are the premonitions that the next one will be even more bizarre.

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