What defines a period in time?…
In the preface to Christopher Isherwood’s ‘The Sixties’ the late Christopher Hitchens writes:
“Why and when did we cease as a culture to divide time into reigns or epochs (”Colonial”, “Georgian” and so forth) and begin to do so by decades? Very few decades really possess an identity, let alone an identity that “fits” the precise ten- year interlude”
This made me consider the decades that I have known and the point Hitchens was making. We often talk about specific decades and “how different it was back then” and indeed I have done the same but I wonder exactly how it is that we view one decade from another?
I was a teenager in the early eighties, enjoying my formative years from ‘84 onwards. How then is it truly possible to make a comparison now that I am in my forties? I felt for a long time that there was a change, culturally from the eighties into the nineties but was that nothing more than me maturing and viewing matters in a different light?
If you can truly separate the decades though would the sixties be the most stand out decade since the Second World War? Did that ‘define us’ more than any other? Hitchens cites the thirties and the sixties as the true stand out decades of the last century and that would be difficult to argue against.
Will we I wonder, ever view recent decades in a similar light? Do you have any faith in future ones being as exceptional in as many ways as those which Hitchens highlights? Does age make a significant difference to one’s outlook? I think it does. I thought the seventies was a brilliant decade but then I wasn’t my parents wondering if the power would stay on at night or the car start in the morning or their bin get emptied.
One final point and question, did any of you really notice the transition from 2010? Will the ‘noughties’ only be truly remembered for religious extremism and violence? I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on how you (if indeed you do) mark/separate the decades in which you have lived.