One thing people on newsgroups such as Alt Usage English
regularly bang on about is which decade years like 1970, 1980 and 1990 belong to. Was 1980 the first year of the 80s, or was it, in fact, the last year of the 70s? The argument is based on the fact that we count "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10"; not "0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9" and thus any sequence of ten numbers should begin on 1 and end on 10.
Although the AUE people are making an argument about English usage here, there’s also a cultural side of this to consider; when you think about it the 1960s didn’t actually end until about 1974.
The same argument could be made about this current decade; should it be seen as the final ten years of the 20th Century, or the first of the 21st? Over the first nine years of the 2000s little seemed to change; people carried on killing each other over petty tribalism while the ability of the planet we all live on to sustain life seemed to be rapidly going down the toilet. Big business invented ‘globalisation’, a fancy word for the imposition of worldwide homogenised cultural blandness. The world got a little more dull and we all became obese.
But maybe as this first decade comes to an end, real change is coming. The credit crunch is finally ending Thatcherite greed culture. Then there’s the new man in the White House. Listening to Obama’s inauguration speech this week, a politician finally talking seriously about the economy, both of his own country and of the world, about the environment, and about a realistic harnessing of the technology we are all going to need to survive, it felt as if the first time in many years there may be reason to feel positive about the world to come:“We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality”.
And there was more, real cause for hope. who knows, maybe future historians will come to see the first day of the twenty-first century
as being 20 January 2009