Last Updated on July 8, 2023, 11:44 pm
To mark the end of the first decade of the new Millennium, Up To Speed ran a features writing competition open to students from university newspapers all over the UK.
Marcus Greenslade from Reading University came second and won £100.
Here’s his entry.
“Has the Noughties been a decade of despair or the dawn of an exciting new era?”
I’m British. Cynicism is within me in the same way that weapons of mass destruction were within Iraq – nobody can prove it’s there, but suspicions are strong enough as to lead to drastic action. “Vote for Change”, ran Obama’s campaign slogan as he determined to lead people out of their disillusionment and into a new era of prosperity.
Unfortunately, counter-terrorism has been a far bigger priority than counter-cynicism. Having survived the Millennium Bug, the media has been handed a sack full of other stories to scare people with, starting with the al-Qaeda attacks all the way through to a never-ending economic crisis caused solely by Gordon Brown’s incompetence. The opinions of the media and their effects on the opinions of the masses is what I despair at most. Bad news still sells, and that is what we are subjected to.
However, the media has been given plenty of ammunition over the years. Terrorist attacks such as 9/11 and 7/7, the Iraq War and the continuation of conflicts in the Middle East, increasing concerns over climate change, the apparent offense to democracy that was Gordon Brown’s succession of Tony Blair, and the government scandals such as the massive amount of personal data being lost and, of course, the expenses scandal. And then all of the old worries from previous decades have been dragged over too – the seemingly failing NHS system, the increasingly disproportionate number of elderly citizens and their pensions (or lack of). All of this clearly isn’t just negative spin.
Barrack Obama saw the weight of the world dropped on his shoulders in 2008. A year later, people pine that he has been ineffectual and has let them down. This, I would argue, is just cynicism. Of course he didn’t live up to expectations – people seemed to believe that he was like Morgan Freeman in ‘Bruce Almighty’. It is far too early to make such judgement calls on his performance. Although his supporters are somewhat quieter than they were in 2008, Obama is still the man who the world has put their faith in for carving a better future.
Similarly, Gordon Brown has been demonised for his handling of the economic crisis. His approach has been so appallingly awful that it was mirrored across the globe. Hmm. David Cameron’s economic policy is so great that when the Japanese used it in the early nineties, they got stuck in a recession that lasted ten years. Hmm. This is not a defence of Brown’s performance as a Prime Minister overall, but it is embarrassing to see how quickly the paper’s have lined up behind Cameron. A recent ICM poll for the Guardian showed that 53% of those interviewed would be angry or disappointed if Labour won the 2010 election, while 36% said the same of the Tories. This to the Guardian is fantastic news for the Tories. But actually, that’s 89% of people disillusioned with both of the main contenders. And everyone says a vote for Lib Dem is a wasted vote, so there is no solution there either. There is widespread despair at our politicians and their policies, and the scandals have generated a distinct lack of trust. I am forced to concede that the political future for Britain looks bleak.
However, we can have faith in our sporting industry. The cynics have attacked our hosting of the 2012 Olympics, readily prepared for the UK’s global embarrassment. And yes, we may not have qualified for the World or European Cups in football. But Capello has brought an exciting new dimension to the English football team, and huge successes in recent Olympic Games mean that we can only expect better when our athletes compete on home turf.
The Noughties has been a decade that sees the straw that breaks the camel’s back. What people wanted was a decade of solutions being provided, but the introduction of new problems saw a diversion of attention, a lack of achievement made anywhere. Progress through time was meant to be linked to advances in society, and yet this has very much proved not to be the case. Or at least, so the media would have us believe.
In truth, ‘proved’ should be replaced with ‘appeared’. Actually, progress has been made. Yes, the Middle East might be in turmoil, but al-Qaeda has been dramatically weakened over the decade. There is a lot of talk about an “unwinnable war”, but there is hope in that progress has been made and that al-Qaeda does not have the support or the resources to keep fighting for as long as counter-insurgency forces do.
Similarly, climate change may not have been ‘dealt with’, but again there has been progress. The Copenhagen Summit is seeing a revival of interest following Obama’s and Hu’s agreement that a deal at Copenhagen should be reached. Although the cynics shout “I’ll believe it when I see it”, there is renewed hope. I’m certainly hopeful. It would be a fantastic way to end the decade on a high.
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