Thursday, September 01, 2005

Requiem for the 1990s

Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of Princess Diana.

Typically, I missed the real thing because I was abroad playing poker in Las Vegas, but I did catch the funeral, staying with a lovely friend in Seattle after a week or two in Nevada. We watched the funeral coverage in her exquisite waterfront flat, frowned at some of the inane statements of the U.S. commentators and got upset at the sight of the motherless boys. There was also a powerful reminder to never underestimate the song writing skills of Reginald Dwight.

But as this brilliant column by Jonathan Freedland in yesterday’s Guardian points out, the whole thing, like so many “events” of the 1990s seems frivolous now.*

And yet a larger thought is prompted by a look back to the summer of 1997 through the lens of 2005. Suddenly it seems clearer what the Diana era itself, the 1990s, was all about. It was hard to tell at the time, but now the 1990s have a definition as sharp as the swinging 60s or the greedy 80s. They were the no-worry 90s...

For, viewed from today, the 1990s look like a kind of holiday, a pause between two eras of anxiety and conflict. Just as Eric Hobsbawm defined the 19th century as stretching from 1789 to 1914, so we can take the same liberty: the 90s began with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and ended with the fall of the twin towers in 2001.

In other words, that decade was the hiatus between the cold war and the clash of civilisations. Before the 90s, the world was caught in a stand-off between east and west that seemed destined to bring Armageddon. After the 90s, the world has become locked in a new confrontation of east and west, with Islam replacing Communism as the great menace.
To read the whole article click here.

No-worries or not, there’s no doubt the nineties were my favourite decade, which began with me renting a rather nice apartment on the Bvd du Montparnasse in the 6th arrondisement of Paris and ended on the stroke of midnight, December 31st 1999 with me playing $5-$10 Hold’Em poker at Foxwoods in Connecticut.

True, the early 1990s were marred by a nasty recession that, like the even worse recession of the early 1980s, seems to have vanished from the collective memory now. But from some hazy date in 1992 right up to September 11th 2001 times were generally good, sometimes the best ever. Of course age has a lot to do with it, I was only 25 in 1990, and it isn’t too hard to enjoy your 20s and early 30s, especially without children to ruin everything…

It took me a hell of a long time to accept it, but things really have changed after September 11th 2001. This is almost entirely due to the hysterical American overreaction, initiated by neo-conservative pro-Israel fanatics and permitted by the most unintelligent and thoughtless leader in US history.

Osama Bin Laden must be amazed and delighted by all this especially as it's been Iraq and his arch-enemy Saddam (the secular) Hussien who has suffered the most American rage (it's not revenge). Naturally Osama remains free while the forces in Afghanistan play second fiddle to the cream of the United States Army (plus support troops, naval and airforce units) pinned down in the streets and sands and scrub of Iraq.

Has any terrorist attack ever been more successful, not just in it's vile execution, but in it's world-changing aftermath?

*To be fair, within days many people in Britain felt there had been a huge overreaction, with the 1/3rd of the population who didn’t give a fuck about Di or the royals finally getting a chance to express their views.


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