As I was making plans for a New Year’s party, it suddenly struck me that we were moving into a new decade in a few hours. I then started recalling all the events that have happened both personally and globally over the last ten years. At a personal level, I went from being a student studying at a high school in Kathmandu, Nepal to spending seven years in the U.S., living in four different states over that time, and now am back in Nepal doing development work. So much has changed over the last ten years, and yet something was amiss. Then I started thinking what has happened during this time. The decade had a bad start with the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. which led to two wars in the Middle East. There were the natural disasters – Hurricane Katrina, the Asian Tsunami, the Pakistan Earthquake and floods, and the earthquake in Haiti. Obviously, the prolonged recession at the end of the decade left us with a sour taste, and we are just looking to turn the page on this decade. Even so, there are many positives that come to my mind.
The world was introduced to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in the last decade. The rise of these social media tools has been a phenomenon. Starting in the dorm rooms of Harvard just around the middle of this decade, Facebook now has over 500 million users, and the company is valued at over $25 billion. The way Facebook has connected our world and bridged various divides is astounding. Twitter, in its own right, has made tremendous impact. While we may still see Twitter has a frivolous use of one’s time, and to some degree just a tool to keep track of mundane things that celebrities do during the day, it has changed the way we track events around the world. We saw this phenomenon at work during the post election crisis in Iran when the world’s news agencies were dependent on Twitter feeds to stay up-to-date on events inside the country. YouTube has allowed the “everyday Joe” to present his ideas to the world. It has become a great educational tool as an ex-hedge fund analyst from California showed the world (see this PBS report below).
Then, there is obviously the Obama factor to talk about. No matter which political ideology you support, one has to admit that the election of its first African-American President is a huge milestone for the country. Despite the recession, Obama’s election brought a beacon of light to America in that it showed the world that it is truly a place where anything is possible, where a son of a migrant from Kenya can rise to become President.
Another positive change for the decade is how China and India have risen to become somewhat global economic powers. Though some are frightened at their rise, we often forget the impact it has had on the lives of the people living in these two countries. Hundreds of millions have emerged from poverty due to their economic rise, and more will do the same in the coming decade. Yes, there are problems that come with it, like clashes over natural resources, increased pollution, and global warming, but I feel these problems would have existed despite the fact.
The last encouraging change I want to mention is a little strange, and my point may elude some people. But I sense that the Great Recession has shown much of the world that materialism at the cost of debt is not the way to go. It has taught us the importance of thrift and savings and a simpler way of living. It has showed us that a country’s economy cannot spend its way out of problems. Though the recession brought us a lot of misery, the lessons it teaches us is invaluable. Hopefully, these lessons remain ingrained in our minds.
So that’s the last decade. A lot changed for me personally and in the world. But change is inevitable. It is necessary, though, to reflect on those changes and think about where we were, where we are now, and where we are going. Without such retrospection, many important lessons are missed, but life still moves on.
I wish everyone a very happy New Year, and hope that the new decade will bring peace and happiness to your lives.