By SKIP BANDELE [email protected]
Skip Bandele moved to the Algarve 14 years ago and has been with the Algarve Resident since 2003. His writing reflects views and opinions formed while living in Africa, Germany and England as well as Portugal.
First of all, I would like to wish all our readers a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. We now have to get used to writing “2010”, something which will no doubt take some time to get used to. That figure also signifies that we have finally left the rather stressful ‘noughties’ behind, a decade which will be best remembered as one of upheaval and change.
Having started out full of optimism for a new millennium, the grim realities of coming to terms with increasing terrorism, economic chaos and environmental problems soon started to bite.
Suitably, a defining list of the most used words during the 2000s is topped by ‘global warming’ and ‘9/11’ with the taboo-busting ‘Obama’ providing a rare highlight at number three. There then follow ‘bailout’, ‘evacuee’, ‘derivative’, ‘Google’, ‘surge’, ‘Chinglish’ and ‘Tsunami’. Almost all of these bear testimony to a series of disastrous events ranging from financial meltdown to the war in Iraq and natural catastrophes.
Compiled from the printed and electronic media in the English-speaking world covering 1.58 billion people via a mathematical formula tracking word and phrase frequency, these bear a worrying testament to the events which have marked the last 10 years.
Upon personal reflection, further terms of note completely alien to me prior to the turn of the century spring to mind. A ‘carbon footprint’ would probably have been associated with Inspector Morse’s forensics expert while ‘Ground Zero’ best described a weekend confined to the house. Similarly, ‘financial tsunami’ or ‘credit crunch’ meant a lack of pocket money or bouncing cheques (to become extinct after 291 years of usage) come Friday night, ‘war on terror’ the school playground and ‘climate change’ the end of summer; the World Trade Centre and New Orleans – remember Hurricane Katrina? – exotic places to be visited while ‘Swine Flu’ may have been something wished upon the over zealous traffic warden.
As Mary Hopkin once sang all those years ago, “Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end…” – but ended they have indeed.
Strange diseases apparently incurable even by applying ‘weapons of mass destruction’ apart, the noughties have also seen several different epidemics raising their ugly heads.
I worry about the rapidly spreading preponderance of alleged paedophilia starting with the once idolised Gary Glitter and Michael Jackson – the phrases ‘Do you want to be in my gang’ or ‘King of Pop’ suddenly attained sinister undertones. That theme provided sombre ‘highlights’ to a general thread also featuring the Soham murders, Austria’s Fritzel and last but not least Portugal and the Algarve’s very own Casa Pia and Madeleine McCann disappearance cases respectively. The only somewhat becalming thought on this, what to me is a genetic defect in a person’s sexual preference, lies in the possibillity that it has always been an equally present evil only today subject to more widespread media awareness and reporting.
The same may be true when referring to the prolification of prominent adulterers starting with former US President Clinton and the latest case in point being that of Tiger Woods. While one seems to have been forgiven, the latter has crashed from his iconic pedestal much as other outstanding sportsmen such as Andre Agassi, Lance Armstrong, O.J. Simpson, the boxing ring monster Mike Tyson or Boris Becker did before him – fame really is a fickle flame.
An abnormal appetite for extra-marital sex, alcohol or performance enhancing drug abuse may be a sign of 21st century pressure to succeed at all cost, a phenomenon said to have led to a dramatic rise in teenage girl suicides and either anorexia or obesity depending on the person’s state of anxiety or self esteem.
The spread of ‘binge drinking’ especially among the young can be linked to this general over-expectancy too, a ‘normal’ life having become seemingly impossible to accept or strive for in the face of mounting peer, television and other media-created halucinations best illustrated by the popularity of non-educational hit shows such as Big Brother, X Factor or American Idol – all encourage the next generation to believe that fame is the be all and end all at no or little cost, hard work or real talent. Please disagree, this is after all only a personal view.
Lastly, let me turn to ‘Y2K’, the once feared ‘Millennium Bug’ which would see computers shut down wiping out and disabling all electronic data and communication. That scare evaporated as the internet, tweets, blogs and social networking has become a phenomenon of never seen proportions.
Anyone from the friendly old lady next door to celebrities of the Stephen Fry or Demi Moore calibre are suddenly sharing their often mundane daily thoughts with a world-wide user community running to 20 million on Twitter alone. Of course this form of ‘socialising’ involves sitting in front of your keyboard and monitor at home further contributing to the isolation and alienation of the individual from real human contact per se underlining the contention that we are currently living in a disfunctional society.
Looking ahead to 2010 and the coming decade, let me close on a positive note. In 15th spot among this century’s to date defining phrases lies a sentiment I would like all of us to embrace: “Yes we can”. Three little words.
In every walk of life, maintaining a positive mental attitude is of utmost importance both in terms of success and personal happiness. Given that and the real belief that it will happen, the state of the world as we have come to experience it must change for the better, be it here, in Britain, Holland, America or the Middle East. We all live our personal realities and traumas.
Contributing to the general upswing does not mean investing in a more effective alarm system or erecting an electrified fence around your property while fearfully cowering behind your PC. Go out, get involved in your immediate community and make things happen. Talk to your neighbours, have a ready smile for the first stranger you meet, create the momentum of change. Just as one million ants are able to carry a log back to their home, only together we can make a difference.