The 21st century ought to be the easiest century to write about over the previous twenty, however, since its only been twenty three years and most of us have lived through those years, it has been difficult to decide which events to include. The world twenty years ago went from a world where Russia was still in recovery, the United States hadn’t sprawled recklessly in its war on terror and many at home still used their VCRs. Coming up with a series of topics to talk about within a one thousand word limit was the most challenging part of this task, perhaps it is because each reviewed event, at the time of its occurrence, was worldly, topical and important. This may no longer be so even after twenty years, let alone an additional eighty.
The new century began with something which didn’t happen. Y2K. It was a computer question which had many people wondering what would happen to computer systems once the new year flipped to 2000. There were plenty of conspiracy theories and extreme thoughts on the subject which never came to fruition and the idea of the Y2K quickly fell from popular consciousness.
The first real event to change the fate of the world was the attack by a terrorist group against the United States on 9/11. The ramifications can still be felt today around the world and for its citizens especially, within American society. The age of government spying on its own people has expanded dramatically to the point where there are serious issues of integrity between the government and secret intelligence agencies.
Naturally the invasion of Afghanistan followed where the terrorist organization had been hiding. While the United States seemed to be toppling cities, the remnants of a Soviet guerrilla war funded by the Americans in the 1980s would haunt the American effort for roughly two decades.
Later in 2002 SARS broke out in Guangdong, China, which would be a portent of future ravaging events.
The United States Iraq invasion followed in 2003. Compared to a cowboy, George Bush demanded that Saddam Hussein relinquish power and leave with his sons within 48 hours or the war would commence at some point in the future. More than just US intelligence had thought that Iraq held weapons of mass destruction and Iraq had often kicked out UN weapons inspectors. While the United States pushed well beyond the Hussein military, the Americans would suffer from largely the same issues they encountered in Afghanistan in the years to follow.
Beyond the United States, in 2004 an incredible southeast Asian tsunami in the Indian Ocean killed roughly 230,000 people after an earthquake begun along the ocean floor. At the time the earthquake was rated an 8.8 before being changed to a 9.0. However, the suddenness of the earthquake and the lack of real warning had crushed coastal communities, destroyed their people and set regions back years in their development. While tsunamis and earthquakes can be catastrophic on their own, what follows, such as hunger, disease and lack of proper drinking water, often adds to the death toll and economic costs.
By 2006 Wikileaks had been founded and Saddam Hussein, who had been captured previously, was eventually hung on 30 December. The following year of 2007 began the global financial crisis which became the worst downfall since the Great Depression as wealth evaporated away.
While the United States was focused on the Middle East, terrorism and within a presidential transition, Russia invaded Georgia. While the war wouldn’t become as large as what Russia would later commit to, it did seem to be a proving ground before later moves against Ukraine. Within the same year President Obama was elected as the first black president of the United States over his challenger, John McCain. And Bitcoin was spoken of by an unnamed person using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto.
2010 began with destruction of yet another earthquake, this time in Haiti where over two thousand were killed. Haiti had often struggled throughout its history and the earthquake pushed Haiti further into poverty which it continues with today. The 2010 Arab Spring also went underway as revolutions or revolutionary actions occurred within a number of Muslim countries in North Africa and the Middle East.
2011 saw the take down of Osama bin Laden. Within the same year the Syrian civil war began which continues through today.
Within the mid 2010s Russia had flexed their expansionist muscle again, forcefully annexing Crimea from Ukraine. More economic woes would follow with the default of Greece with the IMF, the first developed country to do so. The Paris attacks also occurred within the year on 13 November 2015.
In an unexpected turn, Britain began Brexit which caused the UK to separate themselves from the European continental mainland once more.
During the 2016 US Presidential campaign, the FBI began spying on the Trump campaign. What had been done in 2016 was the worst scandal to hit the White House since Watergate, and easily argued, worse as it displayed the corruption and intent within the intelligence agencies especially as the years have gone by.
At this point I have decided to end the article. While there were certainly events that occurred beyond 2016, the media has caused the people to become quite hysterical and so irrational that it would be difficult to talk further about 2016 and beyond, particularly in an historical context.
There are still many events which must unfold, and many of the events described here will be quickly forgotten as time goes by. What may seem new and breathtaking in the moment will soon be replaced by something even greater, or will be a hazy memory due to it actually not being as great of an issue as media and other hype-driven forms of entertainment would lead the people to believe.
Header Photo by Dustin Joiner. Copyright 2023.