There is a theory the last 10 years have been so fractious because we never knew what to call them.
The 10 before were the noughties, the 10 to come the twenties, but the last decade? Who knew? And, according to the big thinkers, that existential uncertainty about the times we were living in slowly seeped into our unsettled subconscious and then our everyday lives.
That’s the theory but if this century’s teenage years were hard to name, every parent of secondary school children would have recognised them instantly, in all the brooding angst, sudden rages and high emotion. At times, all the last 10 years have been missing was some acne, a can of Dragon Soop and a broken heart.
Even for those of us who enjoy that kind of thing, the elections, referendums, and all the rest have made for a long 10 years and a decade that few will miss. The best that can be said for it is that it is nearly over. That does not, sadly, mean the next 10 years will necessarily see us sail into calmer waters under cloudless skies.
Looking around the world, it is hard not to suspect something has broken, a switch has been flicked up, a fuse short-circuited in our public life. Our debate seems more polarised, arguments more heated, and opinions more set in stone.
How many Scottish Christmases, for example, were soundtracked by political rammying, as families had it out over Brexit, Boris, Nicola, independence and all points in between? And, while it might just have been our house, it seemed everyone was a little more certain. The turkey seemed more likely to change its mind than any of us setting the world to rights across the chipolatas. As Douglas Alexander urges us today, we must agree to disagree better.
Maybe, it’s the internet, where we only read the news we like, or social media where every dial is turned up to 11. Or perhaps it is a world where news cycles are so short that genuine scandals demanding action and resignations today, are forgotten when tomorrow’s outrage rolls in a few hours later.
That is why we have leaders – here, there and everywhere – who would not have lasted a month in high office 10 years ago. Is it any wonder that our faith in politicians, our belief that politics can deliver real and significant improvement to our everyday lives, is bumping along the ocean floor?
Or maybe, some of us, probably most of us, Remain and Leave, Yes and No, want to talk about something else, something real, not the constitutional theoreticals, hypotheticals, maybes and might-bes, we have been discussing for six long years now.
Whenever we are asked to vote, we will, with our hearts and our heads, but the longer this goes on, the longer Scotland tosses around in the arid hot air of this indyref tumble dryer, the more heated and brittle our country will become.
Whatever is in store in the decade ahead, let’s hope all our sails are soon filled with a cool breeze as we steer into these Roaring Twenties. Happy New Year.
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