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The Navigator: The 'Oh Oh' Decade
By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 4, 1998

   
Everybody's fretting about the Year 2000 problem. But what about the Years 2001-2009 dilemma? In other words, if these are the '90s, what will we call the coming decade?

We're going to have to call it something. After all, says Louisville management professor Reginald A. Bruce on his site Reg's Home, the decade to come will bring great change to our country. Women will own more than 50 percent of businesses; 20 times more folks will be working in home offices and dual-career couples will make up more than 60 percent of all families. And what does Bruce title his online lecture? "Managing Change in the Coming Millennium."

See? It's so much easier to put a name on the next 100 years than on the next 10. What shall we dub them? "The Aughts," "the Noughts," "the Naughts," "the Zeds?" All four mean pretty much the same thing – nothing.

The Futurist magazine ran a survey in the spring of 1993. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents (64 percent) voted for "the two thousands." But that's going to sound mighty silly in the year 2525.

In his sometimes-funny online humor column, Joe Lavin of Cambridge, Mass., posted a similar poll last spring. Recommendations included "the Nothings" and "the Nones." One reader called for "the O's" – named not for the Baltimore baseball team, but for the canned delicacy Spaghetti-Os. Another wrote to Lavin, "We won't need to call it anything. God will come and take us all away before the end of the century!" Which, of course, would also solve the computer glitch problem.

Lavin suggested "the Zeroes." When someone pointed out the implied pessimism of such a name, Lavin said, "That's what's so cool about it."

But we can't start the next 100 with late-20th-century cynicism. We should check it at the door. Neil Howe and William Strauss, authors of "The Fourth Turning," say there is hope. On their curious Web site, based on their 1997 book, the Northern Virginia writers talk with great anticipation about the near future. And, as they call it, "the Oh Oh decade."

Sounds like James Bond. 007. On the phone, though, Strauss pronounces it "Uh-Oh."

History unwinds in great cycles that are about 80 years apart – roughly equivalent to a long human life, he explains. Each cycle has four "turnings": a high, an awakening, an unraveling, and a crisis on the scale of the Great Depression or a world war.

Strauss predicts that the next crisis will occur around 2005, right in the middle of the Oh-Ohs. Economic disaster is possible. So is a health crisis, political pandemonium or a natural catastrophe, a la "Deep Impact."

Asked about the notion that things will just get better and better, the serene-voiced Strauss gets slightly more hysterical than historical. "History never gives you that," he says. "Never never never never."

But the result of the society-altering event will be a better world. In the "Oh Ohs," Strauss says, teenagers of today should be less sex- and self-obsessed. They will be "the civic heroes of tomorrow," Strauss says.

On the Web site, people post messages about the world around them and try to put things in perspective. The authors occasionally weigh in.

So what shall we call the pending decade? We could take a page from tennis and call them "the Love Years," as in Love-One, Love-Two. And we'll be able to say, "Remember the Summer of Love-Five?"

Or maybe "the Nils." Or perhaps "the Points," as in the geekified 2.5, 2.6, 2.7.

My friend Cotter, however, has the sanest idea. "I like all your nominations," he says, "although I've long been partial to expressions like 'the blizzard of aught 8.' "

Linton Weeks can be reached at
  weeksl@washpost.com

    mouse
Click: Plot-o-matic     A kind-hearted prostitute teams up with a crotchety codger to solve the perfect crime. An absent-minded scientist joins a fellow hostage (who happens to have a black belt in karate) to discover America – and in the process betrays a nun. If you think you're reading this summer's movie guide, you've been fooled by the "Plot-o-matic." Throw in a few characters, dial a genre and out comes your blockbuster. Here's $10 that says the next "Godzilla" flick involves a prostitute, hostage or nun.
Dan Pacheco

Surfing: Perturbations, pleasures and predicaments on the I-way

See the U.S.A.
The United States may encompass 3.6 million square miles, but the federal government has put some of the funner parts on the one square foot of your computer screen.

Recreation.gov describes the federal lands and facilities that beckon this summer. The heart of the site is a search engine that lets you choose among 23 activities, from "auto touring" to "wildlife viewing," and then tells you which federal facilities allow which activities. Only Mount Hood National Forest in Oregon permits them all, but if you want to ride an off-road vehicle with your pet in Virginia, for example, go to George Washington and Jefferson National Forests near Roanoke.
Robert Thomason

The Bottom of the News Hour
It's impossible to go wrong when a lead story begins: "General Secretary Kim Jong Il on May 4 inspected an artillery company under KPA unit no. 681 which set an example for the whole army in supply service." Excitement all the way, courtesy of the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the official news agency of North Korea.

But wait! There's more – from optimistic crop reports to thinly veiled threats aimed at our imperial ambitions. In short, it's everything fun that's been missing from the news since Pravda and Izvestia started selling ads.

Now that even Xinhua, China's news agency, runs stock market reports and can be found next to Reuters on CNN's Web site, there's little in the way of good propaganda disguised as news to be found.

Take another favorite: Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), which isn't bad until you get to their coverage of the United States or Israel. For example: " 'The U.S. is itself the biggest terrorist state in the world,' said the secretary general of the Lebanese hizbullah here Sunday night." Or their use of official titles, such as "the terrorist [Yitzhak] Shamir." Just a little color you won't find in today's Washington Post.
Bill Frischling


Found something intriguing, improbable, insane or especially useful on the Net? Write it up and send it to Joel Garreau or Robert Thomason.
   
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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