“Tramp-stamp on a muffin-top on a chav”: the expression supposedly emblematic of the decade. The phrase, used to refer to tattoos on the lower back, has a certain ring to it - particularly coming from the well-spoken lips of Andrew Marr. Marr was speaking on BBC1’s ‘History of the Noughties’, an engaging, though slightly premature, analysis of 21st century society.
The programme is hardly uplifting: charting the rise of ‘chavocracy’ and ‘celebrity-itus’ it creates a denigrating picture of modern society: a world where award-winning actors share the limelight with shameless, self-promoters, Cowell-manufactured singers monopolise the charts and the Prime Minister spends his time making official comments on Britain’s Got Talent and Big Brother.
Unfortunately it seems to be a fairly accurate portrait. When musing over the opinion that the society of the noughties had recklessly and extravagantly spent itself into oblivion, I happened to overhear an ambitious teen pronouncing: “when I get married I’m going to tell my husband to buy me two Ranger Rovers: one black and one white - to match my outfit.”
While on the subject of blind extravagance, it seems fitting to mention Dubai’s colossal, man-made, floating, palm-leaf island, featured on the programme as a sun-spot gradually being colonised by the super-rich. The epitome of opulence, it features a restaurant accessible only by submarine and a water slide through a shark-filled lagoon.
Another symptom of the decade discussed was globalisation: from the meteoric rise of low-cost airlines exporting drunk Brits to an unsuspecting Riga, to the relocation of call centre staff. One particularly funny scene shows staff at relocated call centres being made to analyse episodes of Eastenders, take elocution classes and study British weather reports in an optimistic attempt to fool British callers that the centres were based in Brixton and not Bangladesh.
Amidst all these trends the nub of the noughties seems to have been that, although many had a bloody good time, they were an era of “delusion and folly” - none too reassuring when this decade is meant to predicate where the 21st century is heading.
For me, such reflections have prompted the paradoxical conclusion that the recession can only be a good thing for humankind. By no means am I revelling in still having to work wage-free six months after graduating, but maybe a generous dollop of reality is just what everyone needs.