The 20s are coming. Not a moment too soon. The last time round, they were glorious. Nihilistic hedonism, the Charleston, flappers flouting prohibition laws, cabaret, the Harlem Renaissance in New York, Annees folles (crazy years) in Paris, the opium dens in Weimar Berlin and Shanghai.
People moved to growing cities with great ease. History suggests they sat outside cafes listening to jazz, being classy and stylish, enjoying the explosive intellectual productivity, which was spewing like an absinthe fountain around them. Bauhaus, Art Deco, Kandinsky, Matisse. Einstein, Picasso were fervently embraced by iconoclastic, spiritually enlightened bourgeoisie.
For the party animals, it was Nirvana. Sure, the economic upswing after the depressed post-war era didn’t bring everyone with it. It never does. Life, for many was bleak but, culturally, there was excitement.
One hundred years on, global poverty stands at 8pc according to the UN, compared to 60pc in 1920, overall health is improving, the virtues of technology can’t be denied, but the petri dish of humanity is bereft of culture.
Community is replaced with transience, mediocrity celebrated over personality and greed emphasised over creativity. Grievance culture, ID politics, The Only Way Is Essex, vagina hats, kale popcorn, screens, Instagram stories, self-inflicted prohibition, jazz hands and vulgar reality TV have ensured that popular culture is flat.
People who drink unsweetened hazelnut milk are making decisions affecting our social life. We can’t stop the juggernaut of progress, nor do we really want to, but we need something beyond AI, autonomous vehicles, smart cities, hybrid identities, narcissistic self-celebration and mono culture.
We need a nod to the stylish, sophisticated 1920s. But what about climate change?
Well, you can battle climate change, while filling a void. As a concerned citizen and observer, I call for a cultural intervention.
The 2020s need to be roaring, not boring. Here’s my 10-point manifesto:
We need a musical revolution
Musical movements define decades and we haven’t had one since dance music and dirty raves in the 1990s. The 1950s had rock ‘n’ roll, the 1960s were swinging, punk dominated the 1970s, etc. At the risk of sounding like an old lady behind a curtain, you’d wonder if there will be another genre? There have been variations and hybrids, but nothing markedly new. Confucius said: “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” Yet young people aren’t getting carried away by it, while others are “too busy for that kind of thing”. Popular music, like popular culture, is a joke. Music needs a Renaissance.
Quit the labels
Not the Ralph Lauren, but the “I’m an omni-emo-sapiosexual (a lover of intelligent people) on a fluid continuum” labels. I met a bunch of students recently who were “classic liberal-centric libertarians'” – medium to well done. I thought, “Why aren’t you in a dorm doing jelly shots?”
ID politics isn’t progress. Progress means not caring about race or sexual inclination. This movement insists that what we are is more important than who we are; that everything is about membership of groups. It’s decadent, painfully smug and boring. Go to the pub immediately.
Reality TV must end
The Real World on MTV began back in 1992 in New York. That was grand. Then, in Holland in the late 1990s, producer and media tycoon John de Mol decided to put cameras into purpose-built houses – marking the beginning of Big Brother. Moral decay and the decline of taste and talent followed. Most reality TV now is patronising, stupefying and it’s making one-dimensional people rich. Why should Kylie Jenner or someone from Love Island be phenomenally wealthy, while people of personality and humour can’t rub two shillings together? Sycophants have funded the Kardashian button noses and sausage lips for 12 years. Hopefully soon they will have Schadenfreude watching the relics from Real Housewives melt before our eyes like Goldie Hawn in Death Becomes Her. Farewell decadent reality TV and Ibiza Uncovered. Oh well, even bad things must come to an end.
Release the geographical hostages
Unless you have been blessed with good fortune, chances are you are being pushed from your urban home to a buckling soulless commuter belt, bereft of infrastructure. In return, transient tech workers inhabit urban hubs like Dublin and global metropolises. Pop-ups and hotels serving Bloody Marys in shot glasses have replaced watering holes that used to serve a decent pint, where poets used to hang. Gentrification, unfortunately, does not breed creativity. Traffic jams, long commutes and ripped-up communities don’t either. Luckily, tourists, are not buying it – saying Dublin was ‘overpriced’ and ‘boring’ on UK website Mumsnet.com recently. Good. Why should they? Make a stand. Bring the people that made the cities back? Rise to cuckoo funds and rental rip-off. And rejuvenate rural communities, which have fallen foul of migration.
Give jobs to the ‘Truthers’
Conspiracy theorists aka ‘truthers’ are enjoying their day in the sun. They used to focus on the ‘illuminati and 911’ conspiracy, fake school shootings, the intricacies of Hillary Clinton’s lizard alienism, Pizzagate and chemtrails. Now they are more dangerous – getting their information from ‘crumbs’ on dubious fascist websites. “Climate change is a hoax, I must not separate my rubbish.” “Migrants are invading” etc. Luckily there is a cure – give them a job while they still know everything. Being a ‘truther’ is a direct result of spending too much time with your brain – ie not working. We should send them to build an ice wall around our flat earth and create support groups for people who have been affected by the patronising, tommyrot that comes out of their mouths.
Online Dating can co-exist with talking to people
I fancy Mongolian tonight, I’ll go online and order. Actually no, Italian. When you go online dating, you become a dish. How’s about the sickly sweet and sour Chow Mein? Or worse, vegan tofu? It’s kind of ironic in this age of body positivity. I thought we weren’t allowed to judge appearances. I recall a time when online dating smacked of desperation. Now it’s perpetuating a social media obsessed generation to be less able to handle one-on-one interactions. I sound like an aul one, but who are these people? By 2037, more people in the UK will meet via online dating than not and more babies will be born to online daters than not – the romance. There must be another way. Now let me think.
Expeditions to Mars the only way
Modern discourse suggests we should fly to Bali and become bloggers in Ubud, living our best ‘freedom life.’ The only problem is that everyone else will be there. Travel and particular adventure has been hijacked by box tickers. The first British reconnaissance mission to Mt Everest took place in 1921, now there’s a guy walking down the NorthEast Ridge on stilts. No matter what you do, someone from Red Bull is going to be there, doing it better. Funnily enough, adventure tourism is being peddled in the same breath as climate guilt – #saveOurWinters, while trekking across the Himalayas. So do you ‘travel the world’ like the internet tells you or do you stay at home to curtail carbon emissions like the internet tells you? It’s hard to know. I suggest Mars.
Bring back the Speakeasy
The loss of authentic city dwellers has been responsible for the loss of subculture, not just in Ireland, but everywhere. Underground gay bars are overground tourist attractions, festivals are hijacked by hipster parents and their offspring, even Burning Man is mainstream. All that’s left for young people with no ability to have a laugh, is to stare at their phones. In my totalitarian opinion, I’d love to see speakeasies revisited. There you will find a microcosm of life – tassels, hats, Brandy Alexanders, no phones ‘cos they’re left at the door and great music. Imagine. Back in the 1920s, they were the height of progress. People of all races, ages, socio-economic backgrounds and sexes would mingle, dance, smoke, wear headpieces. Everyone, was hanging out, talking to each other. What’s not to like?
So long smug environmentalism
There’s a misconception that woke, judgmental or easily offended people are more decent. The same goes for smug environmentalists. Their narrative leads us to believe – in the words of Greta Thunberg – that older generations ‘stole our youth’. In fact, most grandparents didn’t fly, didn’t order fast food, didn’t drink out of plastic bottles and disposable coffee cups. My granny never had a car and would sooner die than throw away food. Irish people, despite catching on, are about four decades behind the Germans, Dutch, Swedes. Climate change is the greatest threat of our time. The battle is not to shame, but to figure out how progress and conserving the environment can work.
Farewell to victimhood, welcome class
Being a victim is tantalising. Modern conversation suggests that you don’t even have to be a victim yourself, you can ride on the coat-tails of bygone victims. You can even be a member of the royal family, like Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, and be a victim. It’s democratic. She wants her husband to ‘thrive’ rather than ‘survive’ on his gilded horse. Women, particularly, who are engaged in post #metoo feminism do so from a place of victimhood, which is festishised by a growing puritanical society. It gives them a moral high ground, from which they can lambast men. Being a victim is regressive, self-sabotaging and it dilutes the cause of real victims. Screw those men, don’t mind them. 100 years have passed since women got the vote. Embrace femininity and sophistication and for the sake of lightheartedness, let it go. Uptightness has no place in my roaring 2020s.