Leading article: The year and the decade pass on, even as hope revives

Ten years of inflated expectations give way to a more cooperative age

Related Topics

There will be a temptation, when midnight strikes, to bid farewell to this year, and this decade, with expressions of profound relief and good riddance. The ten years that have passed have left few, bar the financiers who enriched themselves in time, either with benevolent memories or materially better off. Many, if not all, the early gains of the Noughties have proved illusory. Lives and livelihoods have been lost in circumstances unheralded at the start of the century.

As 2009 passes into 2010, however, it is possible to look back over a year that just may have seen off the worst and ushered in the start of something better. At home, job losses have slowed; the recession, while longer than in Continental Europe, may not leave as deep a scar as feared. Lessons learnt from the last downturn have enabled costs to be cut in many places more flexibly and more humanely, with the bonus that people may have more time for each other.

Casualties in Afghanistan have mounted; more soldiers have now been lost there than anywhere since the Falklands. But our war in Iraq has ended – a joyous postscript being the release in Baghdad of Peter Moore after more than two years in captivity. And even as it mourns the dead in a war not all can support, the country has rediscovered a sense of duty to those sent by the politicians to fight. Wootton Bassett has shown how respect should be paid.

Abroad, the inauguration of Barack Obama and his early travels inspired hope on a scale not seen since Kennedy entered the White House: hope that the corrosive social divisions in the US might eventually be healed; hope, too, that a more collaborative and sensitive approach from Washington might foster peace around the globe. Such hopes were always unrealistic. But it would be wrong to banish them completely.

The healthcare bill is not perfect, but it represents progress of a kind that was politically impossible 15 years ago. And Mr Obama's many diplomatic overtures may have been frustrated, often by events beyond his control, but they have spawned glimmerings of change in unlikely places. Iran's election brought forth an opposition movement that fights bravely on. There are stirrings in Burma, North Korea and Cuba.

Nor, mostly, did the worst come to pass. Thanks largely to joint action, the global economy, and the international banking system supporting it, did not collapse. Swine flu did less damage than feared. The EU ratified the Lisbon Treaty. Agreement on Kashmir may be in the making. Sri Lanka's civil war is over. The Copenhagen climate summit did not – quite – fail. Intelligence work and good fortune helped keep terrorism at bay, even if the scourge of piracy returned.

Slumdog Millionaire and Susan Boyle delighted audiences far from their separate homes. Britain acquired its first woman Poet Laureate. Simpler and cheaper technology is connecting more and more people. Sport was blighted by some egregious acts of cheating, but 2009 was not a bad year for Britain, as England won the Ashes and Jenson Button succeeded Lewis Hamilton as Formula One world champion. Age and decency prevailed when Ryan Giggs was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

Could it be that the inflated profits and expectations of the past 10 years have already given way to a saner, less egoistic mood, in which ingenuity of all sorts can thrive? In Britain we look forward to a more open election than for many a year, a new crop of MPs who know the duck-house age is over, and – dare to dream – Test and World Cup successes in South Africa. We leave this forlorn decade older and perhaps a bit wiser, but not without hope. Welcome, 2010.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Designer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity for someone wi...

Recruitment Genius: Building Manager / Head Porter

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Medical Copywriter / Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an awa...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Clerk / Debriefer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading temperature contro...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Daily catch-up: the Labour leadership election hasn’t yet got to grips with why the party lost

John Rentoul
Kennedy campaign for the Lib Dems earlier this year in Bearsden  

Charles Kennedy: A brilliant man whose talents were badly needed

Baroness Williams
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific