By Erik Hoel | The Intrinsic Perspective
Decades. We’re in one. We came from one. We’re going to one. They mean, well, something. Nothing. Everything. As redhead Cynthia Dunn says while cruising around a car just vibing as a 1970s teenager in Dazed and Confused:
“The fifties were boring. The sixties rocked. And the seventies—oh my God, they obviously suck. Come on! Maybe the eighties will be radical.”
The joke plays on the audience’s foreknowledge of the actual 80s, and I like it not just because it’s said by one of my childhood crushes in one of my favorite movies, but because there are plenty of real actual academic theories based on (essentially) decade changes, from the Strauss–Howe generational theory to cyclical theory.
Besides, we all know decades have vibes. That’s why Dazed and Confused, a movie famous for having a meandering plot, no plot at all really, works so well. And if decades have vibes this logically implies that, within decades, there are years that represent certain vibe shifts. As Charles Schifano recently wrote:
Annie Ernaux, who was twenty-eight in 1968, encapsulates the narrow sensation nicely in The Years, stating that “1968 was the first year of the world.”
Annie Ernaux may have been right; perhaps, in a way, she’ll always be right. But for us, for our decade, for our current vibe: what year was it established? When was the decade-defining great vibe shift? What was the first year of our particular world?
The answer is actually rather clear. For whenever I now see a graph plotting out something by years, my eyes now jump to a certain date: 2012. And, more often than not, there is evidence of some kind of fulcrum there. Others have also started to take notice as well: 2012 was a “tipping-point” year.
Such a year can mean a lot of things. Some tipping-point years are cultural, like 1968 (the Tet Offensive, MLK assassination, Robert Kennedy assassination, Civil Rights Act, Star Trek airs the first interracial kiss, all of which established the vibe of the coming 1970s). Other tipping-point years are economic, like 1971. In fact, there’s even www.wtfhappenedin1971.com which lays out chart after chart showing how there were sudden disruptions of long-running economic trends in America.