The 20th Century

This is the age of machinery,
A mechanical nightmare,
The wonderful world of technology,
Napalm, hydrogen bombs, biological warfare,
This is the twentieth century,
But too much aggravation
It's the age of insanity,
What has become of the green pleasant fields of Jerusalem.
The Kinks, "20th Century Man"

The Twentieth Century witnessed changes in technology, society, culture and attitudes in more ways and more circumstances than any other century before it. The historian Eric Hobsbawm who labelled it The Age of Extremes considers it "A Short 20th Century" (comprising 77 years between 1914-1991) that really began and ended with the rise and fall of the USSR, while others argue that it began with World War I ("The Seminal Tragedy") and more or less continued into the Turn of the Millennium until 9/11. The century was characterized by increasingly tangled geopolitical connections on a global scale as a result of the development of transport and communication, and this led to an era of rapid, shocking and sudden changes in governments, society, culture, science and technology. A symbol of these transformations is the fact that each decade seemed to distinguish from the earlier one, with the idea of a single static culture becoming a thing of the past. The idea that every decade had to have its emblematic representative moments, icons, works of art was more or less invented in the 20th Century, albeit with some precedents in earlier periods, which explained the rate of transformation of this century, which was chronicled moreover in the arts of photography, motion picture and television.

The century was characterized by a total transformation of society, and some would argue consciousness itself, by science and technology. So complete was this transformation that the people of the 1990s with their computers, cordless phones, satellite television, and frequent flyer miles would perhaps feel like people from another planet to the individuals of the 1910s. Art formerly seen to be as separate from science came to depend on the latter for its technology, most notably in the rise of cinema (what is called "the art of the 20th century") and popular music which depended on radio, sound-recording equipment, as well as LPs, records, cassettes and CDs, and music videos for their commercial viability. The social transformation was equally profound and far-reaching, it was the century that saw the greatest advances and gains for women's rights than any other in human history, with women entering, and despite pushback, staying in the workforce, and finding avenues to marry/divorce/raise children on their own. It was also the century that saw widespread decolonization, the end of the the 19th Century empires, and the rise of a global community of nations. It was the era which saw anti-racism become a central pillar of acceptable civilization. The other emblematic symbol of the century was migration, it became possible for vast numbers of people to travel the globe via commercial air transport, leading to people from far-flung regions landing and exploring nations that they otherwise would not have had contact with. The most visible symbol of the 20th Century was the great permissiveness with sexuality discussed with greater frankness and fewer public euphemisms than centuries preceding it, and not only among the lower-classes (as across history) but even in the middle and higher classes. The F-word came to be used not only in cheap pulp but in serious literature such as James Joyce's Ulysses. Towards the end of the century, you had the acceptance and debate of LGBT rights which became a public movement in this century (beginning in Imperial Germany at the start of the century and flourishing in the Anglophone by the end of the century).

Yet despite this, the century was remembered by most for being the most violent, most brutal and the bloodiest in recorded history. It was marked by the two bloodiest wars in human history, by genocides, by famines, the use of chemical weapons, and later city-destroying nuclear weapons that had the paradoxical effect of making conventional warfare between "great" powers a thing of the past and restoring for a brief window the era of the "small wars" of the latter half of the 19th Century. The great technological and scientific advancements was primarily contained in the advanced nations, leading to an imbalance between the progressive developed world and the undeveloped world, with the major difference being that the greater communication tools no longer isolated the latter from knowing that the Grass Is Greener, spreading a consciousness of backwardness that stoked much resentment and continues to do so in the century afterwards. The global population also ballooned by the end of the decade creating malaise about the scarcity of land, resources, income and the ability of organizations to effectively help this. Related to this is the great crisis of the environment and climate change that reared its head by the end of the decade, with Gaia's Vengeance looming around the corner as the fine print for the faustian contract signed by mankind with nature for the improvement of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. While at the same time the century saw the growth and spread of democracy and equality, with universal suffrage (formerly considered a radical pipe dream on the extreme left) enshrined in law in the developed nations, most of the world still exists in unfree governments, under dictatorships, and the distinctly 20th Century phenomenon of the People's Republic of Tyranny.

More importantly the greater entanglement, flourishing of information and greater complexity of life and society is making it harder for people to make sense of the world. Indeed the message of the 20th Century, even to those who passed their childhood in the final decade, was that "the world got better and nobody's happy about it".

Note that while decades technically end once 10 years pass, there is enough of a cultural bleed in between decades that they may not truly end or begin until a few years later than the end date of the previous decade. Culturally, the century started with the death of Queen Victoria and ended with Y2K or 9/11. Or alternatively, it started and ended with the affair around the Balkans.

The Twentieth Century is divided into decades with each one having it's own cultural identity (though many do overlap with others), which are:

You know what? Forget it. Off to The Twenty First Century!!! Where there'll be jetpacks, and food pills, and holographic møøse, and...

The editor of this page hired to continue writing this index after the people had been sacked, wish it to be known that they have just been sacked. The edits involving The Twenty First Century will be completed in an entirely different style at great expense and at the last minute.