The end of a year always invites reflection on its signature events, the end of a decade allows events to be seen with better historical perspective. Decades are remembered for their distinct character.
The previous century had its "roaring twenties" of frivolity in fashion and dancing, its thirties' depression, its forties of war hot and cold, its post-war prosperity of the fifties, the "swinging sixties". The seventies brought environmentalism and feminism, the eighties, free markets, the nineties, the internet.
What will be most remembered of the decade ending in four days? When it began in 2010 the world was still in the aftermath of a global financial crisis two years earlier, one of two seminal events in this century's first decade. That decade's other event of lasting impact was of course the one still known as "9/11".
Those events delivered such shocks to, first, the peace of Western societies at the turn of the century and, later, their prosperity that it is no wonder their consequences have dominated the subsequent decade, the century's "teens". Terrorism and fear of it haunted this decade, as did fear of recession for many years after the financial crisis.
In that climate of insecurity the "teens" saw a wave of migration on a scale unseen the centuries of Western colonialism. This time the migration was into Western countries from former colonies or Middle Eastern countries riven with internal conflicts made worse by Western intervention after 9/11.
If there was a signature event of the decade it was the sight on television of many
thousands of people on the roads from the Middle East into Europe in the summer of 2015. Many others had tried to enter by sea from North Africa. An enduring image of their plight is a photograph of a father holding the body of his small son, drowned as their boat capsized near a Greek island.
But while those scenes and images aroused a great deal of compassion in Western
countries, they alarmed many in Europe. The second half of the decade has seen a
political reaction to immigration that history will record as a popular rebellion against "globalisation".
In Europe and the United States especially, fear of foreign cultural incursions, foreigners taking jobs, foreign investment and free trade, revived far-right nationalist parties and helped produce votes in 2016 for Brexit and Donald Trump.
New Zealand's decade has been an exception to these global trends. Its economy
recovered quickly from the financial crisis without the artificial stimulus of "quantitative easing" which has proved easier to start than end. New Zealand economy grew more than almost all others, attracting record immigration and sending house prices to new heights. Growth started with the Christchurch rebuild after the 2011 earthquake, probably this country's most memorable event of the decade along with the Pike River mine disaster at its beginning and the massacre in Christchurch mosques near its end.
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New Zealand's response to terrorism of Muslim immigrants and its comfort with immigration generally, owe a great deal to a decade of economic stability and international confidence. Few countries enter the 2020s in better condition. Here's to another 10 good years.