Today, yet again, I heard someone say 'It's the 21st century' in the belief that this supported their opinion on something.
For the previous 100 years people said 'It's the 20th century, for God's sake' to clinch an argument.
It's quite likely that people used to say:
'I can't believe you're still hunting and gathering. It's the year 2068BC, for God's sake. Have you never heard of agriculture and domesticated animals?'
'What does 'BC' stand for?'
The stupidity of this becomes clearer if you shorten the timescale:
'What do you mean you still believe in Marxism? You said that at breakfast. This is 7.30 in the evening.'
What does chronology have to do with truth or morality? Sweet F.A.
Indeed, one could go further and say that calendars and time itself are man-made concepts and have no intrinsic meaning whatsoever, never mind a relative or contextual one.
I suppose this constant citing of the current century derives from a view of 'progress' as an historical continuum, one of the features of the Whig view of history.
One seldom hears the century quoted in a contrasting context: 'The Government are locking people up without trial, but that must be all right because this is the 21st century.'
But you will probably hear: 'I can't believe that, in the 21st century, the Government are locking people up without trial.'
So the next time that someone you're arguing with says 'But this is the 21st century!' try one of these responses:
If I want to know what century it is I'll ask a policeman.
I'm so glad you've mastered the new Gregorian calendar.
My great aunt used to suffer from ingrowing toenails.