Truth and fiction in the 2020s

Welcome to the topsy-turvy twenties

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

The one defining feature of the 2020s, so far at least, is that what was once solidly confirmable as “real” and “true” has become slippery, even abstract, while those things that were once impossible or even fantastical have become common, if not predictable.

This theme runs through every category of life from weather to the economy to politics and individual relationships, among many others.

The difference between nonfiction and fiction is that fiction must be absolutely believable. – Mark Twain

In tribute to Mark Twain, much of what has transpired in the 2020s has not been “believable” – in other words, an account written in perhaps 2018 or 2019 (and certainly fiction written much earlier) of what life would be like in the 2020s is far from what any of us would have considered “believable”.

Here are just a few examples of actions or events of the 2020s that are, in fact real and true.

Way back in the summer of 2021, we saw a theft, one of the largest in human history, of $600 million dollars of cryptocurrency.

Just as a reminder, cryptocurrency’s primary claim to security is the blockchain which, in theory, though obviously not in reality, confirms legitimacy at each transaction.

Not only was a transaction compromised, but the victim, in this case Poly Network, sent out a message requesting the “return” of most of the stolen funds.

And the thieves complied.

You can see details on this case, and, of course the message that convinced the thieves to return the cryptocurrency here:

Since cryptocurrency has no tangible existence (as in bills or coins), how it could be “stolen” is a bit of a mystery to most of us.

In related news, China is attempting to ban crypto entirely while El Salvador is authorizing acceptance of Bitcoin as legal tender. In other words, nations and their financial systems, like many of us as individuals, can barely make sense of what cryptocurrencies are, let alone how to control, define, secure or protect themselves against them.

Social engineering

Who needs “a job” when you can make boatloads of money as an “influencer” or “social engineer”?

In the “old days” pay could be relatively static – and correlated to hours worked or products produced.

Social engineering or “influencing” could be defined as “the act of manipulating someone into divulging information or taking a particular action.”

Kind of like what, in a simpler time, we might call sales and marketing.

Like many of their generation, two made-for-TikTok personalities made this work for them until it didn’t – they were caught with $4.5 billion in stolen Bitcoin. You can see more on their story here:

Everything that is old, is new again. And everything that was “new” is old, again.

Like many of us, I can’t keep track of what is, was, will be or is definitely NOT in fashion. Vinyl records? Compact discs? Levi’s jeans? Cast iron cooking pans? DVDs?

Are they popular, making a comeback, on their way out or are they (and a hundred other items and services) a sign of the times, by being an (un)ironic commentary on our “disposable” instant-gratification economy?

Fact checking

In the real world, that is, the world before 2020, when we had courtrooms and mothers, truth and facts were confirmed and, whether we liked them or not, most of us tended to agree to their veracity (reality or truth) and we, perhaps grudgingly, accepted that final verdict.

But in the 2020s, I keep hearing calls to “fact-check the fact-checkers”.

In a rational world (which is to say, nowhere near where we find ourselves) facts would be confirmed as, ahem, facts. A statement would be documented as being true – or not.

We in the 2020s would not tolerate such a binary outlook.

By whatever strange set of cultural convergencies, we, especially Americans, in the 2020s, reserve the right to “decide” whether to “accept” any verdict, speed limit or national election.

Only in the 2020s would we see signs and bumper stickers that say “Not my president”.


For long stretches of time we’ve perceived items or services as having a relatively stable, even static price.

Price, value and cost have, in stable times, approximately the same meaning.

Not in the 2020s.

A day’s work for a day’s pay was a phrase that once had meaning.

In today’s economy, we have little shared sense of what a “day’s work” would look like. Or what a “day’s pay” should be.

In today’s economy, a several year old car costs more than it did when it was new.

A house in Bellevue recently sold for a million dollars more than the asking price.

There used to be a correlation between one’s income and one’s ability to pay for housing. It might have been prudent financial management in a saner time, but rarely possible now.

Presidential papers shredded and flushed

And, in what seems to me to be a perfect metaphor for our times, we have a recent US president who took it upon himself to tear up and flush presidential papers and documents (that should have gone to permanent US archives) literally down the toilet in The White House.

By any definition, ripping up official documents and contracts is strange behavior.

It raises all kind of legal and ethical questions.

Most public officials want to preserve, even memorialize their legacies. To destroy one’s own documentation while in office, in the 2020s at least, seems like a reasonable thing to do. And it adds a whole new meaning to the term “paper trail”.

Good to be negative, and bad to be positive

And, in the ultimate metaphor for our times, when it comes to the test many of us have wanted (or have been required) to take, the COVID test, our goal is to be found negative, and our worst fear would be to receive a positive response.

In short, little of the 2020s is “believable”.

It’s as if the whole decade (so far) is a work of sloppily written, unedited speculative fiction.

If nothing else, stay tuned for the next plot twist, or character reversal where the villain turns out to be the hero and the hero is not who they first appeared to be.

I just hope the next few years are not endless sequels, prequels and remakes.