I feel some sort of holy order to do this, like it's my destiny to finally burst the bubble of those who say that the '90s was a great time.
It was a good time for the West. And by the West, I mean the Western-most West.
Western Europe and North America. Go anywhere else, and the decade was a piss-soaked hellhole. In fact, if I had to rate the 20th centuries' 5 worst decades, it go
The 1940s and 1910s are self-explanatory— you're living in the Noire Époque where civilization itself has turned on itself, even with nuclear weapons, and humanity's succumbed to totalitarianism, war, plagues, famine, and extreme hatred.
The 1930s are part of that Noire Époque, an era of totalitarianism losing control of itself and an economic collapse the likes of which we've never seen before or since.
The 1970s seems reasonable. Western Europe was in the midst of so much terrorism that even Iraq would seem peaceful, with oil becoming scarce and war running rampant and seemingly threatening to devolve into world war at any moment. The Soviets and Chinese came within a hair of destroying each other. Not to mention that history's most evil and total totalitarian regime arose (and fell) during this time in Cambodia.
So why the 1990s? Wasn't that an era of peace and prosperity where the stock market was going up, jobs were plentiful, and entertainment was kickass?
Maybe in your comfy Western nation, if you've consumed enough propaganda... but in truth, it's only seen so positively due to an overwhelming amount of spinning by the press.
So let me tell you why exactly the 1990s are up there with the 1940s and 1910s in terms of being one of the "worst decades of the 20th century"...
And no, cassette tapes, Kriss-Kross, and the decline of MTV don't even come close to the epic levels of shit I'm about to lay upon you.
1: Collapse of an entire civilization.
Seriously, people just don't seem take take this one seriously at all! An entire freaking civilization collapsed! The Soviet Union existed between the East and West and had all but built up its own Eurasian civilization, upon which a plethora of lesser states were dependent. What's worse is that this fallen civilization was all but raped by the victors of the Cold War. We currently talk about Russia interfering with the US presidential election to get Trump elected. It obviously happened, but Americans refuse to accept the fact that we basically taught them how to do it. Just 20 years ago, we interfered with Russian elections to get Boris Yeltsin re-elected. "Yanks to the Rescue", remember that? This culminated in a spectacular economic collapse in Russia, an economic collapse in an already collapsed civilization. At the time, we saw this as a great thing because surely this meant that nuclear war would never happen and that capitalism had emerged victorious over communism. In retrospect, we should be waking up to the fact that this was an unbelievably scary time— imagine tens of thousands of nukes no longer being watched, chemical weapons now being freely sold on the black market with no authorities keeping tabs on who owns what... Not to mention that nuclear war very nearly did begin in 1995 despite the fact that it was supposed to be a thing of the past. We came closer to nuclear war one January day in 1995 than we ever have before or since; the nuclear football was literally opened. It was just a few seconds of time that saved us all.
2: North Korea's descent into madness, as well as the famine
None of the Soviet Union's vassals could stand on their own without Soviet aid. Imagine what would happen to various US-backed nations like Saudi Arabia or Israel if the USA suddenly and spectacularly collapsed. This is what happened in the early '90s— and North Korea is the most infamous example. Millions, literally millions died between 1993 and 2000. Before the USSR's collapse, North Korea was sort of like China in the 1950s. Totalitarian, but not psychotically so. South Korea was still not exactly a pleasant place to live despite its economic boom in the '80s, so there was an argument to be made that the North was still the South's truest rival up until 1991. Then they lost it. Now only tankies even bother to defend them— making it look bad for Joe on this forum, I've seen more fascists on Reddit (and I mean actual admitted fascists, not salt-righters and nationalist conservatives) defend North Korea as a somewhat proper model for a country.
3: African Genocide and African World War
We call the Korean War the "forgotten war", but if that's the forgotten war, then the Second Congo War is the Alzheimer's of conflicts. Let's start with one of history's most infamous genocides, usually mentioned alongside the likes of the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust— the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. Up to a million deaths over the course of just a few months, and no one stopped it because why should the world bother?
No more than a few years later, there was the Second Congo War. This was the deadliest conflict since World War II. Now let me repeat that: it was the deadliest conflict since World War II. This despite the Korean War, Vietnam War, Afghanistan War, Six-Day War, Iran-Iraq War, etc. More than that, because it lasted to about 2003, it also counts as the current deadliest conflict of the 21st century. And that's despite the existence of the Second Iraq War and the Syrian Civil War. Over six million deaths, and virtually no one's heard about this war because it was in Africa.
But let's keep with the Africa theme...
4: African Collapse
Africa's only just recently begun turning around from its collapse in the 1970s, caused by the World Bank cracking down on rogue nations and basically turning what was once a rapidly developing continent into a diseased, wartorn wasteland. In the '80s was when it got exceptionally bad; that's when AIDS and overwhelming poverty became part of the African image. It's kind of weird to imagine a time when Africa was seen as the rising world power while China was the starving backwater, but that's what it was like in the '60s and '70s. But that had changed, and by the '90s, Africa was basically a crumpled wreck. Yet whenever we hear about Africa in the '90s, we only ever really hear about the release of Nelson Mandela and the end of Apartheid. Which, don't get me wrong, was a good thing. But nothing exceptional has come of it.
5: European War and Genocide
Whenever you speak of war and genocide in Europe, you're probably going to think of the 1930s and 1940s. So what if I told you that Europe's third bloodiest decade of the 20th century was indeed the 1990s? All thanks to the Balkans. The Yugoslav Wars are considered so awful that the only way to make them even worse is essentially to have the whole thing morph into World War III— which it almost did mind you. And James Blunt, yes that James Blunt, had some part in making sure it didn't. I'm not even joking about this.
This was the location of genocide as well; the Bosnian genocide.
6: The Waning Days of the IRA
Remember when I said that the 1970s were a period of extreme terrorism for Europe? Well that still persisted into the '90s, and the biggest hotspot was in Ireland. The Troubles hadn't ended yet, not until the Good Friday Agreement (which is currently at risk of being torn apart).
7: The Lost Decade
If China suddenly experienced an economic downturn and spent 10+ years in stagnation, we'd call that one of the momentous occasions in modern economics. But that's exactly what happened to Japan, and it really hit in the '90s. The world's second largest economy just... stopped. Neoliberalism essentially failed them. It hasn't turned into any sort of European-style alt-right reaction only because Japan's an American vassal and because the culture's different anyhow. I'm not entirely convinced that America didn't purposely cap Japan's growth.
8: Limp Bizkit
The fuck else needs to be said?
So with all that off my mind, I hope I've at least changed Recyvuvym's mind that the '90s were not this era of peace.
EDIT: Fuck, I missed a ton of shit.
Chechen Wars. We all heard about how Grozny was the most destroyed city on Earth, but that didn't happen in a vacuum.
1992 Los Angeles riots. Things didn't improve; President Clinton actually made things worse for lower-class blacks in America for a good deal of time.
Somali Civil War. Part of the whole African Collapse dealie. Most Americans have heard of Mogadishu, even if they can't pinpoint where it is or when it became a big deal.
World Trade Center bombing. The one before 9/11.
Waco standoff. Seriously, I haven't heard of anything like this happening since then.
Oklahoma City bombing. Over the course of two years, there were two major bombings in major American cities. Not backpack bombs, not pressure cookers— truck bombs, the kind you'd see in Iraq.