Ahh, 2010. The year David Cameron was elected Prime Minister, 33 Chileans were rescued from a mine, and Inception was released. Who’d have thought ten years after Christopher Nolan’s huge blockbuster infiltrated our cinemas people would still have no idea what it’s about.
2010 was the year I moved, bright eyed and full of ambition, to the big city from my rural hatching place. Ambition that was soon crushed, alas, by economic turmoil, the world seemingly in free fall from the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, as well as the crippling self-doubt of young adulthood, which was a joyful time. Still, the 2010s were considerably better than the 2000s, with those ugly and impractical low waisted ‘hipster’ jeans, the so-called War on Terror, and, worse, Britney Spears all over the radio. What a strange decade it was.
Nonetheless, as we edge tentatively into 2020, allow me to strain my memory, dimly recall what I’ve been doing all this time, and thus present to you something you had no idea you needed in your life: Bella’s completely objective review of the last ten years. Grab a beverage and your comedy ‘2020’ party sunglasses, and prepare yourself for a slightly depressing but ultimately redeeming trip down memory lane as I rate the 2010s a mediocre, though not terrible, 3 out of 5 stars.
Straight out the gate, the turn of the decade saw us in a deep economic trough from the 2008–9 Great Recession, the worst recession since World War II. The ever-tightening ratchet of austerity in the UK was truly miserable. Food and other commodity prices crept ever upwards, high unemployment meant the job market became increasingly impossible as hundreds of job seekers trampled each other desperately waving CVs to apply for a single vacancy and slowly merciless companies held all the cards. All I could do was pick at the scraps of whatever awful jobs I could find, and found myself tumbling into the welfare net on more than one occasion, which I am grateful for, as damaging to my pride and sense of self-sufficiency as that was. But it was hard. Very hard. I remember my food budget for the week being a dismal £30. £30! Did I just stop eating?
There was certainly a lot of global social unrest in the 2010s. We had the Occupy movement, which achieved nothing apart from creating tent shantytowns in a large number of cities around the world, later bulldozed and presumably dumped in a landfill somewhere. But, in 2011 what became known as the ‘Arab Spring’ began. This mass revolution changed the socio-political landscape of many northern African and Middle Eastern countries in a massive way. And, in 2015, the whole Syria mess kicked off, which rages on to this day. It is not as simple as saying the Arab Spring was ‘good’ or ‘not good,’ as life and politics are infinitely more complex. People should have democracy if that’s what they want, and the world is always better off for losing its human rights-abusing dictators. But when it comes to revolution and civil war it is hard to know whether it will actually achieve a positive end, how long it will take and how much violence will ensue. My concern is whether Libyans really are better off today, with their fractured government, divided institutions and parts of the country controlled by terrorists and militia groups. And, five years later, no one is any closer to resolving the chaos in war-torn Islamic State-infested Syria.
In 2016 the UK held a landmark referendum on whether to remain in the European Union or not, an event that was entirely David Cameron’s fault. The parliamentary squabbling, resignations and blame games ever since have been an infuriating stalemate. It is the political equivalent of a hair-pulling, petty name-calling fight between children and, quite frankly, extremely painful to witness. No one has any idea how to leave the EU because no one’s ever tried. Domestically, the referendum has left even more economic disarray, mass confusion, divided public opinion and much hyperbolic doomsday forecasting. Other countries have looked on, shaking their heads in perplexity and amusement. Perhaps the only reason my sanity is intact is because I left the UK in 2017 to inhabit a place far away from the daily dose of terrible news from England’s media circus. Good call, Bella, good call.
On the plus side, somehow the US managed to not declare war on anything in the 2010s, distracted, I suspect, by the never-ending increasingly unpopular War on Terror. Although, also in 2016 – a puzzling year for world events – a bizarre plot saw twist Donald Trump elected President. And we all thought George W Bush was a blithering idiot. LOL.
Technological advancements, however, have continued to march forward at a gloriously unprecedented pace to the point where I can barely keep up. Let’s all take a moment to appreciate how we no longer have to wait for dial-up modems, use Internet Explorer, Yahoo or mice with those balls that constantly got stuck and clogged with dust. I love that I’ve become accustomed to wireless to the point where being annoyed by too many wires is now a thing.
We’ll start with the iPad. What a great invention it was. Oh how people mocked it when Apple gave birth to it in 2010, but can anyone think of another gadget that both a three-year-old and my elderly grandparents could master in minutes? The plethora of iPad copies scrambled by other companies in the following years is indicative of how the tablet was devoured by consumers and has since become a staple in every business and home of parents with children under ten. Moreover, the 2010s bought us the advent of Google Assistant, Siri and Alexa. Had you told me in 2009 I could use voice commands to ask my phone random questions, play particular songs and do mental arithmetic for me, I would have been filled with futuristic glee. The technology seems to be improving every few months, and I can’t wait for the day I can have a full intellectual conversation with my smartphone. Who needs human interaction when you have A.I.? And consider all the crackpot inventions conceived by suspiciously robotic insane person Elon Musk that we didn’t have before, from electric semi-autonomous cars to solar powered house batteries to whatever SpaceX is. What a time to be alive!
Advancements in tech have, of course, allowed the fields of science and medicine to quietly progress to something straight out a sci-fi movie. We’re photographing previously only theorised-about areas of space-time so dense that no particles can escape it, not even light. Admittedly, idiots on social media complained that the first ever photo of a black hole was ‘blurry’. Humans photographed the literal centre of a supergiant galaxy 53.5 million light years away, an object that is technically invisible, coordinating telescopes around the world to function as one giant planet-sized telescope, and people moan that it wasn’t sharp, because these days we’re all accustomed to 4K or 8K or whatever we’re on now. If that isn’t a window into the psyche of people in 2019 I don’t know what is.
Nothing makes me happier, though, to exist at this time than when I think about modern medicine. Not only are we surviving illnesses these days that 70 years ago would have made us, well… dead, in the 2010s we were doing all kinds of crazy stuff like editing genes to eliminate hereditary diseases, 3D printing body parts that exactly match a patient’s, and ‘reprogramming’ white blood cells to attack cancer cells. Think about that every time someone gives you a doom and gloom forecast about the future.
I just about have time for one more thing, so we’ll end with possibly my favourite development to have bubbled to the surface in the 2010s: movie and series streaming services. Not only has it become incredibly easy to watch films and TV shows, to the point where you don’t even need a TV anymore (and no more trips to Blockbuster to rent a suspiciously sticky DVD), but the rise of streaming services has tipped the media power balance away from treacherous mainstream television and the machine that is poorly written Hollywood blockbusters, as companies like Netflix use their profits to produce their own content. Hallelujah! These services have blown the doors open for smaller creators to write more niche, more daring, more interesting material, and have become so pervasive and popular in society that ‘Netflix’ has become a verb as well as a slang term (‘Netflix and chill’). Screw you media bigwigs!
To summarise the 2010s, we got off to a rough start. I would not recommend ten years of austerity to anyone who doesn’t like hopelessness or despair and Brexit has been an ordeal. But, because I’m a maverick, I feel optimistic about the future. The economy has been picking up, and after four years of almost nothing happening, I think in 2020 we’ll be able to crack on with this divorce from the EU and collectively put this whole thing behind us. I love living in an era where concepts dreamed up in sci-fi films of the past are becoming a reality. As long as humans have the incentives to keep inventing, we will keep progressing. As for the social landscape of the 2020s, well… that’ll be my writing material for the next ten years.
I leave the decade infinitely better off than when I entered it. Not really financially, but in terms of wisdom, knowing what I want from life, and overall happiness, which are surely more important. By the way, I’ve been blogging for ten years. How about that.