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What we’ve lost this decade

28 Dec 2019

Illustration by Rosa O’Mara

So many things have been lost since 2010 – people, places, ideas and elections. Yet, it’s tough to really remember or quantify all the specific, crucial and impactful things that vanished in a decade – especially as memories seem to flicker by these days. Loss is a weird feeling. It doesn’t always feel bad – yes, sometimes it’s sad, painful, and frustrating. But loss can be brilliant news, a quiet relief. Mostly, I find there’s something cathartic about losing things and letting go of people, even if it hurts initially. It reminds me that some things will always be out of our control.

I guess in 2010, I started the process of losing my childhood while beginning the clumsy journey into adult life. I was 16, finishing my GCSE’s. I felt what I believed to be heartbreak for the first time (it wasn’t), moved to a new Sixth Form and started to navigate and decide my future. Sometimes I feel like I’ve lost my passionate imagination and unyielding hopefulness since then. Over the decade I’ve lost friendships, lost weight (and regained it), I’ve lost family members, lost interest in things I used to love. I’ve also lost insecurities.

So where to even begin? This decade we lost the old Kanye, the one whispering in Estelle’s ear, who used to say, “the prettiest people do the ugliest things for the road to riches and diamond rings”. The irony. We lost some incredible shows like Utopia (I’m not-not saying there isn’t a conspiracy behind that. Lots of people died, more than I can name or know. From the Mandelas to Amy Winehouse, who joined the 27 club after living a life crushed under public scrutiny.

“We waved goodbye to Myspace, Piczo and Bebo this decade – the early social media sites cradling our awkward tween identities”

The internet seeped into our lives – forever adapting and evolving to the point where it’s more colossal than we could have imagined. As it sheds layers of data, we’ve lost some of its gems along the way. We waved goodbye to Myspace, Piczo and Bebo this decade – the early social media sites cradling our awkward tween identities, when we were too young to fear the internet.  

In 2016, we lost so many famous faces. Bowie* left us with the gift of ‘Lazarus’ and I cried so much I unsuccessfully tried to take time off work. Prince* passed as it actually snowed in April, George Michael had his last Christmas. The greatest of all time, Muhammad Ali*, who stood his ground for civil rights, joined them too. And Alan Rickman, our Severus Snape. A voice that rich only comes once a lifetime.

On that note, JK Rowling, someone who played such a pivotal part in British culture and my childhood, is happily and openly transphobic – so she’s lost my respect. I also lost a lot of respect for the athletes that came for Caster Semenya. In fact, I’ve just lost the ability to even try and reconcile with anyone who is transphobic, homophobic, racist or misogynist. 

We lost crass British TV (but it’s having a weird renaissance through the likes of BK Chat and Naked Attraction). Remember when Gok Wan would stick some poor mum’s naked photos on a double-decker bus after jiggling her boobs on How To Look Good Naked? And Little Britain made racism and classism “funny” again. Trinny and Suzannah created random body shapes, probably making women hate themselves even more. And finally, someone pulled the plug on Jeremy Kyle berating working-class people for sport. Surveillance show Big Brother ended in the UK –  it really was a moment in television history. It exposed the state of racism in Britain through the mistreatment of Shilpa Shetty, while proving George Orwell right. Big Brother also received the most complaints from any show in the 2010s.

“We lost 72 people in Grenfell Tower in 2017, one of the most harrowing days in this country’s history”

This decade, the nation actually thought football could be coming home when England’s women and men’s football got into the quarter and semi-finals in 2018 and 2019. England lost – I don’t even watch football like that, but even I got caught up in it all. Blockbuster, who, if they dealt their cards right, could have been Netflix, went into administration. Toys ‘R’ Us went under – one of my biggest regrets was not ever going to the one literally down the end of my road.

We’ve lost funding for youth services by 40% on average in the last three years, thanks to cuts by the English council. We lost 72 people in Grenfell Tower in 2017, one of the most harrowing days in this country’s history. Now, we’re losing time to save the planet with some reports saying we have 12 years to cut net human carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030 and then to zero by 2050. Animals have become extinct over the last decade like the Western black rhinoceros in 2011, the Pinta Island tortoise in 2012 and Bramble Cay melomys in 2015, the first mammal to be recognised as extinct because of climate change

But we gained some things this decade too. The Wondiwoi tree kangaroo thought to be extinct was sighted after 90 years in New Guinea. We gained incredible Gen Z climate activists fighting for their futures. We hosted the Olympics proving how wonderful multicultural London is. Hashtag activism created critical movements and real change like #BlackLivesMatter, #metoo, and in the arts #Oscarssowhite. South Sudan gained independence in 2011, but there’s still a civil war going on. 

Social media’s evolved, we have Whatsapp and Instagram now. Podcasts blew up, and now no commute is complete without one. Also, who would have thought back in 2010 one day you could get Maccys delivered to your door via an app? Technology has jumped leaps and bounds in 10 years – we have contactless cards, fingerprint identification, facial recognition (I’m still trying to work out if it’s a good thing or not). There were breakthroughs in science, an actual photo of a black hole exists now.

And of course, gal-dem was born this decade, along with so many wonderful publications and organisations sticking two fingers up at the rigid, white media. Who knows what the next 10 years might hold. It’s equal parts exciting and terrifying, but I’m here for the ride.

*30 December 2019: It’s been brought to our attention that there have been complex allegations of domestic abuse, statutory rape and problematic behaviour towards minors levelled at a number of the men referenced in this article. gal-dem, and the author of this piece, condemn this behaviour unreservedly.