What Will History Say About The 2010s?

The decade that promised so much, but delivered so little

Photo by Tamara Menzi on Unsplash

This past decade has been one of the weirdest and eventful in recent times. It is certainly the most interesting since I was born.

We have had a slow recovery from a financial crash, Britain deciding to leave the election and the election of Donald Trump as President.

The last one by itself is hard to believe! If someone had told me at the start of the decade that Trump would be President in 2016, I would have laughed in their face!

Yet, despite all this upheaval, there is still the sense that this decade has been a lost one. What actually happened? Have we moved forward as a species or have we regressed?

If you’re looking at it from a political angle, it’s concerning. The world has lurched towards populism, a result of the global financial crash in 2008. The left has been unable to formulate a response since the crash.

Social media and technology have become more entrenched in our lives. We share our lives on Facebook and Instagram with impunity and they share our data with impunity too.

Technology has increased at a rapid rate. The first iPad was released in 2010, which was seen as a gamechanger, now it’s somewhat of an afterthought.

Phones have become more and more advanced as the decade has worn on. Yet, they have always sucked up more and more of our time. Technology has captured us more than ever during this decade.

However, there are reasons to be positive.

The climate is in disarray, but we have become aware of this and we are fighting back. Protests have taken place around the world aiming to place the climate at the top of the political agenda.

We still have a long way to go, but at least it is front and centre now, which was not the case at the start of the decade.

The #metoo movement shone a light on the maltreatment of women in the entertainment industry and society in general. Mental health has become a topic which is not stigmatised and is now considered essential to our wellbeing.

It’s been a funny decade. One that has swung back and forth between progress and regression. A time where it seemed we had the world at our fingertips, but it has somehow slipped through our fingers and we are scrambling around on the ground trying to find it again.

This decade is the story of a time that promised but has underwhelmed. However, there are the shoots of recovery out there if we’re willing to nurture them as we move into the 2020s.

Lost Decade

When I look back at this decade from a personal perspective, it’s been one of adventure and discovery. I have done so much, learnt a lot and grown as a person.

However, when I look at it from a wider perspective, from a societal and global viewpoint, it feels like a decade that was wasted during the decade.

The financial crash in 2008 took the wind out of the sails and forced governments around the world to act to rescue their economies.

Unfortunately, in a lot of countries, this meant squeezing those at the bottom and cutting essential public services to steady the books. What could have been a decade of progress and prosperity became one of managing the books and just about managing.

The slow response to the crash and the slow recovery sowed the seeds for the populist discontent that rose towards the end of the decade. Had the recovery been quicker, we may not have had Brexit or Trump.

Unfortunately, that was not the case.

The election of Trump is strange. There is no doubt, historians will look back 50 years from now and think how the hell did that happen.

Luckily, for them, they won’t be short of sources to pore over. Facebook ads, twitter posts and campaign videos will all be preserved, showing the slippery slope that led to his election.

From electing Obama as President to electing Trump, the change could not have been more dramatic. It represented a slap in the face, a rejection of the established norm of politics.

This decade has seen the rise of populism, it’s seen the rise of polarisation in debate and it’s seen the rise of everyone becoming a political commentator.

Perhaps the most troubling development of the decade has been this. The barriers to broadcasting your opinion to the world have been blown away.

Whereas in the past you needed a column in a newspaper or a spot on TV, all you need to do now is open a Twitter account and tweet away. Anyone, from anywhere on the globe, can broadcast their thoughts to the wider world.

While this has democratised debate, it has also polarised. The belief in experts has diminished. Why believe them, when Dave from Portsmouth can tell what I believe and want to hear?

The dangers of this are becoming apparent. Social media is an echo chamber that feeds what you like back to you in an endless loop. You are not exposed to other ideas and become more entrenched in the ones you hold.

The saying that it’s harder to reason someone out of a position when they have not reasoned themselves into it in the first place, held true this decade.

The decade has passed by as one that promised much but failed to deliver. However, there are positives to take forward into the new decade and beyond.

Positive Signs

While it may seem all doom and gloom, I am optimistic about what the future holds. Yes, politics has become more polarised, the climate is spiralling out of control and as a society, we seem to be at odds with one another, but at least we are aware of this.

We are not burying our hands in the sand, we are out there making our voices heard.

The debate on the climate has always been background noise up until recently. Most of us acknowledged that pumping huge amounts of cO2 into the atmosphere was not a good idea, but few of us wanted to stand up and shout this from the rooftops.

Thankfully, Greta Thunberg’s strike and the subsequent groundswell of support for her movement have placed the climate at the top of the political agenda. we are more aware and willing to act than ever before.

The transition to renewable energy sources and electric vehicles is happening at an ever-increasing rate and will hopefully speed up as the new decade goes on.

The bushfires in Australia show what is at stake. But, we are now acting on an issue that for my lifetime, was recognised but never urgent. Now it is.

The good thing about this decade is that we have become more aware of the world around us. This can only be positive moving forward. We are aware of how Facebook handles our data, we know the damage we are doing to the climate, we know that mental health is not something to take likely.

Recognition of a problem is the first step to resolving it. We know the problems we face in the coming decade, that is a useful starting point, perhaps the most important starting point.

It’s easy to forget with all that’s going on in the world that it is the best time to be alive in human history. Yet, we seem to unhappier than ever. All these riches and technological advancements have overwhelmed us and as the decade has gone on we’ve slowly realised this.

Things will get better now that we have realised and taken the time to develop the tools to solve these problems. If there’s one thing humans have shown in the past, it’s a remarkable capacity to pull ourselves back from the brink.

In the twenties, this will be truer than ever. Hopefully, history will be kind to us in this regard. But, on the wider issue of the 2010s, I suspect the historians of the future will back and wonder what the hell happened!?

I like to write. I like to travel. https://www.thetravellingtom.com Join my email list -> https://tomstevenson.substack.com/

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