With so many end-of-year and end-of-decade lists scattered around, I decided to draw a line under the 2010s by recounting a couple of things that happened to me in 2019 that could not have been contemplated in 2010, and what that means for me in 2020.
The thought of starting a video version of “Leigh Spence is Dancing with the Gatekeepers” had not entered my mind even at the start of 2019 but, starting with equipment I was using for other things, namely my iPhone, iPad, and a £10 tripod, I ended the year having already made seven videos – expect more of these in 2020, because bringing my words to life appears to be working out very well. Making semi-professional video as easy as possible to create was the iPad - introduced in 2010, was by no means the first tablet, but it was the one that eliminated the desktop PC from many homes. Using your fingers on a screen to correct colour levels in videos, when you have overlaid a picture of yourself onto a photograph via a green screen, now appears to be any old day of the week.
I also did not expect to end 2019 being blocked on Twitter by comedy writer Graham Linehan, he of “Father Ted,” “Black Books” and “The IT Crowd,” because he, presumably, did not like a joke. Linehan has achieved notoriety for being outspoken, mostly on Twitter, against transgender rights, particularly if it is seen to infringe on women’s rights. Far from a civilised, adult conversation, discourse on the subject a bunfight of labels, from “TERF” to “gender critical,” from “beard” to “trans natal male,” technical terms to alienate the other side, limiting both the scope and understanding of the conversation, rejecting identity politics while also embracing use of the labels created during the “culture war.”
On 23rd September 2019, when I saw that Linehan had decided to take a “Twitter holiday,” but carried on sending out messages, I turned a news story into a pointed joke: “Did Thomas Cook arrange your Twitter holiday or something?” The holiday company had collapsed that morning, and their management should remain ashamed of that. About three or four minutes later, my sole interaction with Graham Linehan led to him blocking me from ever doing so in future, his crusade carrying on in its enclosed bubble, or some other metaphor. The joke wasn’t even that good.
In the 2010s, online discourse became, to use a word employed across the British Commonwealth, knackered. The blame has been laid at the feet of postmodernism, but rejecting old narratives is not the same as believing whatever you like. Meanwhile, the immediacy of social media, once used to save cancelled TV shows, is now being used to “cancel” people deemed unfavourable like they were TV shows. Social media platforms have a responsibility to step in when the effect of offence outdoes the ability to ignore – I stopped looking at Donald Trump’s Twitter page because he became repetitive, but I await the day he becomes bored enough himself to stop tweeting.
I would expect a few more articles about politics from me in 2020, as the United Kingdom begins exiting the European Union, and as the United States has another Presidential Election, the current incumbent having started campaigning for it as soon as he won the first time. The 2020s may not truly start until those events are dealt with, leaving us with a clearer road ahead.
In the meantime, I have a lunchtime metaphor: at a café based where I work, I went in for a “Brexit” sandwich and a Coca-Cola. What I ordered turned out to be tomato relish with three different types of cheese, served in a fish and chip shop wrapping. I then found out I had enough money for the sandwich, but not the drink. I will review this not-even-a-joke in 2021, to see if I dropped the sandwich on the floor on the way out – in real life, I got what I paid for, and it made me feel ill.