Guptas, veganism & Miss Universe: the decade's defining moments

The past 10 years have changed our perceptions of the world, perhaps forever

15 December 2019 - 00:00 By Ufrieda Ho
The last 10 years have been filled with major life-altering moments.
The last 10 years have been filled with major life-altering moments.
Image: Siphu Gqwetha

Our double-digit decade kicked off with changing the way we thought about pills forever as the word "tablet" came to mean something completely different to what we understood before 2010.

Steve Jobs launched the Apple iPad in April 2010, propelling us into the age of forefinger dexterity as the ultimate modern-day skill. Since then, we swipe every monitor, expecting them all to be touchscreens. We also leave fingerprint smudges everywhere, to the irritation of the OCD people in our lives.

The decade started with the world on its knees, knocked down by the economic slump of 2008 and 2009. Dubai, though, was soaring to the heavens with the opening of the Burj Khalifa. With its 160 floors at over 828m, it became the world's tallest building.

In 2010 we waka-waked, gave the world the vuvuzela, and the rand was trading at R7.29 to the US dollar

In South Africa our up and up in 2010 came with the beautiful game we hosted on our shores. We waka-waked, gave the world the vuvuzela and got noisy and loud behind Ghana, who made it to the quarterfinals. Our rand was trading at R7.29 to the US dollar.

The next year the curtain came down on the Oprah Winfrey show. It ended the 25-year run of "everybody gets one" and ugly tears as feel-good TV.

2011 was the year of the tsunami in Japan. The devastating footage became disaster porn, but it was lessons of nuclear's inherent risks when things go wrong that remained terrifyingly real even as the composure and dignity of the survivors lingered as a sombre reflection.

HELL IN A HANDBASKET

There would be more sombre reflection for South Africa the next year. The Marikana Massacre stained our post-apartheid story in the bloodiest shade of red.

The decade seemed to go to hell in a handbasket at that point because by 2013 the landing of a jet at the Waterkloof airbase showed up how cheaply our country was being bought for. The surname Gupta became a swear word and in tow also the words "state capture".

The surname Gupta became a swear word

By the end of the year our hearts were broken and an era ended as Madiba became a man "belonging to the ages", dying that soggy December 5.

Zuma kept adding years to the nine he would steal, he dodged court, he dodged charges and remains dodgy. Media, though, found its teeth in biting down and holding on — even as digital disruptions buried print. Civil society refused to back down too.

THE DECADE OF 15-MINUTE CRAZES

Political leadership was an oxymoron and our diets took a loopy turn. We started eating ingredients we couldn't pronounce like acai, quinoa and kombucha. Somewhere in the world even the ramen burger (yup, a meat patty sandwiched in a "bun" made of ramen noodles) got its 15-minute moment.

It was this decade though that carbs, like ramen, became sin.

At the other end of the spectrum, the unsustainable and unethical killing of animals for food has fuelled a push to veganism and plant-based eating. There would also be raw and clean-eating. The casual get-together gave way to the nightmare for hosts with vegans, gluten intolerance, nightshade plant allergies and almond milk only in fair-trade, sustainably grown, organic tea becoming the must-be catered for.

As crazes and phenomena go, this decade Uggs were big on people's feet, K-pop, the singing pretty Korean boy bands, proved to be a global hit along with all the riffs on the "Keep Calm and Carry On" sign. Tinder became the way to try to find a happy forever after or a quickie based on a split-second swipe assessment and GPS location.

Our lives are now app driven: we get around with Uber; get our load-shedding schedules via apps and we chase followers by curating our lives on Instagram (IG was also a 2010 baby). We also speak in emoji and GIFs and bookmark Urban Dictionary or have a Gen Z person on hand to decipher acronyms like NSFW, ITFL or KD while we mix them a craft gin and tonic with a crack of black pepper or a cinnamon stick.

The craft gin movement shows no signs of slowing down in SA.
The craft gin movement shows no signs of slowing down in SA.
Image: Supplied

When it came to hobbies this was mountain biking's decade, and yup, the millennials have an acronym for these riders too: mamils (middle-aged men in Lycra). Colouring-in for adults also had its moment along with coding boot camps and at one time, hunting Pokémon too.

It was a decade huge for Zombie movies, for legalisation of cannabis, for fake news as viral rubbish — also as political strategy.

Millennial pink as a colour was a thing and we shook up the human family tree with the discovery of Australopithecus sediba in 2010 and Homo naledi 2015, right here in the northwest of Joburg.

BLEAKNESS

In 2014 an entire airplane vanished as Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur and never made it to Beijing. Ebola made the headlines in West Africa, and the stirrings of the pro-democracy movement got its fire in Hong Kong.

In South Africa, blade runner Oscar Pistorius shot dead his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine's Day. It was also the end of the DVD store as streaming made its appearance and "Netflix and chilling" came to mean not Netflix and chilling.

Oscar Pistorius at the Pretoria Magistrates court on June 4 2013. He was convicted for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. File photo.
Oscar Pistorius at the Pretoria Magistrates court on June 4 2013. He was convicted for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images

The next year climate change would dominate and the world finally had an agreement signed in Paris, even though it would turn out to be flimsy on action. The refugee crisis exploded in Europe and in South Africa student-led protest movement #FeesMustFall came to life, holding up a mirror to how a generation born free was still in shackles.

The bleakness carried over to 2016 as David Bowie and Prince died before we were halfway through the year (and Leonard Cohen and George Michael at the end of the year) and as Brexit got the votes, so did Trump.

SHIFTING GENDER LANDSCAPE 

In 2017 National Geographic published its gender edition. The "shifting landscape of gender" hit the mainstream and everyone had new lessons to learn.

We also had to get over the fact that Idris Elba was off the most eligible bachelor list that year but we got to cheer on our famous export, Trevor Noah, as he bagged his first Emmy as The Daily Show host. He also became one of TIME magazine's young innovators and rising stars that year.

By the next year it was teenager Greta Thunberg who made waves. The Swedish teen activist became the face and voice holding adults to account on climate change inaction.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle kiss outside St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle after their wedding.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle kiss outside St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle after their wedding.
Image: Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images

2018 was the royal wedding of Harry and Meghan, significant because it was a departure from stuffy traditions and expectations and embraced the bride's African-American culture and mixed-race heritage.

The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal was news in 2018, with damning evidence on how users' personal data had been harvested without their consent for political campaigning.

This was the year the #MeToo movement went global as women around the world found an online voice and community.

GOODBYE GRUMPY CAT AND HELLO MISS UNIVERSE

This final year of the decade has seen consumers take seriously the plastic crisis. The breakout TV series, Game of Thrones, came to an end after eight years. It was also goodbye to Grumpy Cat, who went to kitty heaven after being an Instagram sensation in her seven years of life.

From Messier 87 galaxy, 500 million trillion kilometres away, the first-ever image of a black hole was released to the public this year and stem cell transplant makes a London patient's HIV undetectable, giving hope to a cure on the horizon.

JZ was in and out of court again this year while the rand is trading more than 100% worse than at the beginning of the decade. And Eskom's is still as the moniker Eishkom as it pulls us into its dark abyss.

Faf de Klerk became an internet sensation after snaps of him in a SA-flag speedo went viral.
Faf de Klerk became an internet sensation after snaps of him in a SA-flag speedo went viral.
Image: Gallo Images

Happier news was South Africa's Zozibini Tunzi bringing home bling in the form of the Miss Universe crown and the #ImStaying Facebook page keeps growing, reminding South Africans that a bit of kindness makes us better humans.

The year, though, belonged to Siya Kolisi and the boys in SA-flag undies. Our rugby captain held up the Webb Ellis rugby trophy triumphantly and with it made everything good for the briefest in-breath of the decade.