Yeah we all took the piss, didn't we, out of Kylie Jenner, that Lola-from-Shark's-Tale looking motherfucker, the teen make-up monolith, the future of the Kardashian clan, the one who will outlast them all, surely, the one most likely to ascend to presidency long after the plastic remains of Kris Jenner have been incinerated to death: we all took the piss when, at the turn of the year, she said 2016 was, quote, "about like the year of just realising stuff".
We laughed, and then it turned out we were wrong. We laughed, and then Kylie Jenner escalated her net worth to beyond $10 million while we all somehow got a paycut??? At work??? We laughed, and then the world collapsed in on itself and folded in two, and now we realised the most important thing: we realised we were wrong about realising things, and that Kylie Jenner was right. Here's what various VICE writers realised this year:
"YOU ARE ALONE"
People always assume that realisation is a sort of moment that you can swim around in, enjoy, that realisation is an immediate process you can see happening in front of your eyes, in deep wonder. That realisation is a little like this: you are out, in the snowy woods, lying on your back in a puffa jacket, looking up at the clear night stars and the ink they swim in. Breath slow and watch the air around you shuffle into steam. You are alone, here, out here, just the occasional crack and creak of tall pine trees, the fresh chill on your cheeks, a slight icy dampness seeping into the back of your jeans, around by the calves. And then, there, in the middle of this peacefulness, boom: ree-uh-lies-aitch-shun, and the stars grow, large and bright, white and light purples, greys in there too, swirling ever nearer towards you, around you; you are levitated with your own genius; the air grows cool then warm, warm then cool, meaningless beneath you; and, like a laser, knowledge is transferred into your mind, through that good solid bit of your forehead, the bit you can knock on with a knuckle like a door. It is there, and you realise, and You Know. And if I were to have that moment this year – if I were to have realisation run through me like electricity, my mind and body on fire with the truth of it, even though I definitely haven't had that even once at all, but if I were to – I think the extent of my realisation begins and ends with this: the annual Amazon Prime subscription is not really worth it.
- Joel Golby
"MOST OF THE WORLD DOES ACTUALLY HATE PEOPLE LIKE ME"
This year, I realised that the world was still a totally racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic and transphobic place. I know, right? But you can't blame me for thinking that maybe the world could Have got a little better, what with the first black president and all those tweens coming out as queer, and Transparent winning a thousand Emmys. That shows me for living in my liberal echo chamber! Turns out that the most of the world does actually hate people like me, and not only that they did hate me, but they hated me a little bit more than they hated me a few years ago – in fact, studies have come out showing that Europe is even more xenophobic than it was in the salad days when we had European Union diktats commanding us to only eat regulation-shaped vegetables and give our last pennies to Jean-Claude Juncker so he could make a giant pile of money and dive into it like Scrooge McDuck. Now that Brexit is happening, we can't even blame the country's seething hatred of the Other on EU fishery treaties. Nope, we only have ourselves to blame for everything that happens from here on out. Roll on 2017!
- Zing Tsjeng
"THE INTERNET IS A PLACE I DON'T LIKE ANY MORE"
I'm thinking over the few things that have brought me true joy this year and the complete list is: Stranger Things, girls with shaved heads and memes. But mostly memes. I'm not saying that to be contrarian or ironic or delicately pathetic. My duvet is frequently shaking four hours after I said I was going to sleep on a work night because I'm crying at meme accounts.
Women – and mainly women of colour – have used confessional femme memes to talk about female experience, mental health and their own truths in some of the funniest, most relatable ways I've ever seen.
Generally, though, the internet is a place I don't like any more. There's another "thing I realised". I only go on Facebook every few days, I hate Twitter but keep it for work, I only have a passing interest in Instagram. My phone is a source of suspicion – a hoax that means I should be constantly connected to work, to content, to the world, anything and everything. The news cycle has been remorseless. I'll sit at my desk in the morning before anyone gets in, scrolling through sites, wondering, like many other people, if the world has always been this horrible or if it's only now that I'm aware of it. Memes bring relief. Thank you, memes.
- Hannah Ewens
"I HAVE COME TO A REALISATION THAT LIFE IS LIKE BEING A POUND COIN"
Do you know what a charity coin spinner is? I am hoping my commissioning editor will place a picture of one directly above this so that when you read my poor description of the kind of large plastic money collection device they tend to have in the foyers of most RNLI gift shops and regional museums it won't matter too much.
A charity coin spinner – also known as a spiral wishing well, coin funnel or a coin vortex donation box – has a slot in the side, into which you roll a pound coin, and then you stare down through the clear domed plastic covering to observe your pound's journey down the funnel. Initially the coin rolls on its side – almost upright, as if along a flat plain stretching out in front of it – in a large graceful circle. Except, the coin does not roll around the whole circumference, as by the time it rolls back round again, it is slightly nearer to the dark foreboding funnel and is now leaning ever so slightly more towards it. The process repeats, the coin speeds up, the funnel deepens and narrows, the coin goes ever downwards.
Well, I have come to a realisation this year that life is like being a pound coin in one of these devices, and when you are middle-aged you are at the bit just before the coin starts going whump, whump, whump in horizontal circuits of the lower funnel that are so rapid as to be indistinguishable, just seconds before it disappears for good.
- John Doran
"THE CORNER OF THE INTERNET I ENJOYED BECAME UNBEARABLE"
Things weren't meant to end as seriously as this. Reflecting on the year we've had should have been a bit more fun, or at least more light-hearted – especially since a 30-second Kylie Jenner video on "realising stuff" underpins this entire piece. But, dear reader, I have to say that 2016 was the year when the corner of the internet I used to frequent – Twitter, Facebook, comments sections, what a teenager might call "mum social media" – became unbearable. The whole thing's fucked. At the risk of sounding like a Black Mirror scriptwriter, we've reached a saturation point online of people gleefully hiding behind the relative anonymity of their profiles, arguing for the sake of it and trying to apply homo economicus reasoning (itself a construct) to every statement with which they so desperately must disagree. Yes, debate is important for a robust civil society. But the way people default to angry debate online is beyond tired.
2016: the year I realised that we haven't really thought about how using avatars of ourselves to shout at strangers may come to affect our devotion to compassion and our aversion to being pricks.
- Tshepo Mokoena
"SMUGNESS IN THE FACE OF EVERYONE ELSE BEING WRONG ISN'T A POLITICAL POSITION"
Strange as it might sound, being a political journalist in 2016 should have been a blast. Several times I've met somebody this year and they've asked what I do, they say something like, "Ah, politics, plenty to write about – that's good!" In fact, having to watch the puss burst out of the angry spot that is British politics has been fairly bewildering (though not as horrible as for the already marginalised communities who are watching their situations go from bad to worse).
I think that's because in a world as cynical as ours, cynicism is no longer sufficient to understand politics like it seemed to be when every politician was a blank faced version of the lesser evil. I'm not saying it's time to generate false enthusiasm for politicians, or lobotomise ourselves and stop being critical in the face of bad ideas. But those of us who think we've got it sussed should probably realise that smugness in the face of everyone else being wrong isn't a political position. Climate change, shivering refugees, increased bigotry in all its forms – all of these are bad and stupid, but knowing that doesn't stop them happening. An understanding that a lot of well-intentioned political initiatives are themselves limited should be the starting point of engagement, not the end.
The increase in dread needs to become an opportunity for actual change. We – and I'm using "we" to project onto others to make myself feel better, since loads of people have already been doing important work on these things – we need to go from cynicism to solidarity, and extend that to people who don't have the luxury to have that as a choice.
- Simon Childs
"TRIGGER WARNINGS ARE NOT CENSORSHIP"
Safe spaces got a bad rep this year, and the term "generation snowflake" was invented to describe people my age who are oversensitive about everything. The Atlantic, in an article about campus culture, said "the focus on trigger warnings and microagressions presumes an extraordinary fragility of the collegiate psyche".
I used to agree with that take, and while I still believe things like no-platforming influential thinkers who you disagree with is moronic, I do believe there is a lot to be said for trigger warnings.
Triggers are not made up bits of nonsense created by the politically correct. If your day-to-day life involves trying to forget being raped, or physically abused, or self-harm, is it that much to ask that people warn you when one of those things is about to be discussed? Or for someone to give you a heads up that the film you're about to see contains a gratuitous sexual abuse scene?
Of course we should still celebrate culture that is gratuitous, and I personally can watch a horrifyingly violent film and then get on with my day. But warning people about what they're getting into is not the same as censorship. It's easy for someone who has never witnessed their mother get hit over her head by their dad to say "man up, stop stifling culture", but if you have experienced that, and are having a bad day, it may be that you're not up to the task of reading about it right then, at that moment.
So what I realised in 2016, I suppose just at the moment that everyone else was backlashing against them, is that trigger warnings are not a regressive step but a positive one; they acknowledge the awesome power that culture can have, and recognise everyone comes to a text with a different outlook.
- Sam Wolfson