The “New Year”

I have to confess that I’m a bit of a cynic about the “New Year,” as I am when someone hypes something as “the newest and greatest.” Just because the annual calendar starts over doesn’t really change anything. We’re all just a day older than we were twenty-four hours earlier, even if it is officially 2018, instead of 2017. The extra weight I gained from excessive holiday consumption didn’t magically vanish, nor will it, new year or not.

I’m also not happy about another phenomenon that I’ve observed about “new years.” They seem to come faster than they used to. When I was very young, the month of December seemed to last years. Now, it’s come and gone before I know it, and the deadline on my next book appears to be rushing toward me, without my having written all that’s necessary to meet it. Realistically, that’s not quite so, but it’s the way it feels. When you’re young, it seems as though you have time, rushed as you may be. I still feel rushed, but it’s clear I’ll never have enough time to write everything I want to write.

Being a curmudgeon about the “new year,” I also find I have fewer grand expectations about change, especially unbounded change for good. Once upon a time, I thought we might have regular space travel, at least to the moon, in my lifetime, and supersonic commercial air travel. The first is looking more and more unlikely, even if I live another thirty years, and the second may be possible, but only for the very rich, simply because of the “dismal science” of economics, and the requirement that greater expenditure of resources is necessary to move a given amount of mass at higher and higher speeds, but all the rosy expectations of my youth in these areas ran afoul of the results of Einstein’s now-effectively-proven [or so far not disproven] theories.

For similar reasons, some things won’t happen in 2018. There won’t be a huge increase in clean vehicles or in non-polluting power plants. Nor will there be any significant increase in coal-mining jobs or U.S. steel plants. That’s not because of politics or sinister acts by one side or the other, but because great changes in existing systems and industries require advance planning and extensive economic support… neither of which is forthcoming.

Some good things will happen in 2018, but they likely won’t be anything I, or almost anyone else, will be able to predict, because anything good requires change, and change upsets those whose position is dependent on the status quo. So visible change for good, such as a better and more workable health care system or further significant reining in of the patriarchal power structure, will have to come from unforeseen developments below the radar of the establishment. The good aspect of this is that American society is varied enough that some changes for good will occur. The bad aspect is that there won’t be as many as there could be.

But then my cynicism may just be the result of years of collision of my fundamental optimism with reality.

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