Op­ti­mism for year ahead

Whanganui Midweek - - News -

Here’s a head­line I’d like to see in 2019. “Trump closes Twit­ter ac­count: says so­cial me­dia is ‘fake news’.”

It will never hap­pen. It has as much chance as “Kim Jong Un signs on as Widow Twanky in 2019 pan­tomime sea­son”.

How about: “Brexit prom­ises huge eco­nomic ben­e­fits for New Zealand”? Or “Politi­cians bury party dif­fer­ences to work to­gether for the coun­try”?

We all want to see change this year, whether we want it as per­sonal im­prove­ment or some­thing with global ben­e­fits — and we can have both — but gen­eral con­sen­sus is that things just can’t carry on as be­fore.

That’s why the end of one year and the be­gin­ning of an­other is gen­er­ally a time of op­ti­mism, an an­nual, sunny sea­son of hope, in which we look for­ward to the things that could be, that should be, to re­place those that failed, look like fail­ing soon or just have a bad feel­ing about them.

We need that op­ti­mism, even if only to con­vince our­selves that we haven’t ac­cepted a faulty sta­tus quo or dropped our stan­dards to ac­com­mo­date ever low­er­ing bench­marks.

How of­ten do we say, “Things were much bet­ter once, but we can’t go back to those days”?

We might con­stantly look back to our per­sonal “golden age”, but re­sign our­selves to the be­lief that any­thing good has to re­main in the past and we have to put up with what we have now. Change must pre­clude a recycling of past glo­ries; we have to look for­ward to new ways of do­ing things, is the feel­ing.

Any­one who dares ex­press a nos­tal­gic sigh is ac­cused of liv­ing in the past, that the way of the fu­ture is to em­brace the present in its en­tirety and im­prove on it. But, re­ally, it’s like tak­ing a faulty phone and try­ing to fix it by down­load­ing more apps.

So what can we hope for? What good is our op­ti­mism if the fu­ture is yet an­other ver­sion of the im­per­fect present?

Be­cause as hu­mans, as in­di­vid­u­als, we are all ca­pa­ble of ini­ti­at­ing change, that’s why.

Oth­ers have done it be­fore us and will do it again. Edison didn’t in­vent elec­tric light by try­ing to make a bet­ter can­dle. Bell didn’t see im­proved com­mu­ni­ca­tion as just shout­ing louder or wav­ing big­ger flags. He­len Keller didn’t re­treat into a world of dark si­lence and give up hope. All those peo­ple used new ways of think­ing and looked far be­yond what ex­isted. Karl Benz wasn’t try­ing to im­prove the horse when he in­vented the au­to­mo­bile, and what was that un­named per­son think­ing when he (or she) har­nessed fire for warmth and cook­ing? I won­der if any of his con­tem­po­raries looked back fondly to those days when food was eaten raw and ev­ery­one shiv­ered. As hard as it is to imag­ine, there was a time when “Things were bet­ter in my day” was a load of pre­his­toric codswal­lop.

There are many who ac­cept how things are and try and make the best of it with char­i­ta­ble pro­grammes, fill­ing in gaps and help­ing as many less for­tu­nate peo­ple as pos­si­ble. Thank good­ness for those benev­o­lent souls. They fly in the face of those whose phi­los­o­phy is all about per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Then there are those who look at the root causes that cre­ated those char­i­ties and pro­grammes and want to fix them, to make such mea­sures no longer nec­es­sary.

Eco­nomic re­al­i­ties re­quire poverty and un­em­ploy­ment, is some­thing I have of­ten heard, ex­pressed in var­i­ous ways, but that’s only if your world is a spread­sheet of profit and loss.

Our “modern” so­ci­ety is fo­cused on wealth and its dis­tri­bu­tion.

Our in­sti­tu­tions func­tion via ledgers and our dreams have to be costed.

Your ed­u­ca­tion and health­care are based on what is pos­si­ble with the funds avail­able, bear­ing in mind that a lot of money also has to go to­wards projects to en­rich the al­ready wealthy. That’s the way we func­tion now, for the time be­ing.

To ob­ject is to re­veal one­self as a whinge­ing leftie.

Real change is not an ad­just­ment of cur­rent trends, but a whole new — or old — way of look­ing at ev­ery­thing.

It some­times means pulling so­ci­etal struc­tures down and build­ing new ones, with new ar­chi­tects and a dif­fer­ent con­trac­tor to get a re­sult that looks noth­ing like what was there be­fore.

It means the re­nais­sance of new — or old — per­spec­tives, giv­ing good ideas a chance and us­ing sea­sonal op­ti­mism as a tool to help get things done.

Oth­er­wise, how long will it be be­fore the drudgery of daily life grinds away the hope and we fall back into the rou­tine of last year and the year be­fore, ac­cept­ing that there are too many things we can’t change so we just have to go along with them, no mat­ter how im­per­fect they are?

Let’s keep the hope alive, look for ways to make things bet­ter and then act on it if we can.

Happy New Year ev­ery­one.

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