By Dave B.
For me personally, 2017 was a complete disaster and 2018 was better only by virtue of 2017 likely being the worst year of my life. For the world as a whole, neither 2017 nor 2018 was particularly great either. So you’ll forgive me if I’m less than enthusiastic about the prospects for 2019. It’s not that I feel that the upcoming year is destined to be calamitous. It’s just that the root of the world’s problems is the same as ever: us.
This isn’t a misanthropic rant, I promise. Those aren’t particularly useful and don’t really reflect my feelings on why 2019 will suck. Instead, I’d like to offer just a small bit of reasoning to explain my position: if the state of the world as it exists now is a result of how we as people have been since our inception, and if people are fundamentally no different now than they’ve ever been, its more likely than not that the conditions that contributed to the world being on the brink of ecological catastrophe, economic uncertainty, and a growing war-footing still exist and will continue to exist in 2019. I mean, when you’ve allowed your society to reach the point where your near-term options are Trump-dystopia and Pence-Handmaid’s Tale-dystopia, and your long-term options seem to be Sanders-dystopia and China-dystopia, unbridled optimism seems a bit crazy, at best.
In 2019, is climate change going to be more likely to magically reverse itself? Is it likely that the measurable benefits of an interconnected world are distributed in a way that offers more tangible benefits to more people? Will fear stop being the dominant political force all over the world? Will governments be more likely to prioritize liberty over security? Will their citizens be willing to pay the price if they do? I can’t say with certainty that these (and many, many other) issues won’t work out well and resolve themselves next year. But I can say that I’ve seen no evidence that they will and history tells us that we as a species tend to push ourselves right to the edge of destruction before making difficult, but necessary changes to the way that we operate within the world.
Change is hard and uncomfortable and inherently dangerous because the results of it are unknown. As a species, we tend to play it safe unless we have no choice. And that’s why 2019 will be bad: because collectively, we still have the choice for it to be good. We still believe that we have time to debate and cajole and procrastinate. And we do. Until we don’t. And by then, it’s likely to be too late to change our fate. And the same could be said in 2018, 1950, 1743, 4000BC, or any other year in history or prehistory that one wants to choose. Just like a person can change their life whenever they choose, so can a people as a whole. But that rarely happens. Instead, we’ll muddle along in 2019 like we usually do. If you think that’s pessimistic, you’ve completely missed my point, which I’m more than happy to clarify for you: muddling along is better than our only other realistic alternative. So yes, 2019 will suck. But it could be soooooo much worse. The fact that it likely won’t be is a reason to rejoice.
Happy New Year!!!