Wednesday, December 31, 2008
2008: Assessing a year gone by...
The Year of Our Lord (as the Christian's name it) 2008 is in its final hours. A year of dispelled illusions, of rising anger, of desperate hope, of growing dread. From the perspective of this lucky bastard (and, believe me, I'm one lucky bastard), it appears that mankind is at a crossroads. On the one hand, there is catastrophe and horror; on the other, there is hope and peace.
And, as is always the case, I suppose, the former path is the easiest. All we need to do, collectively, is to continue on as we have done and soon enough we will be overwhelmed with war and privation and hatred.
The harder path is the latter, the path to hope and peace. Because it requires perseverance and courage and faith. Not the "faith" that the religious zealots hold out: that false hope that the Big Daddy up in the sky is going to wave his magic wand and lift us all up out of the world we have ruined into a new beginning. No, the faith I'm talking about is the faith that is required to continue on, through thick and thin, doing what is right and good and compassionate, even when the end result is uncertain, and perhaps, forlorn.
Anyway, a look at what has passed away this year...
After nearly 30 years, the reactionary conservative movement has finally been thwarted, soundly defeated, and forced to retreat to its rank, shadowy den to lick its wounds. The movement that Reagan brought to power in 1980, and that was carried on by Daddy Bush and, yes, by the triangulator Bill Clinton, came to fruition with Junior Bush. There could have been no better figure to stand atop the conservative movement at this point in time than Junior. His incompetence and malice were so perfectly matched to the true nature of the Republican party, as it now exists, that it is fitting that his should be the face associated with the movement as it rots away to nothing.
The wreckage they leave in their absence is awesome. We don't know even yet the full extent of the financial swindling and looting of the treasury that has occurred under their malfeasance. The encroachment on individual liberties, the regressive public policies, the lack of human decency have all been exposed. Now, their efforts are aimed at obscuring the truth to protect themselves.
The bad news? They'll be back. They always come back. Let's just hope we can get things going in the right direction before they manage it.
The current low gas prices notwithstanding, the days of the happy American motorist hopping in his car and driving to the end of the street to pick up a disposable camera or a package of peppered beef jerky are passing before our very eyes. Unless we get serious about public mass transit, Suburbia itself is doomed. The petroleum resources simply aren't there. And, if Big Oil succeeds in convincing the public to expend dwindling resources to make that last ugly grab at what is left (thereby extending Big Oil's immense power), we can only look forward to an accelerated decline of civilization.
The good news here is that public awareness and sentiment seems to be well ahead of the political "leadership." Despite conservative protestations and roadblocks, individual states have implemented their own carbon emissions caps. And the demand for hybrid and alternate fuel cars is at an all-time high. (It's doubtful that these efforts will be enough, but it's a start, eh?)
Turn, turn, turn
In my own life, there have been joys and sorrows, triumphs and disappointments. Just like every year. But I have no complaints worth mentioning. Like I said, I'm a lucky bastard. Living here in the Pacific Northwest, with more friends than I can count, with a rock-solid family, with a beautiful and decent and kind wife, I would be the most heinous of ingrates to not see it.
Best wishes for the New Year
Well, dear friends, I wish the best for you and for all of us in the year to come. A wish for the collective good, rather than the individual good. I believe we're all going to have to come together to make it work.
And bye-bye, 2008. Thanks for the lessons.