Welp. Here we are. Welcome to 2024!
I don’t know about you, but I have recognized that since the 2016-2017 year change each New Year celebration has found myself and those around me expressing a “Good riddance! I can’t wait for this year to end!” sentiment. So, at least externally, for the past seven years each new year has been worse than the one before. I sense a pattern.
The Realist’s Predicament
Clearly I am not a font of optimism, so of course many see me as a pessimist. Oh humans and our false dichotomies! If you’re not a liberal then you must be a conservative. If you are not a Republican then you must be a Democrat. And if you are not an optimist then you must be a pessimist.
I do not identify as either an optimist or a pessimist (a liberal or a conservative, or a Republican or a Democrat either, for that matter). I am a realist.
Humans (at least in the West) hate pessimism and are uninspired by realism. But we LOVE optimism. While I agree that true pessimism is not especially useful, our attraction to optimism and disinterest/contempt for realism strikes me as tragic.
Thus Thomas Malthus will continue to be ridiculed and discounted, right up to the day we discover that the “technology” we worship has only allowed us to (temporarily and at great and untold cost) defer the energy debt that the immutable laws of physics require us to eventually repay.
So where does that leave my perspective towards the new year? Here in the US, the devolving Goat Rodeo we like to call “politics” offers the opportunity to plumb hitherto unknown depths of social trauma. So we have that to look forward to.
On the other hand, nothing goes to hell in a straight line, and who knows, maybe there is something to the idea of seven year cycles. So it’s a coin toss – it might actually be a great year for us!
But I won’t be holding my breath. “Hope Is Not a Strategy.”
Sound pessimistic to you? I imagine almost certainly!
Why My Perspective Is Not Pessimistic
Despite our clear downward trajectory, we are still living in the gleaming zenith of human existence! It’s a wonderful time to be an individual human animal on earth! And it should be for at least a while longer.
A Realist’s Proposal for a Happy New Year
As always, the best way to really understand and experience how wonderful it is to be alive is:
- The Historical Perspective
- Study and learn how truly difficult and underprivileged human life has been throughout all of history. Realize that the lives of the vast majority of all the humans who have ever lived have been under conditions of desperate poverty. Just by being alive today rather than at any other point in history, you have already won the timeline lottery!
- Society is deeply stupid. And toxic. The more attention you pay to it, the more unhappy you will be. As a rule of thumb, just figure that anyone with an audience that extends beyond their own small community has nothing of genuine value to contribute to your life. Yes, there are exceptions, but for starters there is no harm in dismissing them all from your consciousness.
- Cultivate Self-Reliance
- We are drowning in garbage culture. Our lives are filled with non-essentials that provide brief jolts of dopamine on their speedy trip to the landfill. They do not offer genuine human fulfillment. Expect the further proliferation of worthless new nonsense products while the price of essentials (heating, food, water, electricity, etc.) continues its relentless ascent. Try to pare your consumption down to the simplest level required to live a fulfilled and happy, genuinely human existence. This will make you antifragile and reduce the shock of precipitous drops in standard of living. And I think in any case it will result in more genuine happiness and appreciation!
Wishing you all a wonderful 2024!