Monday, December 26, 2011

Bye Bye 2011, Next Time Bring A Bottle

Oh yeah, Christmas happened.

Nobody is happy about 2011, it seems. This Christmas was a slog for everyone - the retailers are unhappy at the slow start, the shoppers are unhappy at their money still not going far enough despite the early sales, everybody who set foot in a shopping mall in the last six weeks is unhappy at the place being clogged up with non-buying shoppers who apparently only brought their kids along as some kind of cheaper alternative to Thorpe Park - but all the more so because the whole year was a slog, and this is supposed to be the holiday season.

It's easy to Google some relevant headlines to explain this. Recession, riots, Eurozone - relevant keywords abound. But there's more to it than that, I think: what's happening in the headlines or in our bank accounts is a nuisance, to be sure, but something to be overcome - what really gets people down are the little things, the broken relationships, strokes of bad luck, arguments and bad feeling. Every year delivers these, of course, but everybody I share an elevator with these days seems to be saying the same thing: they can't wait for this bloody year to be over.

What is it about 2011 that seems to have condensed such misfortune? An economist would claim this is all about the money, that the mystical churn of electronic cash whips up little eddies in the most unexpected ways, even in the calm pools inside our homes and hearts. I'm not buying that, if only because the unique nature of this economic crisis precludes simple cause-and-effect conclusions - if it did not, we could either spend or save our way out of it, and it's already been demonstrated that neither escape route is clear.

I'm not going to ascribe anything mystical, or provide any answers. It may all be perceptual, or it may be simply that every good thing we've heard about this year has happened to other, luckier people (if asked to name one good thing that happened this year, most will say "the Royal wedding", which pretty much sums it up). It may be the will of various gods, or the natural downcycle of probability. It may be the Large Hadron Collider accidentally drawing in Bad Luck Bosons from some other reality, where suddenly lots of people won the lottery this year. No idea. I will only say that I'm glad I've had my friends to hold me up this year, and glad to hold them up in return. In the face of turmoil, this slow Blitz of wayward probability, humanity is suddenly the only thing left to rely upon.

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