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Goodbye 2010


It’s time to start a new calendar. We look at that arbitrary event as a fresh beginning. But I have the same pile of dirty laundry as yesterday. The same aches, the same frustrations, and the same opportunities.

If there was a change to be made in how I lived, why wait to make myself or my world one step better?

But attitude matters. So to those who like to use the calendar as motivation, a new year does make a difference. A vital bit, then is to keep the fresh viewpoint alive long enough for whatever real changes we make to take hold.

Don’t let the someone else’s sour view of their world take your optimism away:

Time magazine published a year-end issue whose cover was a montage of important events of the decade. Some 118 happenings were chosen by Time editors as the most important in the decade. Four were positive (sports achievements, an African-American inaugurated as president). Fourteen were neither good nor bad ("Pluto demoted to dwarf planet"). One was goofy ("AOL-Time Warner merger" was named by Time as among the world's most important events of the decade). One made you want to weep for the state of American culture ("'The Dark Knight' release" is treated as more important than any book, work of art or music). The rest, 98 of 118 events cited, were negative.

Really? Eighty-three percent of what happened in the past decade was negative? The Time selection says nothing about major positive trends such as declining international military spending (rising U.S. spending is the exception to the rule), declining teen pregnancy rates, declining crime, declining accidental deaths. "U.K. foot and mouth crisis" -- which harmed only livestock -- was cited, but nothing was said about declining cancer rates. "Shark attack" was cited, but nothing was said about the dramatic rise in living standards in most of the developing world. ("Overall, poor countries are catching up with rich countries" on nearly all central measures, according to this important new report.) Yes, journalists have always loved bad news, and have long pretended good news doesn't exist. But this is ridiculous.

Most of the good in the world is unseen. Go find some. Go be some.

When I decided to name this project Negative Railroad, I risked putting unintended emphasis on negative stuff. I took “negative” more as the photographic negative, an opposite to the popular view in my corner of the world. But I do enjoy ranting about stupid politics and stupid people, too. And as much as I dislike the negative slant of panic-driven media and the evil political technique of fear as a means to control, there are things to be wary of.

Perhaps it is another example of the importance of balance in all things. Be wary, but take time to appreciate and celebrate. In the Eastern view, the good and bad are essential to each other. And what is negative to one might well be positive to another.

Which calls to mind a maxim from Thomas Sowell: There are no solutions, only trade-offs.

Turning a page on the calendar is no solution. It’s not even a trade-off. The past can give us nothing. There is only today. Only now.

Taking a “negative” view of the new year, the difference is not in the current world—my laundry still waits. There is relief, if not joy, to be found in putting the last year to rest. Retiring the old calendar is telling the Phantom of the Past that he can go no further.

Keep the Eastern view in mind. Much of 2010 was wonderful. I am not suggesting the past is something we must escape from. It is simply the past, whatever the qualities of its months, days and hours.

This year, too, will pass. But not until we’re done with it.


Well, life has been pretty good here in Oz for the last decade, no recessions, continuing life expectancy improvements(we live about two years more than U.S citizens), an effective partially socialised health care system (probably because we don't provide medical care to unicorns!). We even have low government debt, and budgets that have been balanced or in surplus for most of the decade. None of our banks failed in 2008, and none of our major companies needed bailing out since then. But then again we don't pay much attention to Ayn Rand, anarcho-capitalists (lol!), or Austrian economists. Maybe you guys should keep that in mind...

What, Australia has major companies…?

I could argue with all your claims, but you don’t want to hear it. So enjoy your bubble while it lasts. ;-)

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!