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Negative New Year


Tonight is New Year’s Eve. The headlines are suggesting celebrations will be scaled back due to the current economic conditions. That’s the conventional wisdom.

I will likely be staying in, too. Not because I’m broke. New Year’s is traditionally a big cultural festival, and there are plenty of ways to celebrate on the cheap. The chatter I overhear confirms a concern about overspending, but that’s not why folks are choosing to stay home tonight.

We’re staying home because the nanny state scolds have taken all the fun out of celebrations. We can’t smoke at the bar. A constant barrage of advertising tells us that if we have a sniff of champagne before driving, Johnny Law will arrest us, take our car, and ruin our lives. And heaven forbid not wearing a seatbelt!

This means the only people out will be confimed drunk drivers and youthful scofflaws. The ratio of responsible drivers will be as close to zero as any night of the year. The good people are confident in their own driving ability, but it doesn’t seem to be worth the risk of life or limb when we assume everyone else on the road is blitzed.

Sure, we want to share a sense of community, and to cheer the symbolic new beginng that comes with the new year. But given the persistent gloom of media stories, cutting loose has become a shameful act. No parties allowed until everyone is happy!

Those who might actually prefer to share their gloom and dwell in reflections on twelve months of suffering and disappointment are also frustrated. Can one be properly angst-ridden without smoking? Isn’t a cigaret the perfect tool to express the pointlessness of life, both made shorter with every drag?

The joy-crushing trend has continued for a couple of decades. This year’s money worries are just a convenient excuse. Our culture has abandoned festive celebrations. Which seems goofy, because if the sky is truly falling, shouldn’t we party like it’s 1999?