Gracious! We’re ending 2018 on a bitter note, no different from the cacophony we’ve heard continually since the 2016 election. The 2018 election did nothing but heighten all the original hype and hair-on-fire allegations, and we’ve still learned relatively little since. Notwithstanding, rumors are coalescing that Mueller may be wrapping up his probe, or at the very least issuing a report. It really would be nice for everyone if someone ended a probe. Don’t you just hate probes?
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, people tend to shift attention to friends, families, parties, and get-togethers. These are good things. Nothing coming out of Washington or media hype will disrupt holiday plans except for those hard core political junkies who actually thrive on vitriol and those who love to hate “them.”
Last month Matt Ridley, a member of the House of Lords and author of “The Rational Optimist” and, most recently, “The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge,” wrote an essay published in the Wall Street Journal. Ridley asked, “Why is it so cool to be gloomy?” His analysis helps explain why media hypes some of the most irrelevant, unrelated ‘facts’ with pouting frowns and furrowed brows, endeavoring to make us gloomy.
Ridley began his essay, “Has the percentage of the world population that lives in extreme poverty almost doubled, almost halved or stayed the same over the past 20 years? When the Swedish statistician and public health expert Hans Rosling began asking people that question in 2013, he was astounded by their responses. Only 5% of 1,005 Americans got the right answer: Extreme poverty has been cut almost in half.”
Those living in first world nations have become susceptible to “fretting about the bounty of prosperity.” In one example, Ridley alludes to Weird Al Yankovic’s lyrics in “First World Problems,” including, “The thread count on these cotton sheets has got me itching/My house is so big, I can’t get Wi-Fi in the kitchen.” Those who live in “first world” nations face overwhelming information overload and too many choices! How will we ever cope?
Finally, Ridley ends with “turning-point-itis,” that is, “the tendency to think that things may have improved in the past but will no longer do so in the future, because we stand at the turning point in history.” 2019 is likely to be the year of “turning-pont-itis.” We’ve already heard Washington and media signal turning points more times than Peter cried wolf. Obviously, there is a wolf, but those who continually cry wolf lose their credibility after years false alarms.
Federal spending may continue with the ubiquitous “continuing spending resolution,” or Congress may approve an acceptable appropriation for a wall, or the government might “shut down.” While Washington and the media burn, the rest of us can take time to enjoy some good eggnog and traditional seasonal songs.
How bad are things? It’s a relative question. Historically, many have found festive, family seasons depressive. Many face tragedies of losing loved ones. Learning of terminal diagnoses weigh heavier on everyone involved. In contrast, many others will get engaged, or add new members to families. Regardless, for better or for worse, and for better and for worse, we’re all in this together.
Daniel L. Gardner is a syndicated columnist who lives in Starkville. You may contact him at PJandMe2@gmail.com, or interact with him on the Clarion-Ledger web site http://www.clarionledger.com/story/opinion/