Thomas Hardy’s pessimistic poem, The Darkling Thrush, was written in January 1900 about his feelings at the dawn of a new century.
But it comes to my mind as we enter a new decade. Was Hardy right to be so miserable at the thought of what the future might bring? And should we feel the same today?
The poem’s tension arises from the way its gloomy author reflects on the bird’s cheerful melody, wondering whether it might know something he doesn’t.
In view of the horrors that were soon to follow at the Somme and at Auschwitz, I guess, in the end, he was proven right to be pessimistic. But I still find the final verse evoking a thrilling note of hope and even joy;
So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.
I’d like, then, to take my lead from the determinedly optimistic thrush, to make ten wishes for the new decade. It’ll be interesting to see how many of them come true by 2030!
1. Let’s begin with the easy stuff. I really wish…. we could stop arguing about climate change and just get on with fixing it.
It’s real, ok?
Or, at least, all our best science says it is, which is good enough for me and, if you care at all about the world that we bequeath to future generations, really should be good enough for you too.
Because it’s really too complicated to figure out on the back of a beer mat and is (whisper it softly) the domain of proper science.
Incidentally, I am a naturally right-leaning person but fail to see why so many of my fellow Conservatives can’t accept this basic truth.
Please get over yourselves as we all need to work together on this one.
2. Another climate change one – I really wish…. we could dispense with the epithet ‘denier’.
It’s so unhelpful and is, in my opinion, an ad hominem attack on people who don’t accept climate change science.
Yes, yes, I understand the argument that the evidence is irrefutable and so forth and thus that there is no real grounds for proper scepticism.
But this is still no justification for equating those who haven’t yet seen the light with the monstrous attempts of Nazis to argue that the greatest single crime in human history didn’t happen. And doing so is almost certainly guaranteed to make such folks dig in and attempt to defend and even spread their views, so it doesn’t help.
The term also has a deeply self-righteous dimension about it that we could all do without.
So let’s stop pointing the finger and instead persuade, cajole and befriend. Because climate change is coming for us all.
3. I really wish…. people would invest in stocks instead of housing.
Bear with me on this one.
My adult daughter, who cannot afford to buy her own home even though both she and her partner work, calls it a cultural virus. She’s right.
Housing is regarded, by a huge percentage of British adulthood, as a sure thing, a fantastic investment opportunity, even a get rich quick scheme; whereas stocks and shares are a gamble and the market a casino.
However, the buy to let boom keeps young people from establishing homes (and thus families) by pricing them out of home ownership and into a dreary existence as tenants.
In contrast, stocks and shares really help improve Britain as they finance innovation, prosperity and jobs.
So – invest in stocks not property, folks! You’ll be glad you did as they’re a great way to make money in the long term – and you won’t have to fix anybody’s boiler at 2am on a Sunday morning.
And doing so will let our young people get into homes of their own.
4. I really wish…. there’d be more love and less anger.
I acknowledge that this may seem a vague one but, if there’s one thing that characterised the 2010s for me, it was the rising tide of anger – and a related decline in rationality.
I’ve written about this recently so won’t go on at length about it here. But Brexit, the Scottish referendum and the climate crisis seem to have brought out the worst in all of us.
So it’s time for cool heads and mutual respect. You don’t solve problems by yelling at each other.
In fact, there are plenty of reasons why everyone should just cheer up. As Barack Obama said in 2016:
”The next time you’re bombarded with over-the-top claims about how our country is doomed or the world is coming apart at the seams, brush off the cynics and fearmongers. Because the truth is, if you had to choose any time in the course of human history to be alive, you’d choose this one”.
And, if you don’t believe Obama, try reading the book Bill Gates called his ‘favourite book of all time’ – Enlightenment Now by Stephen Pinker.
It’ll really cheer you up.
5. I really wish… the Labour party would finally get its act together and learn to offer a genuine alternative to the Conservatives, rather than choosing to follow a left wing dream that the electorate are never going to buy.
I say all this as someone who votes Tory because it’ll stop my party going off the deep end, forever drifting further right as it is allowed, by the increasingly irrelevant Left, to get away with murder.
Don’t Labour voters want a chance of, you know, actually winning?
Doesn’t it strike them as significant that their only successful leader in the last forty years was a centrist?
Whatever. I hope and pray common sense dawns and we forsake extremism at both ends of the political spectrum.
6. I really wish…. that the bitcoin price takes off following the halving of the miners’ block reward (due in May 2020).
I believe the world needs bitcoin far more than it realises, to keep us safe from the barely believable stupidity and hubris of central bankers.
On what basis do we place such faith in these people, especially in view of 2008 and the long shadow that disaster cast over an entire decade?
Just as the Labour Party can help keep the Conservatives honest, so might bitcoin keep central bankers honest. Yes, it might seem a long shot but stealth taxation via inflation and ever mounting national debt are a crime against both present and future generations that debases savings and finances war.
And just why is it okay to devalue pensions and ‘borrow’ (well, steal) from people who haven’t even been born yet?
Plus..: don’t even get me started on the terrifying prospect of what Democrat extremists could do with Modern Monetary Theory..
7. I really wish… that the electric vehicle revolution takes off soon. God knows we need them.
My industry (energy) is doing a fantastic job of decarbonising the energy grid.
2019 was the first year since the industrial revolution that the amount of zero carbon electricity produced in the UK exceeded the amount of fossil fuel power. But what’s the point if we all drive about in oil-fired cars and heat our homes with gas?!
Of these, cars are the easier problem to fix.
It’s time to plug in and realise the petrolhead fixation has gotta go.
And, frankly, electric vehicles are cool. So let’s do it!
8. I really wish…. we could see that plastic isn’t the only climate issue!
Maybe it’s just me.
But, for some reason, I find that if I talk to someone new about climate change, five minutes later, they’re talking about plastic bottles.
This is really weird as, although the rising tide of single use plastic is undoubtedly an important environmental issue, it is not, fundamentally, a climate issue.
My theory is that, unlike loft insulation or home heat, for instance, plastic bottles are visible, cluttering up our parks and pavements. So they’re front of mind, care of the availability heuristic.
But we also need to think about the threats we cannot see; the exhaust fumes from our hydrocarbon-fuelled cars, for instance.
Because they’re the ones that really matter.
9. Can I pick a football one now? I really wish… that VAR is scrapped or, at least, radically revised – and soon.
Yes, I know I’ve talked about this before. But it has to stop.
Any business that so utterly disregards the experience of its own paying customers – as VAR comprehensively does – deserves to fail.
It must do something about this extraordinary own goal before people stop watching – especially as, for several years now, there has been evidence that TV viewing numbers have, in fact, been falling.
10. Finally, I really wish for you…. peace, love, health and prosperity, wherever you are and whatever you believe.
We are all human and must learn, finally, to live at peace with each other and in harmony with our environment. As these are the only things that really matter in the long run.
And that’s it. Here’s to a wonderful new decade.
And a song of joy and hope fulfilled.
Happy new year everyone.