Remember the panic of the 2012 Mayan Apocalypse prediction? For a few years we were apocalypse-crazy, shovelling down disaster movies, zombie flicks, and dystopian fiction as quickly as we could. If this ‘end-of-the-world’ craze can teach us anything, it’s that the grass was apparently not greener on the other side. Now that global extinction is staring us all in the face, we all seem to have gone off the idea, as the things we can’t control get all the more ridiculous with time. The political sphere gets more and more absurd, as the leader of the free world communicates via homemade Game of Thrones twitter memes; the threat of climate change has escalated from one-or-two inch ocean rises to swallowed cities and global resource war, and the ruthless industrial world behind it continues to lurch forward, belching smoke, with no-one in any particular hurry to find the brakes. We are, in existential terms, in a bit of a pickle.
We’re more wired-in, distracted, and politically unenthused than ever: the news gets worse as we become more and more desensitised, so that even stories about our long-awaited extinction are out of rotation in three or four days. It’s hard to shake the feeling that this is one of our last years before everything turns into Brave New World (or failing that, Mad Max). And yet despite all of this apparent doom, a new year often has a sneaky way of lulling us into a false sense of hope and security. Resolutions, fresh starts, ‘New Year, New You’: It’s important to stay wary of insidious optimism like this. If we barely survived our bout with 2018, we’d do well to keep our guard up before we’re battered by the next one.
Saying something well-meaning (if slightly vacuous) like ‘Next year will be better!’ is unfair to yourself; without sounding too miserable, it probably won’t. You are saddling yourself with a year-long promise that through no fault of your own, you might not be able to keep. Haven’t you seen the news? It’s time to prepare for the worst, so stock up on tinned food, dust off the Geiger counter, lope off into the woods and become feral: set your expectations for the year so apocalyptically low that they won’t ever be disappointed. Worst case scenario, you’ll reserve yourself a spot at the top of the nuclear corpse heap once the 21st century inevitably blows up in our faces. Pessimism isn’t quite defeatism, after all. Why not get in for the apocalypse early?
If you do insist on taking on the year with a cheerful attitude and a spring in your step, please be kind and keep it to yourself: it’s difficult enough to maintain a smug sense of tactical misery without dealing with that sort of thing.