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Correcting Your Behavior Since 2017

Crappy New Year

Well, dear readers, by some unforeseen miracle, we've managed to drag ourselves—scarred, singed, bruised, bitter, and utterly exhausted—across the 2017 finish line and into the first day of 2018. And your Curmudgeon sincerely wants to offer my best wishes for a happy new year. Because, really, that's all such expressions are: wishes—crazy, illogical wishes. At best. There's no solid evidence suggesting that our new year will be happy in any way. Indeed, there is a distinct lack of such evidence. Indeed, all signs point to a very unhappy new year. I don't say that just because I've made a lifestyle of being in a bad mood. It's also because I find great comfort in brutal honesty over wishful thinking.

There is a bizarre mythology that something happens at the precise moment when the numeral designating the year goes up by one. Even among allegedly civilized, intelligent humans (feel free to roll your eyes at that one), the addiction to this inane theory is pervasive. People seem to really believe that just because some bloke in the 1500s decided we should all follow this particular calendar and that it should start on a day we've come to call "January first" that there's some sort of attendant magic going on.

And so, a fresh start . . . behavioral improvements . . . new commitments to being our best selves . . . and (inexplicably) new hope all get squeezed into our overblown and wholly unrealistic expectations as we lose our minds over this legendary annual date.

The idea is idiotic and meritless in an average year; this year, it's stupider than ever, requiring Herculean levels of denial. No one is happy. The poor are still poor, and about to get poorer. The rich are rabidly pursuing greater mountains of wealth while bleeding themselves dry of any sense of decency in the process. And the middle classes are ravaged by a plague of well-informed pessimism. Our president—the president of the United States of America—is under investigation for all sorts of highly likely nefarious shenanigans . . . along with more or less anyone with whom he's ever crossed paths. Eventually, they'll all be shipped off to the Evil Politician Penal Colony, leaving, I believe, Gilbert Gottfried as the only person still legally eligible to run the nation. Meanwhile, it's 87 degrees in November and 14 in July. World War III is so likely that HBO has probably already cast the movie. Apparently, around 92% of the male population are sex criminals. And we're heading into our first year without Mary Tyler Moore on the planet. It's honestly too much to take.

Meanwhile, we're seeing the deterioration of crucial fundamental concepts—concepts that we desperately need to maintain lest we surrender to insanity—like the agreement that there's such a thing as provable, inarguable, empirically true facts that are not subject to opinion or theory or interpretation; that saying something doesn't make it so; that denying something doesn't make it false. That's right: we are rapidly losing the idea that there's such a thing as a fact. Quake in terror at the thought. Soon, you'll be able to prove that carrots are raspberries, just by saying so. So, yes, we can all wish each other a happy 2018, as unlikely as that is. It's a worthy thing to wish for. But it won't happen by hanging up a new calendar, or believing in date-based mythology, or by wishing. For there to be even a sliver of a chance of happiness, we need to start with truth. And the truth is, we're currently saddled with a disproportionately large number of things that suck. At times like these, the world needs curmudgeons.

And so, I'll continue to advocate for the stuff that holds societies together. I'll continue to reinforce the concept that there are truths and untruths, facts and falsehoods, rights and wrongs, and things that are correct and incorrect, and that none of them are subject to personal preferences. I'll keep reminding my fellow Americans (at least those I can reach) that there are time-honored protocols, ways to behave, ethical obligations to each other, and, yes, proper and improper uses for punctuation. I'll champion accuracy and logic, and mock those who sin against them. And I'll continue to declare that words—most of which have firm, incontestable definitions and spellings—matter. That will be my contribution to making 2018, if not happy, then perhaps slightly less excruciating. Welcome to the new year. Here's hoping we all survive it.

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