Here's a two-part New Year's message.
1) Russ Daggatt suggests a list of ways that we should party like it's 1999.
On December 31, 1999:
Bill Clinton was President
Al Gore was Vice President
Bruce Babbitt was Secretary of the Interior
Wesley Clark was the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO after running our most successful (and brief) "war" of all time.
For the fiscal year just ended (9/30/99), the US government ran a $125 billion surplus; for the year just beginning (10/1/99), the gov’t would go on to run a $236 billion surplus
The federal debt was $3 billion lower than it is now
The NASDAQ was up 84% (!) for the year just ended
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 24%
The S&P 500 was up 19%
The US was not at war
No one had heard of Paris Hilton
I would add that in 1999 an American could wander the globe without pretending to be a Canadian, and happy allies would buy you drinks.
In 1999 the opposition party was incensed with our state of military readiness; the US Army could only handle "one large and one medium surprise landwar-crisis." (Today it could not respond to even one surprise crisis.)
In 1999 the worst accusation that could be made against the Administration was that the first couple had fudged a failed land deal that lost them $80,000... and that the president fibbed about consensual nookie in a hallway.
We had better hope that centuries actually begin a few years after the calendar change. Because we have our work cut out for us, setting a progressive theme for the 21st.
2) A little side topic: Musings about" tech-refusniks" --
The recent publication on an open site of my essay "Singularities and Nightmares" has spawned some press interviews. Let me share here some ruminations that seem apropos to the new years... having to do with the "tech-refusniks" who - for many reasons - seem prone to reject the benefits of high technology in an onrushing scientific age.
There are many styles of tech-refusenik. The Amish are classic examples of the type who reject modernity for theological or ideological reasons. The Unabomber - Ted Kaczynski - expressed his revulsion by dwelling in a shack, then using high tech means to attack targets who represented a technological age.
Some who despise this era relish a return to lifestyles that were less democratized or flattened by the "great equalizer" of mass access to tools. The Oklahoma City bombers were good examples of a "militia type" who often yearn for a general social collapse, as in Mad Max, whn old fashioned male strengths would matter more, as they did in the past. (My novel, The Postman, reflects on this.) At another extreme are neo-feudalists, who don't mind technology and comfort, but resent the fact that the masses are getting almost as many toys and rights and privileges as aristocrats, nowadays. How much better to have an old-fashioned pyramid of privilege, with a few on top lording it over many, below. But that won't happen if the masses are technologically empowered. Hence, much of the propaganda of fear, trying to promote refusnikism on a very broad scale.
From another angle, consider the effect of labor saving devices in the home. Today, a vast majority of Americans can avoid drudgery in ways that - formerly - only the very rich knew. Human servants used to perform the tasks now done by refrigerators and cars and microwaves and vacuum cleaners, etc. All of thistechnologically-driven equality seems to rob all our advances of their sense of wonder. This is prime territory for romantics. If everybody - the masses - has something, then it cannot be good or beautiful or worthwhile.
At the opposite extreme are folks who worry deeply about the COST of over-dependence upon technological crutches. This includes people who are concerned with the ecological damage done by wasteful-wastrel masses who seem bent on consuming simply for consumption's sake. Certainly there is a reasonable argument for some steps toward better common sense in today's "throw-away culture," where nothing is ever repaired, only replaced with the next shiny thing. A little "puritan conservatism" in this area may be a good influence on our civilization, so long as it does not tip over into nonsense.
Moreover, there are the ill effects of couch potato laziness. Not only in spreading waistlines! Lately, concerns are expressed about "nature defficiency syndrome"... in which children who never get outside appear to lose the _ability to notice complex natural patterns in a landscape filled with trees and other living things! Get them out of doors, in the dirt, go camping.
Finally, there is the matter of resiliency. It is one thing to use technological gadgetry to empower us, to get more things done, more of our ambitions accomplished, better use of scarce lifespan. It is quite another to become so dependent upon the widgets that we cannot thrive or succeed... or even survive... without them.
For this reason, I put my kids in scouting, encourage self-reliant skills like martial arts, teach them basic repairs and show them my old typewriter. Programs like CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) aim to enable whole neighborhoods to at least continue a minimal level of civilized life, even if they become cut off from the rest of the world for some time (as happened to New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina). I am encouraged by the movement to turn a million roofs into solar energy collector arrays.
Any people who are civilized and robust - instead of decadent - will do this kind of thing... and indeed, make a pleasant passtime of such things.
As pleasant as keeping the #%$##*! cell phone turned off, for long periods of serene time.
Some fear that we are becoming overly dependent on our tools. Connection-addiction is worrisome, seriously affects many of those who spend too much of each day online. Indeed, a sci fi scenario sees us all so link-addicted in a hundred years (perhaps because the neo-web will enhance IQ ... or else it may act like a drug). An addiction so intense that nobody at all wants to sail forth to colonize the stars.
Which may at last explain the Great Silence out there.
Balance, folks. Lots of citokate. Stay resilient and robust. And that's my new years message to you all.