I have long marveled at the capacity of Homo sapiens to use the Gregorian construct of calendar days to act, think and feel differently. 364 days after our date of birth, we have a thing called a birthday. A day where we believe we are more special than the day before and the day after. We also believe that the third Thursday of the month of November is the day to give thanks. And we believe that Fridays are days we can begin to relax and Sundays are days of rest. Well, at least we used to believe that. And we believe that the new year, as represented by January 1st, represents a whole new world, or at least a whole new capacity to create a new world, which implies that December 31st did not carry the same potential… Now I know deep in the recesses of my left-brain that that is just silly. A day is a day is a day. But that’s not always true.
The turning of the page from a tumultuous 2016, where everything we knew turned out to be not quite true and the truth itself became seemingly less important, into 2017 has brought with it an almost palpable collective exclaim of “phew” and an unspoken hopefulness that this new year will bring less of the extremes and more moderate, thoughtful and unilaterally caring actions by them, whoever them is.
Hope, regardless of its fragility, is a good thing. The capacity of people to move forward is in large part predicated on how they feel. Give them hope and they will engage. Give them doubt and they will circle their wagons. Japan’s lost decade being perhaps the best example of the latter. My worry is that the hope that is appearing presumes that everything will go back to normal. Normal leadership, normal decisions, and nominal but perfectly appropriate changes to the status quo. Regretfully, I think not. The new normal, while abnormal, is very real.
The new order of things suggests that we have gone from being a nation of belief and conviction with some sense of shared intentions to one ruled by fear and doubt, with every individual fighting for survival and his or her fair share. Darwinism is rampant. The new normal presents globalization as a curse, every country as a competitor and every non-American as less than or worse, a threat. The new normal sets everyone against everyone, believing that winning is the only choice. It’s a ravenous, unrelenting force that is eating away at our collective soul, to leave nothing but the bones of a still forming young nation.
And the terrible truth on top of that terrible truth is that hope is no match for it. Hope is nothing but the cousin of wishful thinking, which we all know rarely if ever delivers. Hope simply is not enough. We must transform our simpering hope into steadfast conviction, crystal clear intentions and a collective action to get this country of ours headed in a different direction. Actions speak louder than words. Period.
So as we contemplate the turning of the page into a new year, and the tradition of declaring resolutions to improve our lives, our common declaration should be to take collective action; collective action that seeks to find common ground while fighting for the principles of freedom, equality and morality in every facet of our society. Our ability to regain our footing is purely predicated on us and what we do. Not what we say, what we do. And while that may seem daunting, as individuals, businesses and communities, the first step is to believe we can. And thank god for January 1st. What a difference a day makes.