The past year has been a messy muddle for masochists who seemed to revel in it, but we really should stop fretting about what’s in store for the new year. Worrying about what 2017 will bring, thinking it’s the end of life as we’ve known it, won’t get us anywhere.
Let me hark back to the time at the turn of the century when 1999 was ending and folks worried that clocks would stop, nothing would function, and the planet would be in chaos. I was working in Berkeley, California, then (my favorite place in the United States which some people unkindly call “Berzerkley”), and I’d go to an internet café to check my e-mail. The place was run by savvy young Indians, and when I voiced my alarm over reports of impending doom predicted by the naysayers—social media was still not rampant then even though the bright boys some miles down in Silicon Valley were tweaking their techie talents—I was told by the young proprietor, “Don’t worry, we Indians have got things under control. Clocks will keep ticking and everything else will function smoothly as always.”
He said it with such confidence that I was reassured. True enough, when I woke up as Jan. 1, 2000, dawned with the arrival of the new millennium, there were no cataclysmic results. The worst that happened was many folks wasting paper by still writing “1999” instead of “2000.”
Today, when so many worriers are gnawing at their nails about the end of history, with some even contemplating suicide, let me dispense a term of Teutonic wisdom: “Vergangenheitsbewaltigung!” It’s several German words rolled into one that means, more or less, struggling to overcome past traumas. It may have been Nietzsche who intoned that portentous term, but whoever the wise guy was who coined it certainly nailed it.
We’ve had a train of traumas to last us till the next millennium, but as in that wonderful ditty “Look on the bright side!” sung by Brian as he hung on the cross on Calvary alongside a couple of thieves beside Jesus Christ, we really should try to be optimistic. (For those born yesterday, the scene was in the British film “The Life of Brian” by the Monty Python gang.)
Meanwhile in our benighted nation, we have had such a heap of hard knocks, thanks to our new fork-tongued leader who keeps his subjects on tenterhooks with his blowtorch babble, that we tend to forget the equally benighted Americans who are themselves experiencing dreadful ructions under an even more obnoxious oaf soon to occupy the Oval Office.
It’s a dismal state of affairs for humankind, but we ought to view it, like the cheery Brian, as a comedy for citizens crooning on their crosses.
– This op-ed originally appeared in the Philippine Inquirer on Feb. 5, 2017 –