Itís nice to have every wish fulfilled, but not so nice to fall prey to the torpor satiety invariably induces. We could ask Tiger Woods to confirm this for us, if Tiger were returning our calls.
Santa Claus has always been good at helping us keep things in perspective. Manyís the Christmas morning youíve likely stood triumphant in an acre of wrapping paper, only to realize some crucial item on the list did not make it down the chimney, leaving you to wonder for which of your myriad sins youíd been docked.
Itís pointless to speculate about and unrewarding to carry the slight around for a year until you can confront the jolly old elf face to face about his caprice. Besides, I understand Santa keeps Tommy Spina on a handsome retainer to help fend off nuisance lawsuits from aggravated children.
If you didnít get what you want this year, maybe you didnít really need it. Thatís the mantra health care reform advocates are going to be chanting from now till Shrovetide. Thereís a little nothing for everybody in the bill cobbled together by the Senate, but the best part is how many of the provisions wonít even kick in for three or four years. If this is their idea of quick response to urgent needs, I hope thereís never a grease fire in the Senate cafeteria.
The reform-free health care reform package seems an ideal way to wrap up the first decade of the new millennium, a decade that will go down in history among the most selfish of all time. To be fair, the first decades of centuries donít always contribute epochal achievements (heavier-than-air flight a welcome change from the Twentieth), but they usually donít constitute the stultifying waste of energy 2000-2009 has.
Whatís the biggest appliance of the decade? The iPhone, sporting a first-person pronoun, natch. The app with the most snap? Twitter, an electronic monument to self-aggrandizement. The most lauded personalities of the 10 years just past tended to be those most likely to ballyhoo themselves. Cable television and social networking made it possible for almost anyone to attain celebrity status, and upon attaining it, to devote all of oneís time and efforts to sustaining it.
The 2000s were punctuated by the collapse of an American economy puffed up by good old American greed on steroids. Whether motivated by Ayn Rand or Gordon Gekko, too many businessmen put profits ahead of sensibility in the marketplace. As befits the decade, when it came time to pay the piper, those same dillweeds chose instead to put it on their tab and waited for someone else to pick up the check.
Speaking of steroids, how many sports records of the 2000s wound up under further review because athletes felt compelled to give themselves an unethical, if not illegal, chemical edge? Personal glory was rewarded at hitherto undreamt-of levels this decade, so itís perhaps no wonder that so many sportsmen and sportswomen were so unsporting.
Iím not suggesting that competition is wrong or that one shouldnít strive to the utmost. Iím just saying a look at the moral compass once in a while could make navigating a whole lot less stressful.
The phrase thatís always summed up the dream of America is ďenlightened self-interest.Ē Self-interest got the original settlers off their pews and into the boats, and self-interest was the fuel that made the country grow. In its early days, however, America also enjoyed the benefit of businessmen able to look past the ledger sheet and see a bigger picture. Certainly there were blackguards, as always there will be where thereís a buck to be made, but there were also guys like Nathanael Greene, who not only helped beat Cornwallis in the Revolutionary War but also damaged his personal credit underwriting loans for military supplies. Right after they pledged their lives, they pledged their fortunes, because they thought a higher cause was a good investment.
At the end of the 2000s, a lot of folks found causes greater than themselves in which to get involved. On one side of the political spectrum was the Obama campaign, which depended on small contributions from millions of individuals to elect a man who spoke inspiringly of changing the way things work in Washington. On the other side, disenchanted conservatives threw in with the Tea Party movement to create a small but influential cadre of citizens likewise exercised about changing the way things work in Washington.
As the new decade begins, itís safe to say that neither group is entirely satisfied with what its efforts have wrought. Old-line GOP operatives are trying to co-opt the TP, which threatens the established order, while Obama backers frustrated by their manís centrist proclivities are trying to figure out how to upset the new order heís trying to establish. History suggests that this decade will see an uptick in political activities dedicated to creating new parties to challenge the indomitable sway of the old. (Idealists should note that the success of any such undertaking means merely that the special interests that bankrolled the old boss will switch their pecuniary allegiance to the new boss.) Also on historyís honey-do for troubled economic times are political repression and outright revolt, but surely we can wait until later in the decade to examine those prospects.
This Christmas, a lot of people cut their gift outlays significantly, due to the loss of work or fear of same. It gave many of them a chance to reconsider the significance of giving in the first place, especially when they saw so many of their neighbors in similar straits, and in so doing perhaps they rediscovered some noble, venerable impulses toward generosity and sacrifice too rarely discerned during the last 10 years. After all, the change you can really believe in is the change you effect yourself.
Courtney Haden is a Birmingham Weekly columnist. Write to email@example.com