“This has been a good year.” Or, “This has been a bad year, right?”
What sorts of statements are these? What consensus could there be on a year’s goodness? I think of early medieval annals. “721 AD–drought; 722 AD–(blank); 723 AD–(blank); 724 AD–(blank); 725 AD–bad harvest, frightening comet in the west.” Poor helpless humanity.
2003–terrible year (launch of a murderous and unprovoked war on Iraq)
2005–terrible year (tsunami)
2010–terrible year (earthquake in Haiti)
2013–terrible year (war in Syria)
2003-2013–terrible years (extreme climate events, Global War on Terror, intensifying economic immiseration)
Meanwhile, Uncle Seamus is dead. Beloved relatives are dead. Beloved writers and artists are dead. Revolutions are stillborn.
All years are terrible years; the predicament of being human tends towards the negative. We read the news and are left feeling nothing more noble than “only I have escaped to tell thee.” A given year can be pronounced good only in a solipsistic sense.
2013 ends and I wish again, selfishly, hopelessly, and dubiously, as I do at the end of each year, that my friends and I will in the coming year escape fate’s worst.