Straight, No Chaser: Meet the new year, same as the old year ..?

A new year and a new beginning – at least that’s the accepted wisdom. 

Always half-empty 
But when it comes to this kind of thing, I’m very much a ‘glass half-empty’ man. Bitter experience has taught me not to get my hopes up too high; I’d rather be pleasantly surprised than bitterly disappointed.

A recent case in point: on the cusp of the new year the media was full of pictures of smiling pensioners getting their corona jabs and I must admit to being swept along in the optimism of the moment. Was there really a light at the end of the tunnel? Would things soon return to normal?

That hope has been somewhat dashed by the news that vaccine deliveries are now being significantly scaled back. With new and more infectious strains of corona emerging, the new year could well be a rerun of 2020. At the end of the day the government aid packages will probably manage to salvage a good portion of the retail trade, but culture has been extremely hard hit. A lot of venues will probably go under and a great many creative people have lost their livelihoods.

Brexit has now happened and we’ll soon see whether it is ‘oven-ready’ or half-baked. 

Already, residents of Kent are up in arms about being turned into a gigantic lorry park. The county formerly known as ‘the garden of England’ has become ‘the toilet of England’ due to roads and lay-bys being littered with bottles of urine and excrement discarded by lorry drivers in long queues waiting to cross the Channel. And woe betide you if you try and take a ham sandwich over the border – the new rules are strict on food imports.

The Guardian recently reported “Britons buying from EU websites hit with £100 customs bills” – a far cry from the ‘tariff-free trade’ promised by Boris Johnson. Still, that’s par for the course from the man who campaigned on the lie that leaving the EU would free up 350 million pounds per week for the National Health Service.

Not MAGAnanimous 
One genuinely optimistic thing that has happened is that ‘Agent Orange’ has been forced to exit stage left. 

Right up to the end it was maximum drama queen mode, and Trump’s puerile temper-tantrum in flying to Florida instead of having the good grace to admit defeat and hand over power in a dignified manner just about says it all.

Let’s hope the change in the power balance in Congress will result in impeachment this time – if only to prevent him from running for office again.

So (not)Me
Trump’s primary legacy seems to be the knocking of further nails into the coffin of the democratic process, aided and abetted by the right-wing press and an increasing number of people who get their entire ration of news from unverified sources on social media.

Like rats deserting the sinking ship, Fox News, one of Trump’s main cheerleaders in his idiotic conspiracy theories and refusal to accept the legitimate result, finally turned on him. Twitter also closed his account – after letting him rant uncontrollably and lie repeatedly for four years.

They may think this gets them off the hook, but 2021 is a good time to take a long, hard, critical look at social media and the damage it is doing to our institutions and way of life. This won’t be easy, as Rupert Murdoch, Mark Zuckerberg and their ilk have almost unlimited economic power, transcending national borders, and they will fight tooth and nail to preserve it. 

But the nettle must be grasped, if only to avoid another Trump.