Never before in history has more resolve been required when it comes to sticking with a resolution.
Well blow me down with a DWP job-creation strategy for people aged over ninety……it’s January 1st yet again: another year dawns full of good intentions and fine aspirations.
As somebody with aphorismitis (Mark Twain probably) once wrote, ‘Most humour is based on the difference between human aspiration and human achievement’. The failure to spot banana skins, open manholes, falling birdshit, cliff edges and approaching out-of-control juggernauts is a never-ending seam of slapstick and circus humour; but the human hubris that insists Gomorrah can be turned into Utopia is infinitely more ridiculous.
Nevertheless, people resolve – each and every year on its bleary opening day – to raise the goodness quotient in their behaviour. An English monk in the 14th century was being more worldly than most by beginning his diary every day ‘Dear Lord, make me good forever and ever, starting tomorrow’. Which is interesting because, in his time, keeping to resolutions was a more simple task, involving far fewer obstacles, than it is today.
In 1340, there were no burger joints, chippies, pizza houses or indeed, eateries of any kind: potatoes and tobacco were yet to be discovered, inns were for the rich, poaching deer was mortally dangerous, and – in the absence of chickens – rook, pigeon and rabbit were the best protein likely to be on offer. There were no dieting books causing the shelves to groan, because nobody beyond the Royal Court needed to diet, and nobody could read.
Thus your chance of stumbling across sinful temptation was as limited as the likelihood of learning about its existence in the first place. Further, there were no limits to the number of clerics telling you that pretty much everything from masturbation upwards was the road to Hell – and, given mediaeval life expectancy – Hell was no more than a decade or so away.
On the other side of this same coin, however, there were no media crammed with gobby medics telling you how everything naughty and nice would hasten your already premature death. Most people believed death to be a blessed relief from toothache, syphillis and tithes anyway. As for regular intoxication, over-indulgence from the age of fourteen was unlikely to decrease the meagre lifespan by more a few months either way. So there must have been a degree of “Geteth ye real, who TF needs resolutions already?” knocking about among those with an IQ in treble figures.
The landscape of 21st century sin is, by contrast, lush and verdant in its variety of everything from serious mind alteration to serial adultery. It is in turn crammed with media insisting that every man can still get help with a stiffy at the age of 87, and every woman has the moral right to say no at the same time as enjoying the human right to have 24/7 multiple orgasms. Furthermore, Hell has been cancelled, death has been postponed, almost every form of deviancy has been declared not only legal but desirable, most traditionally criminal acts can be absolved with the words “I didn’t know it was wrong”, and the justice system is in meltdown anyway.
But the biggest problem of all is that, above and beyond incontinent social mores, there are in 2018 various élites whose acquisitive and inquisitive nature seems almost designed with the aim of purloining the fruits of your self-denial. And let me tell you, dear reader, if there’s one thing more painful than being stuck to a resolution, it’s having your fruits purloined.
Today, the 1.1.18 wannabe straight-and-narrow person making New Year’s resolutions must read the health warnings very carefully:
* I will save more money. If you do, the bankers won’t give you any interest on it – and when the bailin comes, they will steal the entire stash.
* I will spend less money foolishly. Good luck with that one: governments and bureaucrats have been understating inflation for thirty years, and capital has more power to cut your wages than at any time since The Levellers. Foolishly or otherwise, you will spend it or starve.
* Come what may, I will get off benefits. Don’t worry on that score, you will get off benefits, or else. They’re building robots to take any remaining jobs you might find, and you will have to fight fifty other mugs to get it at lower rates and fewer hours than you could imagine. This won’t be a case of “get a job or starve”, but rather “get a job and starve”.
* I will spend my limited State pension wisely at food banks. You’ll find that hard, given the aim is to remove the pension.
* I will look after my health more. Smart move, given you won’t be able to afford Sir Richard Branson or Donald Trump’s prices.
* I will take more exercise. You undoubtedly will, as you won’t have the money to repair the car, the credit to replace the car, or a bus to take you to work for two hours at 3 am in the morning.
* I will give up alcohol. Good: it’s bad for you. Mind you, to face the life you have left after the robbers and embezzlers have finished, you will need heavy doses of antidepressants. If your employer finds out you’re on antidepressants, there’s a good chance he’ll fire you. And if too many of you take the Prozac solution, Mr Hunt will start to charge for them.
* I will lose weight. Correct.
* I will not sleep around. That’ll be tricky once you lose your home. The police will keep moving you on, so trust me, you’re going to wind up sleeping all over the place.
* I will go straight. Is that altogether wise? At least in prison you’ll get three squares a day.
* I will not become bitter when it gets damp under the arches, and another 110,000 immigrants a year continue to pour into the US Britain Holland Germany Italy France and Greece. Now you’re just being silly.
You know, I’d be prepared to wager a few quid on the strong likelihood of 2018 being, by next December 31st, almost indistinguishable from 2017.