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Resolving our problems

Imagine you’rean ancient Babylonian, 4,000 years before anyone had the vaguest notion there ever would be a place called Marion County, Kansas.

It shouldn’t be too hard. The nights back then might not have been as chilly, but the streets and roads seemed in pretty much the same state.

A new year is about to begin — not in the dead of winter, as we currently find ourselves, but in the liveliness of the start of spring.

Like all good Babylonians, you’ve about to make what we now call resolutions — promises to your pagan gods in hope of earning good favor in the coming year.

In those days, few people resolved to exercise more or to weigh less, which a government-funded study has found are the main resolutions nowadays— presumably right after resolutions to save money by eliminating silly government-funded studies.

Babylonians probably endured plenty of back-breaking labor every day, and whoever heard of a pudgy Babylonian?

What most wished for instead is what often comes in third on most Americans’ wish lists: getting out of debt.

Debt was a bit more serious back then. You couldn’t wipe it away with bankruptcy or garnishment. Don’t pay up and you’ll being paying off your debt with your freedom as a slave.

We fortunately have advanced beyond that concept, but with few variations, humans have been making other resolutions ever since. And just to prove we’re part of the human race— something our detractors sometimes question — we’ll play along:

RESOLVED that next year we’ll buy a long extension cord and donate it to the City of Marion so all the Christmas lights downtown can be on at the same time.

RESOLVED that next year we’ll get rid of our phone or our car so we can avoid being called several times each day by people or computers attempting to sell us extended warranties.

RESOLVED that, whenever calling a company with a question, we’ll start asking customer service representatives exactly when it is that they aren’t experiencing higher than normal call volume so that we can call back then and avoid listening to half a hour of bland music on hold.

RESOLVED that we’ll nominate the next person who snickers at us when we practice COVID-19 precautions for a Darwin Award, honoring those who improve the human gene pool by making the ultimate sacrifice of removing themselves from it in spectacularly unthinking fashion.

RESOLVED that we’ll no longer try to get people to actually read editorials before they decide to criticize them on anti-social media merely because some self-styled elitist who posted first characterized the editorial as saying the exact reverse of what it actually said.

RESOLVED that we’ll never go along with pressure that everyone should just get along. We don’t want to encourage permanent paralysis via constant, intractable disagreement. There’s not enough room in this world for more than one Congress. But we do note that constantly going along never gets anyone anywhere they really want to go. All it really does is let the people with the biggest cars or the loudest voices get what they want.

RESOLVED that we’ll reserve praise for actual accomplishments, not attempts. To do less is to infantilize. While it’s fine to treat an infant, too young to speak, as if he or she were, well, an infant, anyone older needs to get gentle but regular lessons that trying, while necessary, is never sufficient. When it doesn’t lead to actual success, the appropriate response is to try, try again, not to threaten to sit in a corner sulking for being rewarded.

RESOLVED that anyone who insists on receiving cost-of-living increases also accept cost-of-living decreases — assuming the cost of living ever declines. A corollary is that if we expect greater rewards for greater productivity, we have to expect lesser rewards for lesser productivity.

All of this, of course, makes us definitely deserve the label of curmudeonly, perhaps even Babylonian. But it doesn’t mean we’re being negative or mean. Those qualities seem to be reserved for those who seem to spend their lives glued to anti-social media — ready, willing, and able to grasp at any straw of belief they don’t like and label the holder of that belief as both mean and negative.

If being negative means thinking for one’s self instead of following the lead of adults who position themselves as middle school queen bees — of occasionally pointing out shortcomings they overlook and offering positives ways of improving on them— we plead guilty.

Otherwise, we reserve the term negativity for people who do such things as challenge a person’s opinions by criticizing what activities he or she participated in decades ago while in high school.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Dec. 29, 2021

 

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