What is a New Year’s resolution, exactly? It appears to be a promise to yourself that you might share with friends or loved ones, and except for the fact that a new year feels like a time of renewal, it occurs to us to resolve to change for no particular reason in January.
It’s a little bit like that thing at Valentine’s Day where, thanks to a promotion by florists and candy makers, we feel we must somehow get our love lives together. Or go into a funk about not yet having found a “soul mate,” which to me seems like way too much power for the women at See’s candy to be wielding on our psyches.
Still, we yearn to improve ourselves at the start of a new year and maybe that’s not a bad thing. I’ll share one of my own resolutions with you just so we’re sharing. There was the matter of the 20 pounds I told a doctor I’d lose, and that was right around October. I did accomplish one amazing thing this holiday season, and that was that I got through Christmas without gaining a pound. In fact I lost a pound. One pound. Then I gained three pounds over the New Year’s weekend. This week I’m back on cottage cheese and tomato juice, and I’ll let you know how that’s going… maybe in October. One piece of advice: Get a digital scale. Then try not to destroy it in a fit of anger.
Now that I’ve come out about the weight thing, let’s talk about some resolutions we might all make this year.
We need to resolve that politics and the running of our governments is not an entertainment platform, but rather an important civic concern that should engage us at a higher level. There will always be dilettantes where there should be leaders, but the fact that the synergy between media and mediocrity (Palin, Michael Steele, John Edwards, et al) has quickened its tempo does not provide an excuse to dismiss the roles government must play accompanied by us taking things seriously.
When the oil started spewing into the Gulf of Mexico it became painfully clear that we cannot and should not dismiss the ability of government to protect us from those who are plundering and hollowing out the planet simply because we don’t make it harder for them to do that. The agencies charged with that oversight were bought out and weakened, and that’s ultimately our fault if we regard government as mere frippery in a free society.
Following from that, we have somehow come to view the decay of public education as a kind of bluesy folk song rather than the collapse of cultural levees, if you will, that it actually is. I can’t think of a better expression of what America is than the opportunity for all children to get an education. Santa Monica has less pure crisis in education than other parts of the country, but any lowering of the experience of public education anywhere is related and shames us all. Perhaps we’re at the point where we need to view educating children in terms of pure civil defense: How do we speak to each to each other and move forward in any collective way to something better if entire generations are not getting the tools to live full lives?
This is of course one manifestation of the frightening gap in wealth in this country, and I for one am not as concerned by Obama’s folding on the Bush tax breaks for the wealthy as I am by the notion that those who are down are becoming invisible. Why are all the so-called “Real Housewives” only women with money? Because that’s what’s “real?” Let’s resolve to start watching our definitions more closely. For example, a “family film” that costs $15 dollars a ticket because of plastic 3-D glasses isn’t really for everybody’s family; it’s for families that have that money. “Whole Foods” is code, not reality. Otherwise, the grocery stores where others can afford to buy food would have to be called “Half as Good Foods for You.” And we would never allow something that offensive to operate in the open.
Speaking of taking offense, maybe this year we could resolve to do so more often. If the video game is too violent, unplug it and face your kids about it. If the news channel offers no real information and instead lets its own on-camera monkeys keep making stuff up as they go along, turn it off. If the political party utilizes fear and embraces backwards religion – well, you get the idea.
Finally, let’s resolve to pay attention. Santa Monica reported 711 pedestrian deaths and injuries in 2008, and we had the most of 103 similarly sized cities. Why? What’s happening with us that we’re getting these kinds of numbers here on something as avoidable as not hitting a walking person with your car? It would be irresponsible to offer conjecture that this has anything at all to do with obsessive texting and cell phone use. That would be wrong and I won’t do that because I’m resolved to not make those kinds of speculative leaps in the new year. So, number one resolution this year: Pay attention. I’ll send you a text on that, or leave you a message or an e-mail or something from my BlackBerry or smartphone or PDA or a social site or a “tweet” or some instant messaging or maybe you can visit my blog or see it on Blu-ray or download it… but pay attention.