It’s not really the champagne or the fireworks that make New Year’s special.
Many people around the world, in their own time zones, celebrate New Year’s. Precisely when depends on where you live and to a large extent, the major religion in your area. Some people tend to celebrate in the Spring; others in the Autumn; many around the winter solstice; and a few traditional cultures celebrate the new year in the summer. Some of the traditional calendars are based on 12 lunar cycles which does not make a full year so their “New Year’s Day” shifts over time relative to the Gregorian calendar.
It’s easy to get lost in the details of the differences among traditions, cultures, and religions. But what I find remarkable about New Year’s is not the fact that there are differences across the world. What I find both remarkable and heartening is that many different cultures in many different countries have some kind of “New Year” celebration; that people across the globe recognize that time has a cyclical as well as a linear aspect; that people everywhere recognize the importance of new beginning and that special events are “marked” in some way and that these celebrations are shared by scores, thousands or millions of people across the planet.
What I find even more wonderful is that people across the globe are able to learn something about other people and cultures. Right now, at the beginning of 2018, there are some few extremely greedy people who want to play on your hate and fear of anyone and anything that is different. They want to enhance your ignorance and play on your negative emotions for one and only one reason — to cheat you out of your freedom and therefore your life. Make no mistake about it. There really are dangers in the world and for best results, you really do want protection from those dangers — protection for you and for your family. Some of those people who threaten you do speak different languages or do practice or profess different religions. But some don’t. Some people who are threats may dress differently or eat different kinds of foods. But some don’t. Basically, all those people across the globe are very much like you. And, just like you, they too need to understand that some of their leaders are also trying to steal things away from them and in order to do that, they want to make their followers believe that you and your kind are the threats and dangers.
Chances are much greater than 50-50 that if you were suddenly set down in the middle of a completely different culture, you would eventually be accepted and even welcomed. Why? Because people are fundamentally similar. However, people “getting along” is not in everyone’s interest; it’s only in the interest of the vast majority of human beings on the planet. Those who have positions of power and no real leadership skills to help “grow the common pie” will instead try to arouse your feelings that other people are trying to steal your piece of pie. If you cede your freedom to such power brokers, they promise they will protect you from these “others” who are trying to steal your pie. Instead, it is these very people in power who are out to steal your pie and add it to their considerable stack of pies — more than they could ever possibly eat.
Here’s a secret though. The people who are inventing new pies; the people who are sowing wheat to make new flour for pies; the people growing the berries; the people actually baking pies — we are all very similar regardless of dress, language, religion, or customs. People in power are absolutely terrified that the rest of us will all discover the extent of the emperor’s nakedness and call it out for all to see. Those in power would hate to see a true meritocracy because they have very little skill when it comes to any aspect of actually making pies. By and large, their only skill is to make you fear that others are out to steal your pie. If everyone else becomes friends and colleagues across the globe, there is no more reason for the power-hungry to rule you.
Meanwhile, people across the planet collectively have a huge amount of power. In some places, there are still free elections and those can be one way to change the world and exercise your own power. But it is not the only way. Whatever wealth you have, you will have some choice about where to spend it. What if everyone rewarded companies that are ethical and punished companies that do unethical things by refusing to spend money on their product and services? What if people refuse to give up the hours of their lives for working for companies that act unethically? Would you be willing to take a 5% pay cut to pay for a company that believes “ethics” is not just a training exercise for underlings but also applies to the top executives of the company as well? How about 25%? Would you be willing to blow a whistle on corporate crime? Would you be willing to buy local product and support local services unless and until large multi-nationals behaved like good citizens? Are you willing to refuse further increases in productivity until there is a plan in place to share the gains in productivity between workers and those who own the companies? A world-wide or national strike would cause people to take notice and eventually change business practices.
Last year, I wrote a long series of blogs about some of the root causes of divisiveness in America — though much of it applies equally to other countries in the world. There can be changes to social media, for instance, that could make it more of a force for unity and good and less a force for maximizing advertising dollars. Yet, none of the three social media companies I use most: LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter have asked me (or, so far as I know, any other user or citizens in general) what I would like to see different about their policies, procedures, and principles. We don’t have to wait for them to ask though. We are their users and their customers. Right now, they mainly care about their advertisers because advertisers are very vocal about policies if it affects their pocketbooks. But you and I can be just as vocal about policies that impact our society as are the advertisers. Ultimately, the advertising dollars depend on you and I using these social media.
For instance, check out the “Terms of Service” for these social media. It’s not always clear what constitutes a violation, but it does seem very clear that these social media are free to use the content you created for their own profit and that includes any clever things you say, photos, videos and music tracks. On the other hand, if you post something that you don’t have legal rights to, you and you alone are responsible. The terms of service are not “negotiated” with you; they are a “take it or leave it” affair and they are aimed at protecting the company, not at protected our democracy or humanity in general.
But we can change that. We can collectively pressure social media to make changes that we feel are in the best interests of humanity. And this does not just apply to social media companies. It also applies to Walmart and Apple and Amazon and every other large multinational. We don’t have to be purely passive recipients of what others deem is the most profitable way for them to do business. We can change the commercial world so that products and services work better, are safer, and that the profits of productivity do not just accrue to owners but to workers as well. Yes, we can.
And that would indeed be a Happy New Year.