As an exhausted world staggers and crawls to the end of another Gregorian calendar year, how many of the players - major and minor - just wish the world could stop for a week to provide room to breathe, create and implement some sensible solutions, and put us all back on track?
But even if this were to happen, would it actually make any difference, given the size of the burden we have to resolve?
Sadly, I suspect not. And news this morning from Britain is that more young people are expected to file for debt protection over the coming weeks, as their costs have blown out over the holiday period. As the line from the Pete Seeger song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” says “When will they ever learn” And if they decide not to file for protection, where will they get the money from to repay their debts? - well it won’t be the Banks. It will more likely be the “payday advance” companies. Legal entities where a recent search (five minutes ago on a comparison web site) suggests that the interest rate is around 1,737% p.a. Read that number again and carefully; it is correct - and just in case you still don't believe me, it should show up if you just click here;
What happened to the definition of “usury”? Such laws were repealed in Britain in the 19th century - and in the USA in 1980 by Jimmy Carter. A case for a revival perhaps?
But this is not intended to be a Blog about personal debt, or spending over the holidays to keep the children happy. It is more about the fact that 2011 has, for many people, been a difficult year. It is not just sovereign debt, political shenanigans, personal debt, unemployment - it is also the wider issues surrounding the world in general. Climate change, underemployment, the growing wealth gap, and it is something we need to take charge of ourselves.
Do not necessarily expect the current crop of politicians to have the answers (there are exceptions), but try to elect people not because they want to do things that are election-winning populist, but because they want to do things that are right... things that will address the problem of having an elephant in the boat.
I do not want to end the year on a note of despondency, but on one that is positive.
A positive note that asks that section of the banking community involved to stop thumbing their noses at Governments and the public at large by demanding bigger bonuses, as if nothing has happened . (As the chair of a remuneration committee for a public company, I have just turned down a management-recommended fee increase for directors even though the current fees are below the average, on the grounds that the existing fees are “fair” for the amount of work involved. I am happy to say there were no dissenting voices).
A positive note that asks politicians not to think about the next election and their success or otherwise in such elections, but work out (and then implement) solutions that are practical and positive.
A positive note that asks media everywhere to become rather dull and report unusual things ... like “facts”, and positive news, instead of seeking out the “sensational” and interpreting things to suit their own spin.
A positive note that wishes everyone good or better health in 2012, and courage to do the things that need to be done now - rather than letting things ride and creating escalating problems for our children and grandchildren.
We may have “lost” 2011, and there is no II button available where we can pause for breath. The world moves on - and with the right attitude and commitment, we will succeed.
I am heading to Africa soon to visit a school in North Eastern South Africa that we support to see how they are doing, and January Blogs may be a little light as a result.
In the Chinese Astrological tables, next year is the Year of the Dragon and I, for one, hope his fire hasn’t gone out.
Happy and Healthy New Year.