It’s reasonable to root for a series of resets – in Russia, in the United States, in global markets and in tech
As we welcome 2023 into the fold of human-invented constructs, I feel it’s right to examine what I wished for a year ago to see how things actually turned out. What I wish for in 2023 is that my wishes should more often come true. At this moment they are these:
- An end to the war in Ukraine with Russia under a new regime that seeks to integrate with the world and gives up on Vladimir Putin’s catastrophic aspiration of reconstituting the Soviet Union’s empire. It should happen in a way that gives China pause regarding its ambitions in Taiwan.
- In the United States, Joe Biden gracefully bowing out in time to allow the U.S. Democrats to recruit the best and brightest for a decisive defeat of the Republicans under either Ron DeSantis or (increasingly absurdly) Donald Trump in 2024. It would be for the Republicans’ own good, and definitely the country’s.
- A return to stability in global financial markets, based on the idea that profitability and provable success are more important than market share and hype.
- The Islamic Republic collapsing as a result of the heroic and underreported protest movement in Iran, thus rescuing Persian civilization from a four-decade nightmare of fanatical rule which has given succor to lunatics everywhere. While we’re at it, the same for the odious Taliban, with North Korea as a bonus (South Korea should make clear that it would fund a rescue plan).
- A decline of the global populist movement which has pitted educated “elites” against everyone else in a way that has given rise to nonsense and backwardness all around the planet.
- Major advances in finding a cure for cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other ailments that still torment us. Inspiring developments in biotech make this more likely than you may think.
- Here’s how my wishes a year ago have fared:That bad players would be defeated – GRADE: B-As Russia was threatening to invade Ukraine and China saber-rattled at Taiwan, I wrote that “it’s astounding that countries which are so territorially large can be so greedy.” Russia went ahead and invaded Ukraine, with devastating consequences for both countries and considerable damage to the world (a food crisis in Africa, energy crisis in Europe, supply chain disruptions and inflation worldwide). Were the bad players defeated? They certainly did not win. Putin’s criminal regime caused the deaths of tens of thousands (including several dozen elite Russians who didn’t line up behind him and ended up falling out of windows), but it was also bloodied. Almost a year after the invasion Putin has little to show for it other than an impoverished citizenry, a livid world, an obliterated legacy and a disgraced military. Sadly Russia still has nukes, which should enable Putin to extort a tie presentable to fools as a win.That Israel should turn to peace – GRADE: D-
A year ago Israel had a liberal government with a conservative prime minister, Naftali Bennett, as its fig leaf; halfway through the year the leadership shifted to the fully liberal Yair Lapid, and an election was called. A series of catastrophic mistakes by Lapid and his side have yielded victory for Benjamin Netanyahu (on trial for bribery) who over the last week has returned to helm a government top-heavy with convicted criminals, Jewish supremacists, radical homophobes and religious fanatics. It may well spark a Palestinian uprising and bring about mass emigration of the secular Israelis who are the engine of the country’s high-tech miracle; this should bring immense joy to Israel’s enemies in Tehran, at Hezbollah HQ, and among the Islamists of Gaza. It’s possible that only outside pressure and boycotts will save Israel from itself. That said, if Saudi Arabia can extort rationality from Israel in exchange for a normalization, the current nightmare may yet yield some progress.
An American Big Bang – GRADE: C
I had argued that America needs a centrist party that would draw in non-progressive Democrats and non-MAGA Republicans and could win almost every state (except perhaps Wyoming). That will not soon happen. But viewed as an expression of optimism in American democracy, my wish was partly granted: as a result of the Republicans’ unexpected success in overturning Roe v. Wade in the face of overwhelming grass-roots opposition, the abortion issue helped Democrats retain the Senate and limit their losses in the House. It is a small and lame victory, but it’s something. Now they need to get their act together for 2024.
Cancellation of cancel culture – GRADE: B
I had hoped that the Democrats would rein in “wokeness” since they cannot attract reasonable conservatives nor appeal to most Americans as long as they are attached to notions like these: that America’s history is a mainly a racist enterprise and meritocracy a racist concept; that ethnic or gender group identity should determine an individual’s position and prospects; that avoiding offense should trump free speech and campuses should be “safe spaces” as opposed to centers of debate; that riots are OK and police should be “defunded”; that people should be considered guilty if accused and careers should be terminated at the drop of a tweet. Over the past year, some of the extremism (like “defunding” the police) has been marginalized and the LatinX term all but abandoned. If anything the success has been too great, with Elon Musk having returned hate speech to Twitter.
That information will learn to be expensive – GRADE: B
About 25 years ago the media made a huge mistake by throwing everything online, creating the “information wants to be free” pathology (which ignored the opposite other half of the quote by the writer Stewart Brand – that it also wants to be expensive). I had hoped media platforms would find a way to charge for content, and this absolutely has happened. Now we face the opposite problem: with so many paywalls, the media must understand that we cannot subscribe to everything. We should be able to buy slices of content. This applies to streaming video and audio no less than to journalism, and some platforms understand this already (such as, to a degree, Apple TV). The coming year may bring the pivot to bundled streaming video.
I had also hoped for a cure for Covid. That didn’t happen and maybe never will, but Covid’s diminishing deadliness achieved similar results. The world has largely moved on, showing once again that nothing is as permanent as the impermanence of things.
We have one year, and exactly no more, to enjoy 2023. I suggest we make the best of it. Happy new year!