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A better year starts with some political resolve

Here we are just couple of days into the new year. Have you broken any resolutions yet? Did you bother to make any in the first place?

What is it about a new calendar year that makes us eager to reinvent ourselves, if only a little bit? The coming of a new year is seen as a fresh start and a time for deciding what needs to be changed and where to go next. It’s for these reasons that so many people make New Year’s resolutions to accomplish things such as to exercise more, quit smoking, pay off debt, save more money, complete projects, get organized, further education, lose weight, and the like.

Perhaps there’s an endless optimism that we can change, that we can be better – which, of course, recognizes that we all have something in our lives that we wish to alter. Psychologists tell us this is normal human behaviour, adding that the tough part is actually following through on the impulse for self-improvement. In other words, fantasizing about a better you, about an idealized version of you – most of us can actually picture ourselves that way – will remain just that: a fantasy. Unless, that is, we are willing to work hard to make the dream a reality.

As individuals, we’ve been performing this ritual for centuries – for some of us, resolving to do the same thing, such as exercise more, is indeed a yearly ritual, but that’s another story. Can this sense of renewal be extended to a wider venue – say, to a community as a whole? We go into 2020 with many of the same uncertainties that have plagued us in the age of a declining middle class and increasingly unrepresentative governance.

On that front, we’ll not be seeing any elections this year. Certainly nothing scheduled, though a minority government in Ottawa leaves the door open a crack. Not, of course, that any of the parties is in a position for another trip to the polls.

Perhaps in the absence of an election, politicians from here to Queen’s Park and Parliament Hill might deliver something that actually takes the long-term public good into consideration, though that’s unlikely given the many years since we’ve seen such a thing.

That said, optimism, at least in part, is at the root of the decision every time we elect a new government, a chance that something will actually change. That politicians seldom make a difference doesn’t seem to completely eliminate that sense of “maybe this time.”

This is perhaps the same hopefulness that gets us to put down some money on lottery tickets: we can dream of what we’ll do with the riches – a one-in-a-million chance – until the results come in and dash those hopes … but there’s always the next draw.

Unlike the winning lottery numbers, however, we have control over our resolutions and whether we stick to them. To a lesser extent, especially given the decreasing voter turnout, we have some control over our politicians – at least enough to throw the bums out. (That they are replaced by a new group of bums is, again, another story.)

Many of us make resolutions casually only to just as easily break them. We then rationalize our actions. In our jaded age, we’re equally blasé about the same lack of follow-through from our elected officials – in fact, we’ve come to expect them to lie, cheat, break their promises and to otherwise act in a self-serving manner. That doesn’t mean, however, that we just accept the status quo.

Maybe this year’s resolutions should include expecting more from our politicians. Maybe our political leaders should resolve to do what’s right, to make us all better, if only once in their current term.

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