Pharyngula

My New Year’s Dream

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions—they’re always so narrow and boring. I’d rather advance some bigger goals.

When I was a young fellow, and my father was teaching me how to swing a bat, he’d tell me I shouldn’t aim to hit the ball, I should try to swing through it. When he was teaching me how to play football, he’d tell me I shouldn’t aim for the lineman’s chest, I should set the goal of running straight through the guy and a hundred yards downfield. (Of course, there were other words of wisdom from my father, like “you’re a born nerd, boy, and I don’t know why we’re wastin’ time with the sports”). The point still stands, though: if you’re trying to go from here to there, don’t set your sights on there—make your goal an unreachable point far, far beyond there. Never settle for a small piece, always go for everything…and be glad of whatever you can get.

In that spirit, then, here’s what I’d dream of seeing in the next year.

  • Every penny spent on this pointless war ought to be immediately redirected out of Halliburton’s hands and straight to social services. Universal healthcare, first thing. Everything else gets poured into education—we need more and better schools at every level, and more teachers, and the teachers need to be paid what they’re worth. Every child born ought to be able to expect to get the same medical care as any other, and every child ought to be able to get the level of education he desires and can handle, not just what her family can afford. If our government can suck up tons of cash and shovel it at a disgraceful foreign expedition, they ought to be able to do the same with something that really matters. And we can pay for it by taxing the bloated and grossly over-pampered rich.

  • Let religion expire. I want to see a world where religion is a quirk, the hobby of eccentrics, rather than a prerequisite for high office. Creationism should be the punchline to a joke instead of the focus of serious debate. Let all the churches and synagogues and mosques close, and then reopen, repurposed as centers for secular charities or the arts. Televangelists should be bankrupt (we’ll keep them off the streets with our expanded social services, though), and the more honest preachers should be looking for legitimate work—something other than trading a false authority for handouts from the deluded and fearful. Maybe they can go back to school and learn something useful.

  • Let’s get specific: GW Bush, Dick Cheney, and the whole corrupt lot should be impeached, convicted of gross negligence tantamount to treason, and sent to prison for the rest of their lives. The entire Republican party should wither away in shame and disappear. The Democrats should reorganize and stand up for real principles: return to their roots as the party of labor and the working class, for civil rights and equality. Because we do need competing ideas, the other party with some power should be the Greens, who fight for the environment and sustainability. It would be such a joy to be able to go to the polling place and instead of choosing between Evil Greedy Grandpa and Bland Dithering Bureaucrat, I could actually face the pleasant dilemma of having to weigh agendas that matter in a positive way.

  • In a development for the long term, lets pull people back into developed enclaves and allow large swathes of the country revert to wilderness; I want plains with herds of bison, I want old growth forests standing pristine and unthreatened, I want sections of coastline where the marine life is allowed to teem untouched. We should treat life as something worth preserving, not to be sacrificed for mere human convenience.

  • Those human enclaves? Let them be fed with sustainable agricultural practices and fueled with renewable energy. Tie them together with efficient mass transit and free, open communications technologies.

That’s my dream for this new year. I want all of that, and heck, I want ponies for everyone, too.

OK, I’ll compromise: if we can’t swing the ponies, I won’t cry too much. If it takes two years, rather than one, I’ll cope, anxiously.

But let’s please start aiming much, much higher, and let’s all have a wonderfully progressive new year.

(crossposted to The American Street)

Comments

  1. #1 Bachalon
    December 31, 2006

    Of course, the other part of resolutions is disappointment when they’re not kept or achieved.

    Now you’ve got me wishing, too.

  2. #2 Caledonian
    December 31, 2006

    And we can pay for it by taxing the bloated and grossly over-pampered rich.

    You really can’t do that, not unless you redefine ‘rich’ to include even professors at liberal arts colleges. The truly wealthy will still find loopholes – or have them created for them – and manage to keep their money.

  3. #3 coturnix
    December 31, 2006

    Speaking of ponies, your father’s advice is well-known in equestrian circles: “Throw your heart over the fence and the horse will jump after it.” I used the strategy in high school to become a three-year-running long-jump champion (on my own feet, not horses).

    But I really like the way you extend the metaphor from individual to societal and political.

  4. #4 Abigail
    December 31, 2006

    Here, here!

    Or Hear, Hear!

    Or whatever, I’m with you.

  5. #5 Gregory
    December 31, 2006

    The Democrats should reorganize and stand up for real principles: return to their roots as the party of labor and the working class, for civil rights and equality.

    Wait, wasn’t that the goal of the Republican Party at its roots, before it got twisted into some strange incoherent mass?

  6. #6 Tanya
    December 31, 2006

    That is a great dream for the next year. I would also like to add that I would like to see all drugs become completely legal. Put a stop to the war on drugs once and for all. With all the money that we save locking up non-violent offenders we will be sure to have enough money to fund education and health care.

  7. #7 Gregory Simonian
    December 31, 2006

    Arrrggghhh, the top paragraph should be in quotes.

  8. #8 Natasha Coureaux
    December 31, 2006

    PZ for President!

  9. #9 Desert Donkey
    December 31, 2006

    I couldn’t have said it better myself Paul. Here’s to hoping, and working, to see all these dreams come true.

    Happy New Year

  10. #10 Zeno
    December 31, 2006

    (Of course, there were other words of wisdom from my father, like “you’re a born nerd, boy, and I don’t know why we’re wastin’ time with the sports”)

    On a couple of occasions my father ordered me against my will to play catch with my younger brother. My position was clear: If Dad wanted someone to play catch with my kid brother, then he could play catch with him. Dad found my argument unpersuasive, so I’d have to borrow a glove (I never had or wanted one of my own) and toss the ball around with my sib. But that never went well. Or lasted very long.

    After throwing the ball as hard as I could a few times to achieve the velocity vector of the greatest possible magnitude (direction was mostly irrelevant) for my puny arm (still bigger than my brother’s, though), I’d succeed in causing my brother to lose interest and wander off looking for a more profitable form of recreation.

    Dad pretty gave up on the sports thing as far as I was concerned, much to everyone’s relief.

  11. #11 Hank Fox
    December 31, 2006

    I want all these things too.

    In addition, I’d like all the anti-abortion types to suddenly wake up and say “Wha…? You mean, sex education and condoms and contraceptives and family planning counseling would actually REDUCE abortions?? Shee-it, what were we THINKING?? Let’s get behind that right now!”

  12. #12 Hank Fox
    December 31, 2006

    Oh, and Happy New Year to PZ and all his great readers and commenters!

    (Okay, well, except maybe DaveScot.)

  13. #13 Ken Cope
    December 31, 2006

    My wife’s old boss, Red Sky founder Tim Smith would say, “Shoot for the moon, land on the roof.”

  14. #14 Baratos
    December 31, 2006

    My resolution is just to survive the year. Start small….

  15. #15 Observer
    December 31, 2006

    I want sections of coastline where the marine life is allowed to teem untouched.

    It’s a good list, but I really want that big time. We need to do more to protect our coastlines and prevent overfishing…and trash…tons of trash.

  16. #16 bPer
    December 31, 2006

    Prof. Myers, that’s a wonderful, heady list of dreams, and I share them all with you. If I may, though, I’d like to add one. It may be trite in situations such as this, and would probably be achieved by your second dream, but nonetheless:

    Peace.

    Happy New Year to you, your family, and all your readers.

  17. #17 Chris
    December 31, 2006

    It’d be nice to see some positive changes in the USA. Time for y’all to dust off the old can-do attitude. Go USA!

    Happy New Year from Canada, everyone.

  18. #18 JD Kolassa
    December 31, 2006

    Wow, that’s a pretty heady list. If I may, though, I’d like to change the part about politics and social welfare. Since I’m a libertarian, I’d rather not see this country turn into a complete nanny state; the people should be responsible enough to look after themselves, and if they need help, they can get it through secular charities. Though the one area I’ve always thought the government should focus on is education. I agree, we should pour tons of money into schools and hopefully make it just a bit more European (i.e., cheaper.)

    So here’s me hoping that the Libertarian party becomes a major party in the future, alongside the Green party. (But no Constitution party. Those guys are mentally ill.) I’m also 100% onboard with renewable energies and free communication. No more paying for broadband! (Or WoW subscriptions.)

  19. #19 Pattanowski
    December 31, 2006

    Cheers to the wish for people living in the cities instead of everyone demanding acres of land that they can manacure to the point where the whole country starts to look like The Truman Show set. I have grown accustomed to living on 75 acres of my father’s Oak-Hickory forest (complete with nice creek and small ponds) but may soon lovingly say goodbye to the place. The land became as familiar and cherished as any spouse may become, yet the whole earth should be cherished by all it’s citizens. I can visit wild areas as interest and ability allow, and what wonderous places they could be without all the rabble!

    However, given present public sentiments this wish most definately is a dream.

    While we’re dreaming, let’s repopulate the U.S. with ice age fauna and flora!

  20. #20 Mike Haubrich
    December 31, 2006

    I like your list and share your dreams. If you must tilt at windmills, at least choose the largest ones.

    I’d like to add one of my own, one that is likely to come true although a few years down the road:

    The Large Hadron Collider will clarify the nature of the universe, and tell us what led to the Big Bang. I am curious as all get-out.

    Happy New Year to PZ, and all of my fellow co-readers.

  21. #21 Guo
    December 31, 2006

    Happy New Year , everyone.

  22. #22 Torbjörn Larsson
    January 1, 2007

    – So what was behind the Iraq war? – Intelligent design!

    OK, one wish down. We have to work on the rest, though.

  23. #23 Torbjörn Larsson
    January 1, 2007

    – So what was behind the Iraq war? – Intelligent design!

    OK, one wish down. We have to work on the rest, though.

  24. #24 Stanton
    January 1, 2007

    You think wishing for more fossil species to be discovered is too much to wish for?

  25. #25 j
    January 1, 2007

    A strong dose of idealism to start the year. It’s warm and fuzzy. Happy new year!

  26. #26 decrepitoldfool
    January 1, 2007

    Somehow idealism fell victim to cynicism – when, in the 80’s? The ’90’s? But the last few years are a good reminder that ideals matter, because look what happens when you don’t have them.

    I’d like to see Hummers and Blazers in used car lots marked way down with no buyers. Because they are the 4-wheeled embodyment of cynicism. I’d like to see people saying; “Of course I recycle aluminum.” And even little steps like “I’ll pay a bit more for eggs from cage-free chickens.”

  27. #27 natural cynic
    January 1, 2007

    And have the ponies poopless.

    Or, at least have them smart enough to train to poop into the bioreactor so we can recover the methane.

    Happy New Year, anyway.

  28. #28 Mister Nice Guy
    January 1, 2007

    I want to see Congress converted to a parliamentary system, under which the two dominant parties would hemorrhage members to parties that actually stand for something. May the new Congress be formed by a Green-Libertarian-Socialist coalition, while the former Republican base are isolated in a Constitution Party minority.

  29. #29 SmellyTerror
    January 1, 2007

    America’s healthcare system and social safety net is, to the rest of the civilisied world, a horror story we tell each other. “Did you know that in America…”

    It reinforces that old, bigoted view of the US as a nation of barely-civilised barbarians, selfish, cruel and greedy. The view that makes even friends and allies shudder.

    …and the usual objections against universal healthcare reinforce that other American stereotype: the guy who thinks the US is the entire world, and never looks beyond its borders. You think it’ll be inefficient, or that it’ll turn you into a nanny state? Hello? LOOK AT THE REST OF THE WORLD! Universal healthcare costs less per person and has a vastly better outcome in virtually every country that practices it. American healthcare outcomes – even for the people who are covered – are among the worst in the developed world, and yet it costs you more.

    “Oh, but it’s socialism. Oh, but we’ll become a nanny state. Oh, but people should look after themselves.” Well why do we band together into nations, if not to look after our weak? Is it really just to protect the property rights of the wealthy? Why can’t it be more?

    And why do you think America can’t do something that everyone else *can*?

  30. #30 Ray
    January 1, 2007

    Let’s get specific: GW Bush, Dick Cheney, and the whole corrupt lot should be impeached, convicted of gross negligence tantamount to treason, and sent to prison for the rest of their lives.

    I read in a blog elsewhere what I thought was a brilliant idea: that entire gang should be stripped of all their assets and be made to fend for themselves on whatever they can find in the way of minimum-wage employment. After all, why waste good taxpayer money pampering them in jail when they could be paying their own way?

  31. #31 Christian Burnham
    January 1, 2007

    I don’t want Bush impeached.

    That seems a waste of a perfectly good peach.

  32. #32 quork
    January 1, 2007

    French marchers say ‘non’ to 2007
    The French protest against the new year

  33. #33 hoody
    January 1, 2007

    Blh blh blh

    nd mr

    blh blh blh.

    m PZ. shld b Gd.

  34. #34 Jeff Knapp
    January 1, 2007

    Imagine if all of that money spent over the years protecting the middle-east oil supplies was instead spent on developing renewable energy sources, sequestering carbon, and building a nuclear fusion/hydrogen infrastructure; imagine where we could be now.

    I have no doubt that we would not only be out of this oil crisis but would also have had more than enough money to pay for truly universal health care and education.

    What a complete and utter waste we have made of our resources – not to mention the complete and utterly pointless waste of human life. It makes me sick to think of what we could have done vs. what we have done.

  35. #35 Valhar2000
    January 1, 2007

    In a development for the long term, lets pull people back into developed enclaves and allow large swathes of the country revert to wilderness…

    You are the third person I have found in the entire world who agrees with me on this. I believe we can obtain far more benefit by visiting the countryside than by exploiting it (which you must do if you live in it).

    I disagree with you on one thing: a sort Libertarian counterweight to Liberalism would be useful (or a Liberal counterwieght to Libertarianism).

  36. #36 PZ Myers
    January 1, 2007

    We’ll disagree rather strongly there, since I see libertarians as just rather more rapacious Republicans unrestrained by even a token nod at tradition.

  37. #37 Caledonian
    January 1, 2007

    What do you actually know about formal, traditional Libertarianism? (All of the political or economic theoretical groups have been hijacked by morons for the past few lifetimes, including Liberalism, so judging by the people you oppose is rarely useful.)

  38. #38 Hank Fox
    January 1, 2007

    Don’t know much about libertarianism, but a self-identified libertarian friend once told me he thought ALL resources and land should be in private hands.

    He was in favor of selling off all the streams, lakes, national parks and public land to the highest bidder.

    If people really wanted clean water, clean air, open land and wildlife, he assured me, they’d be willing to outbid the corporations and developers.

  39. #39 Hank Fox
    January 1, 2007

    As to “liberalism” — that seems to me to be a vicious smear-word invented and defined by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Karl Rove.

    It’s the GOP version of “raghead” or “faggot” — not meant to convey any meaning except DEmeaning.

    Even if it applied to any real people, it probably wouldn’t mean what you think it means.

  40. #40 Caledonian
    January 1, 2007

    As to “liberalism” — that seems to me to be a vicious smear-word invented and defined by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Karl Rove.

    Liberalism

    Please do not attempt to contribute to a discussion about which you are totally ignorant.

  41. #41 Hank Fox
    January 1, 2007

    Caledonian: Jeez, plenty there to read. I stand corrected.

    Just FYI, though, there was probably a kinder way to clue me in. You know?

  42. #42 Caledonian
    January 1, 2007

    Kindness is irrelevant. Only justice matters – and that was the most just way to inform you of your ignorance available to me over the Web.

  43. #43 j
    January 1, 2007

    I no longer call myself a liberal, conservative, Democrat, or Republican because the term that means “Government, stay out of my business” has switched so many times that it is easier to explain my entire political philosophy than explain what kind of liberal or what kind of conservative I am. Not to mention that “liberal” and “liberalism” have a negative connotation nowadays, as Hank Fox has noted.

  44. #44 David Marjanovi?
    January 1, 2007

    Well, SmellyTerror is right. It’s always the same: ignorance produces fear, and fear produces conservativism.

    Valhar2000: Fourth.

    Stanton: Relax. *patting on back, smiling* I can barely keep up with the new dinosaur “genera” that are described every three weeks on average, and that’s just the dinosaurs.

    Hank Fox: The use of “liberal” to mean “crypto-communist” is an exclusively American phenomenon, and you can thank Limbaugh and his ilk for this. Even the use of “liberal” by most people left of center* for themselves is restricted in this way; you won’t encounter it much in Europe, and you’ll often find it used for people who are liberal on economic issues — that is, everyone between Clinton and Blair on one side and the so-called libertarians on the other. I’m not aware of any of the Social Democratic parties of Europe ever having called itself “liberal”. Maybe “left-liberal” buried somewhere deep in the party program.

    Oh, and one last thing: the minimum wage. The US minimum wages, all of them (different by state), are a global shame. Austria’s, for example, is around 10 $ per hour, and it will soon rise to 10 ?.

    —-

    * Well, the US location of the center squarely within the conservatives is another US peculiarity… Kerry would fit quite well into most European conservative parties.

  45. #45 David Marjanovi?
    January 1, 2007

    Well, SmellyTerror is right. It’s always the same: ignorance produces fear, and fear produces conservativism.

    Valhar2000: Fourth.

    Stanton: Relax. *patting on back, smiling* I can barely keep up with the new dinosaur “genera” that are described every three weeks on average, and that’s just the dinosaurs.

    Hank Fox: The use of “liberal” to mean “crypto-communist” is an exclusively American phenomenon, and you can thank Limbaugh and his ilk for this. Even the use of “liberal” by most people left of center* for themselves is restricted in this way; you won’t encounter it much in Europe, and you’ll often find it used for people who are liberal on economic issues — that is, everyone between Clinton and Blair on one side and the so-called libertarians on the other. I’m not aware of any of the Social Democratic parties of Europe ever having called itself “liberal”. Maybe “left-liberal” buried somewhere deep in the party program.

    Oh, and one last thing: the minimum wage. The US minimum wages, all of them (different by state), are a global shame. Austria’s, for example, is around 10 $ per hour, and it will soon rise to 10 ?.

    —-

    * Well, the US location of the center squarely within the conservatives is another US peculiarity… Kerry would fit quite well into most European conservative parties.

  46. #46 SmellyTerror
    January 2, 2007

    In Australia the Liberal Party are the conservatives. Words, eh? Crazy things.

    …and for that “government, keep out of my business” thing: are you not living in a democracy? The government *is* the people. It is meant to do all those things that everyone wants and needs. That’s what it’s for!

    It seems to me that the folk who want to go it alone have kinda missed the point of civilisation – that, or they fancy their chances to get one over their fellow citizens. I’m not sure that selfish people are the people I want to empower.

    And if your government isn’t representing the will of the people, it’s time to rebel. What are ya, chicken?

  47. #47 Cat Faber
    January 2, 2007

    Valar2000–I’m fifth!

    PZ–what a great list of wishes!

  48. #48 Valhar2000
    January 2, 2007

    In Spain (where I live) Liberals are mostly considered to be people who advocate minimum governmental intervention and oversight in the economy (but the meaning of “minimum” is in most cases quite different what what Libertarians seem to advocate; Liberals in Spain generally advocate governmental intervention in a sector that is observed to be clearly not running itself properly).

    Liberals thus may be in favour of universal helthcare and unemployment benefits because these things ostensibly help avoid the downward spiral that an unsupervised economy might fall into, while still retaining the benefit of having a dynamic and innovative economy that a free market is supposed to foster.

    In Spain, and in most of Europe, The Left really is the Left: governmental control of all or most of the economy, very high taxes offset by the provision of most necessary services free of charge, etc.

    So, indeed, Kerry could sit with the European Conservatives and not notice anything was out on line. From a European point of view, the things that go on in the US are surrealistic, to say the least.

  49. #49 stogoe
    January 2, 2007

    Valhar2000: Sixth, re: dense, scarce human population centers, provided we can spend time outside the cities, exploring and observing our Abandoned Earth.

    ..Man, that would be so cool.

    And thinking about Libertarianism, mostly I’ve seen it used as a self-description of selfish white male assholes*.

    *There have been a few female (selfish white assholes)libertarians, though.

  50. #50 PZ Myers
    January 2, 2007

    And thinking about Libertarianism, mostly I’ve seen it used as a self-description of selfish white male assholes*.

    Bingo.

  51. #51 Blake Stacey
    January 2, 2007

    In his third volume of autobiography, Isaac Asimov defined libertarianism as the belief that I have the liberty to get rich while you have the liberty to starve. If you look deep in the library books, there may be more to the philosophy than that, but in observing the behavior of self-professed libertarians, I have seldom been forced to depart from Asimov’s definition.

    David Brin had some good words on this. . . .

  52. #52 Blake Stacey
    January 2, 2007

    Aha, the quotation I was looking for:

    Libertarianism isn’t the only dogma that encourages true believers to wallow in contempt for the masses. But only among Libertarians is contempt so blazingly and blitheringly hypocritical! Think about it. Your fundamental postulate — the core basis — is a belief that people, left alone, can be trusted with more than a burnt match! They should be treated like grownups, capable of making their own decisions, right? Yet, your excuse for failure is that they are fools. You can’t have it both ways!

    This is probably what irritated me the most about that South Park episode on creationism. The first half was unfunny, trite and vulgar without crossing any truly meaningful boundaries. The second half was a little better: I’m always up for time-travel paradox humor, and a Buck Rogers send-up riffing on tropes we inherited from bad TV can hardly hurt. . . But the ending descended from mildly amusing to absolutely atrocious. That blather about “isms” was obviously meant to be the happy, sappy “let’s all get together and sing” moral message — but it boils down to the assertion that we are all too stupid to disagree with one another. It insults the very idea of a rational civilization.

    Odd, you’d think, for a show produced by “small-l libertarians” who claim to believe that citizens of a democracy can be trusted with something more dangerous than a burnt match.

  53. #53 valhar2000
    January 3, 2007

    […]Isaac Asimov defined libertarianism as the belief that I have the liberty to get rich while you have the liberty to starve.

    Well, if that represents the majority of Libertarians it seems clear that I was using the wrong word in my first comment. It’s hard to keep up with all the kooks; I never know what they might not be up to next.

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