|Singer Lady Gaga and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg put on a show on New Year’s Eve on Times Square while partygoers ignore the harsh realities 2012 will bring [GALLO/GETTY]|
New York, NY – Who doesn’t love fireworks, especially on New Year’s Eve, when it’s out with old and in with the new?
Who knows how much all these crowd-pleasing explosives cost as they ricochet from loud celebrations all over the globe?
And who cares? Many partygoers got too drunk to think about it.
Here, in New York, the great ball drop in Times Square has blown up into a major spectacle with celebrities galore that is followed by entertainment specials on every network.
We had Lady Gaga kissing Mayor Michael Bloomfield as the NYPD, a force he recently had the temerity to call his “private army”, pepper sprayed an attempt by Occupy Wall to regain the Park they had been forcibly ousted from a few miles downtown.
Sixty-eight activists became the first arrestees of 2012.
“Happy New Year” has become a mantra of good cheer and smiles all around but it’s a sentiment that’s strangely disconnected from any deeper reality.
Would so many millions be cheering if they had any inkling of what lies ahead, as one really bad year foreshadows one that may be even worse?
The hunger for happiness and the ability to deny reality is pervasive, and permeates borders everywhere.
Somehow there are those who know how truly absurd it is to celebrate when your life is about to turn for the worse. But, even if many did know, would they know what to do?
As Geoffrey Wheatcroft writes, “Could there be a single phrase that explains the woes of our time, this dismal age of political miscalculations and deceptions, of reckless and disastrous wars, of financial boom and bust and downright criminality?”
Maybe there is, and we owe it to Fintan O’Toole. That trenchant Irish commentator is a biographer and theatre critic, and a critic also of his country’s crimes and follies, as in his gripping book, Ship of Fools: How Stupidity and Corruption Sank the Celtic Tiger.
He reminds us of the famous saying by Donald H Rumsfeld, the former United States secretary of defence, that “There are known knowns… there are known unknowns… there are also unknown unknowns”.
But the Irish problem, says O’Toole, was none of the above. It was “unknown knowns”.
Given the degraded state of American media, we can’t assume that a TV-addicted audience of young people can know how bad it is or will become.
These partying crowds would have to wait a day to hear the BBC predict the downturn that awaits Europeans:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe was experiencing its “most severe test in decades…
France’s President Sarkozy said the crisis was not finished, while Italy’s president called for more sacrifices.
Growth in Europe has stalled as the debt crisis has forced governments to slash spending.
The leaders’ New Year messages came as leading economists polled by the BBC said they expected a return to recession in Europe in the first half of 2012.
Liberal economists like Paul Krugman at the New York Times have dismissed any talk of recession. He says the right word to use is depression. Politicians who believe that it takes confidence to promote a recovery want to stay positive, even though critics call this confidence-hype a “con game”.
“These realities will only be more obvious when gas goes to $5 a gallon… when more students drop out because they can’t afford the loans or tuition.”
Attorney Max Gardener, who runs popular “boot camps” for bankruptcy and foreclosure defence lawyers, knows the personal details of the avalanche of distress among the Middle class. He is skilled at fighting back, but is not optimistic in his New Year’s predictions, which include:
Ok, maybe this is all boring stuff that glazes over most minds. It’s certainly not as much fun as reading about Hollywood scandals.
These realities will only be more obvious when gas goes to $5 a gallon, when more cities plunge into darkness to save money on electricity, or when more students drop out because they can’t afford the loans or tuition.
As the Movie Biz is reporting one of its worst years, food prices are rising although some of this is invisible because of new packaging techniques that permit selling fewer of a product for more.
It is no wonder then that politicians don’t want to sound like bad news bears and talk about any of this because they know they can’t do anything. Politicians can’t tell markets what to do.
They prefer to demonise Iran perhaps in the hope that a new war will divert public attention and get keep the military-industrial complex generating new jobs. They are always on the prowl for new threats to exploit.
President Obama has now written off the possibility of doing anything new while planning to wage war on the Republican Congress as his campaign focus. The Republicans, meanwhile, are still battling each other, determined to prevent the rich from paying a fairer share of taxes.
As the New Year comes in with a bang, we are seeing our politics recede with a whimper, with signs of paralysis and stalemate all around. Even Lady Gaga can’t help us now.
News Dissector Danny Schechter is a blogger, author and filmmaker. His latest DVD is Plunder: the Crime of Our Time. He also hosts News Dissector Radio on ProgressiveRadioNetwork.com. Comments to Dissector@mediachannel.org
Follow him on Twitter: @DISSECTOREVENTS
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.