Murphy: “Don’t start!”
Kris: “Yeah, good luck with that, my academic brother …”
Murphy: “Got that one right. We sure as hell are academic.”
Kris: “Well, the ball’s already dropped in Tokyo and Bangkok, won’t be long before you won’t be able to see Honolulu on satellite for the smoke of the fireworks, and then the New Year is going to be here whether you like it or not!”
Murphy: “The Common Era New Year, you mean. Which the Chinese, representing a fifth of the world’s population, not to mention the Jews and the Muslims, will argue with you about how common it is.”
Kris: “Jesus, Murphy …!”
Murphy: “Precisely. Especially given the rancid behavior of many of those who claim to be his followers lately. Grad student who, rather unwisely, made me one of his Facebook friends, was hollering online about how folk at the Christian temple he attends are complaining about ‘the persecuted church’, and how it’s all he can do to stop himself from screaming at them about ‘the persecuted mosque’. Good thing he doesn’t, because then he’d catch it from two directions.”
Kris: “From his church ‘friends’ for not kowtowing to the pronouncements of the gang bosses, Vito?”
Murphy: “And from me, for pretending to belong to an analytical community while, in fact, subscribing to a malignant set of fantasies!”
Kris: “You mean, like the fantasy that the grades and degrees we hand out as part of our duties in this ‘analytical community’ have any relationship whatsoever to a student’s ability to make money and achieve an advance in social standing?”
Murphy: “Yeah. That. But are you forgetting the football and basketball teams?”
Kris: “When I have to park in the next county every time they have a game on campus, and I have to walk 45 minutes to get to my office because you couldn’t count on the buses before their funding got cut? How could I? But, Murphy, this is how come we have new years, so we can forget all the auld acquaintances and start over!”
Murphy: “Fine. So what’s all this noise about tonight?”
Kris: “… whut?”
Murphy: “If we’re seriously talking about starting over, then New Years in this country is not until November 6th. Then, maybe all those folks who’ve been screaming about impeaching Trump and the rest of the Federal government, mostly to hear their own jaws flap, will actually have a chance of getting this accomplished. That is, of course, if they actually pay attention to what they’re doing at these elections, and there’s precious little evidence from previous years that that will happen.
“And, if, by some miracle, it does happen, then what? You replace the scalawags who appeal to the rednecks with the scalawags who appeal to the nerds, and you go back and forth between them until the whole system collapses. And neither the rednecks nor the nerds have any interest whatsoever in any persons who might actually have a vestige of a clue about how to save the country, because, in order to do so, those persons will have to do stuff that pisses off both the rednecks and the nerds, which means they’ll have an audience, and, of course, an electorate, of nobody!”
Kris: “Sheesh. Given your mood of the moment, I’m surprised that you think there will even be elections this year.”
Murphy: “Well, that would be something new for your new year. New, and not new, because, as you and I both know, the replacement of unstratified societies with stratified ones, and the replacement of distributed forms of government with hierarchical, monarchical ones, is as ancient as human history itself. How many of the names of the heads of democracies do we know … and how many of the names of emperors?”
Kris: “And as for the screaming, the loss of net neutrality will surely take care of that.”
Murphy: “Well, what did we do with it when we had it? ‘I have here in my pocket a device which grants me access to all human knowledge at the touch of a few buttons, and I use it to share allegedly funny pictures of cats and argue with strangers'”.
Kris: “And, elect scalawags to office whose rhetoric appeals to me and my online homies. Who tell me that I don’t need to think, just follow.”
Murphy: “Pretty soon, we’ll be flipping the bird at the telescreens all day long, and the persons behind them will care not a whit. They probably won’t even see, and it won’t matter to them so long as we do what we’re told. We’ll have lost, long ago, any power to use the internet, or anything else, to make the powers see anything they don’t wish to see. By the time we finally notice that, it’ll be way too late. And we will have brought it all on ourselves. Because we refused to pay attention, to think of what goes on beyond the ends of our noses. Or our iPhone screens, which amounts to the same thing.”
Kris: “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?”
Murphy: “I’ll see your Joni, and raise it a David Crosby and a Pete Townshend.”
Kris: “We really have all been here before, haven’t we?”
Murphy: “Uh huh.”
Kris: “And every time we go around the wheel, we resolve never to allow it to happen again.”
Murphy: “Not until it takes work, anyway. The minute it does, well, screw it.”
Kris: “And we go another turn. What can we do about it?”
Murphy: “What we usually can do about it. Pour. The bottle’s been open for at least half an hour while we’ve been sitting here pretending that 2018 will be any different from 2017 except maybe by raising the planet’s temperature another tenth of a degree.
“Far as I’m concerned, Kris, we’re all branded – and though most of us think we’re just and fair, the evidence argues that we’re petty, shallow, and mean, especially when you look at what we do outside of our little family groups. The guards at Auschwitz had the same New Years parties as our faculty and students, celebrated with the same sense of personal security and justice. Throughout history, it has taken a calamity, or a disaster, to perform a reset – and, universally, the reset is temporary. I see no prospect for a New Hope – a New Year – for us now until such a calamity knocks some sense into us. The best thing to which I can aspire is to do nothing to make matters any worse, and, somehow, to survive the crash when it comes. Or die before it happens.”
Kris: “You sure one bottle’s going to be enough?”
Open a bottle for me, too.