Happy New Year!

“Happy New Year.” What a terrific idea. Let’s ponder what it means. If everything in our world is hunky dory or ever were, maybe the expression would be Happy Same Year. That Happy New Year has held its position suggests that each past year we believed something might be better in the next. Have we been brazen to hope for improvement and the new? The word new stands in polar contrast to old. We wish one another Happy New Year and, much with happy and all with new, we hail change for the better, aka progress. Newness and improvement are progressive ideas, not resembling stasis. Who would resist the idea of a Happy New Year? It encourages happy progress. It is an essentially progressive sentiment.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines progressive as “moving forward, advancing”. It defines conservative as “tending to oppose change” which is rejection of change and progress. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate defines conservative with the familiar and annoyingly circular, “of or relating to a philosophy of conservatism.” Which the reader may follow to Conservatism: “principles and policies of a conservative party.” After Merriam Webster’s hall of semantic mirrors, under conservative, we finally find, “tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions or institutions.” While under Conservatism we conclude with “the tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change.” In Merriam Webster, for Progressive, we find, “of, relating to, or characterized by progress.” with “making use of, or interested in new ideas, findings or opportunities.”
Happy New Year is clearly progressive, even liberal.
So a Happy forward-hoping New Year to all! Remember seven day work weeks? Remember litter in the streets? Remember Jim Crow and hanger abortions? Remember learning something by the effort of a teacher when your own faith or motivation was lacking? How about yucky medicine that made you feel better? We do not always know what is best for our welfare and our happiness and some situations’ outcomes will be delayed in their effects. Remember Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring? Liberal sensibilities deepened environmental concern, improved social freedoms, aided education and permitted science to flourish. All while conservative foot-draggers protested.
Admitting that Conservative has variable definitions always tied to the power of dominant culture, we can still deem the idea regressive in that it places respect and compliance of extant principles over progress. By nature, the conservative eye rejects change. Astute observers seek to understand the causes of events. I might respect the idea of conservatism if I couldn’t trace so many contemporary problems to stubborn adherence to beliefs and principles that prevent cultures from the changes we must embrace, at our present juncture, simply to keep earth habitable. Climate change, wealth inequity, bigotry, population growth, resource depletion, and pollution. Conservatives offer no solutions whatsoever to these problems.
I’m sorry if your best security is remembered from the past. We can’t go back and live then. So far, time moves forward and future potential must be understood in realistic terms. All the well intentioned energy of the world will do no good if our problems are misapprehended. Will we defend the ideologies and beliefs that brought us to our present state or may we shed combative baggage and envision a future built on our best collective wisdom? Let us learn from the past, stand in the present, and move progressively toward the future. Ancestors can’t help us now.
Happy New Year. Go, citizen!