The ABC of a tough year

THE FIFTH COLUMN

It’s been a tough year. Maybe the toughest yet. Tough at the beginning, the middle and the end, the year has left us no choice but to look back at it in disgust. I’ve gone to the trouble of trying to summarise the misery in the time-honoured ABC format.

For A I chose, obviously and emphatically, annus horribilis — the fancy Latin way to say what a rotten year it’s been. And no prizes for those who feel compelled to snicker at how close the Romans came to comparing a rough year with its corresponding part of the human anatomy. Let’s not make things tougher than they already are.

B is for bravery. Bravery in the face of rising petrol prices, decreasing morale and static salaries. B is also for the bogus line that, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Let me just pause on that line for a second. Where is it, exactly, that the tough go? More accurately, where did they go this year, our toughest yet?

My guess is “away”, and my opinion that when the going gets tough, it’s us who are left. We the timid, the sensitive, the exposed.

B is of course also for Brexit and bullies and Brump (Trump spelled with a B because ABC and T makes no sense).

B is unfortunately also for blame. Blame fixed by us — the timid — on the economy, the load-shedding and the traffic — the bumps in the road — for a B-rate, bad-news year.

Whatever happened to brive and boptimism? What about the bright side? The breaks (tax and otherwise), the braais, the binging (series and otherwise), the Bew Bawn?

Yes, 2018 was tough, but when last did we not have a tough year?

Last year was tough, the year before that was tough — but none of those compare with 1932: a downright depressing year that apparently set the tone for 1933 through to the present day.

We’ve always lived in tough times, it appears, nothing has been a-changin’ (with all due respect to Bob Dylan).

From the get-go it’s been an uphill battle for humanity just to get through the day, the week (the year!); make it over the last hump before Christmas; give it that one final push.

Which brings me to C, which is come on, for the love of God, let’s look back on a so-so year. Let’s say 2018 had its ups and its downs, but overall things are not that much different now than they were 365 days ago.

We’re all still (mostly) in one piece basking in the African sun. Seen from outer space on nights without load-shedding, South Africa shines bright. I’m okay, you’re okay, we’re all okay.

On a long enough timeline, “future events are likely to turn out so that they balance any past deviation from a presumed average”. It’s called the law of averages and I’d like to presume it’s true.

And if you had a horrible year in 2018, take heart for wheels, tables and tide — they all will turn.

“The slow one now,” Bob sings. “Will later be fast.”

Keep the powerful accountable

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Hans Mackenzie Main
Hans Mackenzie Main
Writer/Columnist at Mail & Guardian

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