Harold Macmillan had it about right. Asked to identify the single
most difficult aspect of his job, the long-ago British prime
minister famously replied, "Events, dear boy. Events." Things
happen. And they don't often help. To give another example of the
same principle, it's a truism of military life that when a battle
starts, the first thing you do is tear up the battle plan you
made earlier. Not because the enemy doesn't do what 'Appendix
XVII: Enemy Response' says he's going to do, but because you want
your people to be reacting to - well, events, rather than
constantly putting down their weapons to look up their names and
responsibilities in the Index.
And this gets us - precisely where?
To the prediction that 2009 isn't going to be like that.
Like whatever it's predicted to be like. Things are going to happen. And they aren't going to help. Depending on which start-of-year forecaster you've been reading most recently, the Peek Ahead column's immediate response is either: No, the global economy is not going to go on sliding down this steep slope until we're all forced to give up our lucrative jobs and go back to subsistence farming; or No, there isn't going to be a near-vertical, straight-line, electrified-weightless-live-cat bounce. Although it's tempting to look at all that pent-up demand and speculate that once the dam breaks and somebody, somewhere, succeeds in raising the finance for a property they can't aff- No! No! NO! But it's tempting, isn't it?
So while the man in the picture (top right) begins to dry out the computer components that were washed up with him last month, let's all indulge in some long/medium-term global forecasting. Turn, please, to Wikipedia and look up 2012. At the time of writing in mid-January 2009, the first event in Wikipedia's entry for 2012 is the adoption of the euro by Poland, Bulgaria and Latvia. Then we'll be off to Finland for the presidential election there, and if that goes without a hitch, we might just catch the closing ceremony of the first Winter Youth Olympics in Innsbruck. That's assuming, of course, that the large asteroid 433 Eros doesn't veer from its predicted near-miss course and slam into central Europe on 31st January. Now scroll on down to the long entry for 21st December. As you will see, that entry is all about the completion of - wait for it - the thirteenth b'ak'tun cycle of the Mesoamerican long count calendar. Which has been running for quite a while.
Now, if it's a quiet day in the office and the coffee's hot and
nobody's looking, you might just choose to follow up all the
links in that entry. And if you do so, you will find out what all
this b'ak'tun, long count, Mayan cycle stuff means. It means that
the world's going to end on 21st December 2012. That's right. Ten
days before the expiry of the Kyoto Protocol on 31st December
2012, the world ends. Late morning, around 11-ish central Mayan
time. Granted, you have to be an ancient Mayan clock-mender or a
new-age mystic to factor that into your forward planning, but
here's a thing. There's a big Hollywood film coming up this year,
July 2009, called 2012. Out of Columbia Pictures and starring
John Cusack, it's a disaster movie. Think of the spin-off
opportunities for doom-mongers if the film succeeds. All those
critics describing the end of the world as the event of the year.
Of course, this film is about as relevant to world markets as
China's raw materials (and fireworks) budget for the 2008
Olympics was expected to be, this time last year, and it's not
really offered as a market-altering event. But isn't it just ever
so slightly thought-provoking, just a little bit, that while
you're dismissing all this end-of-the-world stuff as nonsense,
there are highly paid executives spending millions on an effort
to bring the cataclysm to a multiplex near you?
That film's certainly going to put us all into the mood to invest in an economic recovery, don't you think?