OPINION

We can't make resolutions by ourselves. Here's the solution

New Year's Eve was a little different for most of us this year. Our resolutions should be different as well. Picture: Shutterstock
New Year's Eve was a little different for most of us this year. Our resolutions should be different as well. Picture: Shutterstock

I have, in the past, resolutely refused to have New Year's resolutions.

Instead, I've tried a few different things to mark the passage of time. Once, I tried to ignore it but I was defeated by a bunch of skinny do-gooders. Then, an annual appreciation for the good works of others. Another year, I recommended a revolution instead of a resolution. None was entirely satisfactory as a suitable marker of life passing.

So this year, I thought maybe it would work better if we tried to build national resolutions. More like National Resolutions. Those capital letters give extra gravitas. Anyhow, the point of acts which work for all of us is to capitalise on collective good rather than going for the sugar hit of individualism, actions and decisions where we would all have to work in concert to make change. You know, as if we were trying to build The Block for all humanity and not just for reality television celebrities and the networks on which they appear. As Lyn Bender put it more seriously: "We must all move beyond narcissistic individualism and reconstruct the world for common good and for future generations."

So I asked folks on Twitter what they thought should make up our National Resolutions. I got a few jokes (don't hoard toilet paper, also I am SO guilty) but also a few suggestions which were more about our day-to-day lives, such as being kind to our neighbours or paying compliments to each other. Wash our hands. Wear a mask. Be compassionate.

These are all lovely, but they are on a personal level, actions we can make the decision to undertake by ourselves. We don't need to work with each other to make the decision to be nicer humans, we just need to work on ourselves. That includes wearing masks, unless mandated by governments - some of which seem very reluctant to insist on any such thing.

When I suggested that as a National Resolution we should believe in science, a bunch of deniers insisted we should be sceptical of science. Not too sure about that.

Cathy Bannister, whose tweets as @erstkate are both hilarious and heartfelt, reminds us: "Be compassionate. Don't immediately believe anything you read on Twitter or Facebook, especially if it makes you angry. Be community-spirited. We have been through times that need collective action, and we may face worse. Remember: Trump fans are cult victims." That crosses the divide between the individual and collective. And there are some things which won't happen unless we act in solidarity (and that includes getting our bloody politicians to work in the national interest and not in their self-interest. Swear to heaven, that's a chore all by itself).

First resolution? No question, it is to act on climate chaos, or as Nobel Prize-winner @cosmicpinot - the ANU's Brian Schmidt - put it, global sustainability. Others as eloquent, but whose names are not as recognisable, tweeted about the need to address habitat conservation and anthropogenic climate change. @MikeFitzAU urged us all not to steal from our grandchildren (#climatecrisis). Save the planet, urged Caroline, a maths teacher and mother of three. Get serious about addressing global warming, tweeted @franchise_rsch, also known as Professor Jenny Buchan of UNSW. Prioritise action to reduce our impact on the climate, wrote @GeeForce77, whose bio says CPA and is therefore either a member of the Communist Party of Australia or a certified practising accountant. Commit to a zero-emissions target by 2050, or better still 2030, tweeted @liamalexander. Treat climate change like the emergency it is, argues @elizgw. So many more like that, not communists or accountants but those who want to stop human-induced climate change.

Which brings us to our next National Resolution: be better citizens. We need to act together to demand more of our politicians. @lovethatloaf's Gabriel Smith has suggestions beyond reacting on social media: "Take THREE active, physical, concrete steps to register your protest. WRITE a letter (email/ newspaper/manager). PHONE a person (MP, CEO, journo). SHOW UP (volunteer in any capacity, march, Share info)." @sallytolerton urges politicians to "lead. They need to be accountable." We can take that even further by deciding to be much more engaged politically. Or, as @KBCanB writes: "Take the time to (really) do your homework before stepping into that little cardboard space at the polling place." Vote at every opportunity with full knowledge of what and who you are voting for.

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Of all the nominations for National Resolutions, my favourite was probably @timsenior's: "Nothing about us without us," a motto long used to demand inclusion. Or as he puts it, "Don't write or promote ideas without hearing those who will be most affected." So many of those who joined in the conversation talked about treaties, about the Uluru Statement and deaths in custody, and about the cashless welfare card, which actively works to exclude First Nations people from any kind of autonomy. Disability activist Sam Connor urged us to "remember we are an interdependent society". Others mentioned intimate partner violence and murder; and ending the patriarchy. As @LeighNWood put it: "Don't hold on to your privilege. Make space for others." Stop imprisoning the innocent. Listen to young people. Join your union.

When I suggested that as a National Resolution we should believe in science, a bunch of deniers insisted we should be sceptical of science. Not too sure about that. Scientists, poor things, already have to put their work through the wringer of scepticism (otherwise known as peer review). Don't like the word "believe"? How about trust or respect? If not, then just do what the science tells you to do. And that should be a mandate for all politicians. I love our chief health/medical officers - and admire the work they have done since March - but seriously, we have to remember that they are political advisers as well as scientists, juggling the expectations of their masters with the research of their colleague scientists. Of course they are, otherwise why would we have one lot mandating masks and the other not? Why would we have swift action to cancel crowds in one place and a cricket Test in the other?

Thanks to all those who participated in the inaugural setting of National Resolutions. I think we can all participate. Even our politicians.

  • Jenna Price is a visiting fellow at the Australian National University and a regular columnist.
This story We can't make resolutions by ourselves. Here's the solution first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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