'It's a threshold for stepping into something new and unknown'
Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
That always seems about to give in
Something that will not acknowledge conclusion
Insists that we forever begin
Andrew Simms is the author of Cancel the Apocalypse: the New Path to Prosperity, which will be published in February 2013, and a fellow of Nef (New Economics Foundation).
Do you look forward to 2013 with dread or delight? “There is as much point dreading the next year as there is fearing the sunrise. None, in other words. We are thrown into the future like people born into canoes caught in an irresistible river flow approaching rapids. There’s no going back, so we might as well paddle with as much skill as we have, enjoy the view and draw exhilaration from the journey.
“History offers few moments when people would not have legitimate reasons to feel trepidation about current or potential events. War, upheaval, migration, oppression – times can be more or less threatening, but there is always something to worry about. The astonishing thing is that in spite of this, most of the time we spend our time in societies that produce great art and music, lovingly raise children and, by and large, are good, co-operative and care for each other. Indeed, contrary to mainstream economic theory, our uncanny degree of empathy and co-operation could be humanity’s distinguishing feature as a species.”
How do you spend New Year’s Eve?Or how would you in a perfect world? “Once I would have enjoyed large, loud and joyful crowds, illuminated with fireworks exploding overhead. Now I enjoy conversation and games, music and a good meal in the company of close friends or immediate family. My mother now lives alone so this year I will be with her.
“I might some year soon like to find a hut, in a clearing, on the top of a wooded hill, overlooking the sea, with a sky unpolluted by urban glow. I would cook and read, look, listen and wonder: What if, by some extraordinary fluke, we are, in fact, the only form of life to evolve with consciousness, the only way the universe has to know itself?”
At this time of year, do you find yourself thinking about new beginnings? Do you find it difficult? “If anything, I feel some impatience. Yes, every time has its challenges, but this is a genuine moment of flux, in which unquestioning, incurious confidence in an old economic model has broken down. Such times are immensely challenging and provoke insecurity, but they are full of possibilities for re-assessment, experimentation and the chance that a new, better economic model might emerge. We are already on a new path. Where it leads will be decided by each step we take.”
Any suggestions as to where people might look for inspiration?“I’m inspired that a teacher, in spite of everything, will get up each morning, smile and caringly teach a class of 33 eight-year-olds. Or that, with the accompanying life-and-death intensity of their work, nurses do what they do. I find inspiration in the kindness of strangers and the endless, bewildering variety of life on Earth. The economic, social and environmental challenges we face urgently require collaboration much more than competition. In 2013 we really will be better off together.”