Let Me Underwhelm You

This is the time when – for want of anything better to report and staffed mainly by interns and juniors – the newspapers turn to their predictions for the new year. One only needs to look at last year’s efforts to realise the pointlessness of the whole exercise.

As far as I can recall, no-one predicted a giant tsunami and nuclear meltdown in Japan, a wave of revolutions across the Arab world, the deaths of the vile Gadaffi and Kim-Jong-Il,  the effective collapse of the eurozone, large-scale popular protests on the streets of Moscow or – closer to home –  the dissolution of the Latvian parliament by presidential decree.

Notwithstanding this fact, there is a tendency for those taking part in this guessing game to venture something fairly dramatic if ultimately fence-sitting for their predictions; say, that the pace of such and such a reform will pick up or that such and such a politician will win a scheduled election. If they are feeling really bold they might even venture that a certain economy will go into recession (though this carries the risk of being factually verifiable) or that sportsman A will beat sportsman B at last.

Therefore for my own piece of worthless crystal ballery I am going against the grain and hereby predict that 2012 will be extremely boring. It will go down in an obscure and rarely-thumbed appendix to the pages of history as one of the dullest, most purgatorial years in memory during which not much happened and what little did happen wasn’t of much interest anyway.

The London Olympics will be a yawn, enlivened neither by sporting excellence or terrorist outrage. They will be the most tedious Olympics since Atlanta, which was like watching live coverage of a coma.

Eurocrats will continue to tell us they have fixed the Eurozone throughout most of the year, their assertions losing resonance with every iteration like a timid echo reverberating through a particularly large and black cave. The zone will muddle on but more by reason of neglect than any chest-thumping action from Merkozy, both of whom will fade away from lack of interest.

This does at least point us towards one of the unexpected positives 2012 will deliver: repeated illustrations of the huge gap between what politicians say they can do and what they really can do. They will keep saying they have done great things, made dynamic, bold decisions and so forth, and then all the evidence will point towards them having made not one jot of difference. This in turn will prompt them to make even more dramatic statements in an attempt to gain our attention which inevitably will ring even more hollow.

In this regard they will come to be viewed like the ratings agencies, whose continued presence on this planet is contrary to the very Darwinian principles that seem to underpin their own world-views. Their failure to wake up to the biggest economic crash in decades until it was raining onto their roofs should have killed them off but still they pontificate and preen, weighing the virtues of nations in their silly little scales. In a way I wish there would be something as dramatic as another huge collapse so they could miss it again and finally prove themselves to be an evolutionary dead end. Sadly, they will be saved by the fact that things will just about manage to stagger on, though perhaps a few investors bored senseless by their outpourings will start actually researching their own investments for a bit of fun instead of placing it all in the hands of these hucksters with superior graph-making technology.

The Baltic economies will be completely flat, and so will the political scene. With nothing much left to trim, policymakers will be  left sitting on their hands and waiting for the weather to improve, though their remains a slight danger that they might start daydreaming and implement a few crackpot laws to give themselves some remnant of self-justification.

In Estonia Andrus Ansip’s main headache will be the lack of snow  which prevents him skiing more often. In Latvia, a challenger to Valdis Dombrovskis might emerge, but everyone will treat him with such indifference that he will soon crawl back into his burrow leaving Domby to do what he does best: carry on quietly.

Down in Lithuania, an uninvolving election campaign will result in Andrius Kubilius retaining power but with a reduced majority and an even messier coalition. This will come as a relief as no-one really wants to take over from him anyway in case things take a turn for the worse and they are held responsible. Kubilius will spend the first few months of the year trying to come up with a new joke he can use in place of the “We will win the basketball tournament” gag he was spinning for the first three years of his tenure.

It goes without saying that work will not have begun on the Visaginas nuclear power plant by the end of the year and that what little enthusiasm remains for it after Poland pulled the plug will continue to trickle away, like guests leaving a new year party at which the food, drink and company was all too tedious to endure until midnight.

So even though 2012 will be an absolute snore in terms of news, it will offer us plenty of opportunity to better ourselves doing far more interesting things. If you’ve ever wanted to learn a new language, knit a jumper or grow some roses, this is the year for you!

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