Between 24th December and today, the Chinese have landed on the dark side of the moon, Alfie Moon vanished, the US stock market had its worst Christmas eve and also its largest ever rise in one day, Snoop Dog offered to rehome a stray dog from Stoke and Dons player Sam Cosgrove became a cult hero.
Looking back I thought I had a quiet advent period, but it was actually quite eventful as was 2018 of course.
We don’t seem to notice but lots happens all the time and things are broadly repeated annually. As we go into 2019 we’ll look back in 12 months in the same way as we look back on 2018.
I am in no doubt we’ll remark that it was the hottest / wettest / coldest year we can remember and think that more celebs died than normal. We’ll probably think we should have done more and at the same time that we didn’t do enough.
All I’ll say is I hope 2019 is damn good to you and where it doesn’t feel so good I hope you can take away positives and still remain hopeful.
Going back to my festive holidays, I really didn’t miss Brexit chat. In fact the lack of Brexit coverage was refreshing and joyous. Instead of politicians holding centre stage the festive period has the Queen, the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury. To a greater or lesser extent each of these ‘leaders’ spoke about the need for a sense of community and togetherness.
In fairness it isn’t that hard to make these points given what is going on around us – Brexit being a good example of a devisive subject. However, somehow these mature voices bring some authority (perhaps) or clarity to the points they are making.
In a business context having set the vision and the mission statement I’d be asking the Queen, the Pope and the Archbishop to set out the strategy and plan to achieve it. In the case of the Queen the responsibility for delivery is devolved to the Government…..so we are back to where we started given that consensus politics is about as likely as the kids not trying to stay awake to see Santa. Religious leaders or their staff can never achieve this outcome given that they only speak to a proportion of the community out there.
Having ruled out the monarchy, religious leaders and politicians to create a plan to bring people together I’d next go to academics. Academics are clever, learned and I’d like to think better than me in their ability to be informed by history and theory. However, I also see a problem here.
Economists have spectacularly failed to communicate the benefits to the general public of even the most basic economic theory over recent years. Sociologists and psychologists are in the middle of a period where social media is blowing our world apart and in my opinion growing divisiveness and also creating personal challenges for individuals focused on impacts on self-esteem and self-worth.
None of these platforms actually connect people properly although on the face of it we are more connected than ever. So I’m also ruling out social media as well as academics in delivering togetherness.
So this brings me to our own localities and small communities and perhaps this is the only practical level where we can come together. At a local level ‘big politics’ feels less important (even if it remains divisive) and we generally do have some things in common. For example we all want the local pub to thrive, the butcher to be open, to have a strong local boys club (which includes girls of course), and for all community members to be healthy and well.
One of the best things I saw over Christmas was a group of local people arranging a get together on Christmas Day from noon until 2pm in the village. The event wasn’t targeted at specific groups of people and was to my knowledge fully funded by the local community. There was a bit of music, some food, banter and a few smiles and there was no specific purpose. We popped up even though I wasn’t sure it was ‘for us’. It wasn’t that busy but for me it brought about something which economics, politics and individual success cannot achieve – a sense of belonging and community. Being around people, being part of a team or contributing to something bigger feels amazing.
I suppose this gets to the heart of the matter. If we want to feel better about life we probably need to do it ourselves. I’m not down on all politicians, I shared a few beers with one over Christmas and it was brilliant fun. I’m not saying that all academics are out of touch, most are very normal and well-grounded and not all social media connections are bad. However, politics, religions, academia and social media are different worlds, worlds which change you and which are frankly not very normal at all. With that in mind I’ve already booked in for the Christmas Mintlaw event next year and am starting to think perhaps we should go back to the future and have a Hogmanay one too.
So I’ll wish you a happy new year with my forecasts: FTSE100 stable, interest rates up, pound up against the dollar, inflation up, Brexit means Brexit, Sammy Cosgrove Ballon D’or.
One disclaimer: I’m often wrong.
James Bream was research and policy director at Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce and is now general manager of Aberdeen-based Katoni Engineering