This orig­i­nally appeared on mis​ter​agye​man​.blogspot​.com on January 1, 2016.

It's a skeleton kicking a baby. (For real though.)
My friend Gideon started freak­ing out about this movie four (five?) years ago.

On 31st December, 2015 — also known as last week Thursday — I joined the bil­lions of people who sac­ri­fice sleep every December to make sure that we make it safe into January. You’d think by now we’d trust the new year to start when it’s sup­posed to, but no. We show more alert­ness for this than we do on Election Night.

Anyway. Exactly one second after mid­night on 31st December, the New Year tried to slip in qui­etly. But we were ready. We sent the alarm, aided by scream­ing explo­sions of colour (because on New Year, even warn­ing shots are funky). The juve­nile year was appre­hended and briskly wres­tled to the ground. This event was well doc­u­mented with self­ies, fol­lowed by much mutual con­grat­u­la­tion on achiev­ing this great feat again. Then we rounded every­thing off by assur­ing God and our friends and our diaries that this year will be different.

This year will be dif­fer­ent. There’s elec­tions this year in my coun­try and in the US, so that will be fun. Sensible people will vote for the man, while the sheeple get swayed by the hype. Nobody tells me how voting for a single indi­vid­ual instead of a proven team of experts is better than any other illu­sion, so I’ll observe from afar with a worldly-wise air of cyn­i­cal detach­ment — as a sen­si­ble mil­len­nial should. (Apparently I occa­sion­ally qual­ify as a mil­len­nial. The thought makes me giddy with belong­ing­ness.) That’s the head­line, of course. The fact that so many of our cel­e­brated star­tups aren’t actu­ally work­ing to create value, so many of our grad­u­ates aren’t think­ing to create change, or that our ser­vice providers aren’t putting the people first — that gets rel­e­gated to ‘Other News’. Because if we can just get Mahama out of office and keep Trump’s wig out of the White House, it won’t matter that the earth is run­ning out of oil and water and patience.

This year is going to be a tough one, I think. Everybody seems very opti­mistic that it’s all going to be beau­ti­ful, but there’s a scratchy little terror under my shirt which says 2015 would have been a good year to build that Doomsday bunker. I know — I’m usu­ally pes­simistic, and I’m often wrong. I hope I am. I hope some­how we break this trend of ever stronger sys­tems cov­er­ing for ever weaker people.

Anyway. Everybody has a plan for the year. I had a plan last year. It didn’t go very far. So this year I’ll be bank­ing on humil­ity. Life became much sim­pler when I real­ized that when we call people ‘intel­li­gent’, most of the time we mean ‘obser­vant’. When you finally sit down and start paying atten­tion, you find out that every­body has been shout­ing out advice the whole time. They are usu­ally red in the face at the time, and so we go red in the face too and say Well, you’re no saint your­self! or some­thing equally mediocre. Or worse, they say it with a chuckle and we chuckle right back and assume it was a joke. Both our friends and our ene­mies could help us become better, if we’d only listen. Even when they give up on us, their silence and apathy still screams.

Here’s some of the things that have been shouted at me recently.

Tip: For a talk­a­tive, the first rev­e­la­tion is real­iz­ing that people mind. The final break­through — and the most impor­tant one — is that people mind even when you are being inter­est­ing. Too much talk is too much talk, even if you are a cross between Chris Rock, Albert Einstein and Sting.

Tip: For an intro­vert, people invest effort into touch­ing you. When you rebuff them, they feel cheated. A lot of com­mu­ni­ca­tion is proac­tive; people don’t wait for you to be nice so they know it’s okay to be nice to you back. It may sound as ridicu­lous as old-school war­fare, but clos­eted people expect formal pro­ceed­ings. But clos­eted isn’t reg­u­lar, or healthy. Stop owning that non­sense, just because there are sym­pa­thetic memes about it now.

Tip: You can’t snipe a friend or loved one into chang­ing, or gossip them out of their hole. You can be real with them, but only if you care about them fixing more than you care about get­ting it off your chest. If you lose sight of this they’ll resent you, and the pur­pose will be defeated. If it’s not work­ing, find another way.

Tip: You should­n’t gossip with friends and loved ones. We do this a lot. In fact, we almost always gossip exclu­sively with those close to us. It’s sick because it means the people who we like the best are the people we share our worst side with. This world is a mean and dark source of lovely bile and beau­ti­ful shade. We pay crit­ics and judges and pun­dits to dom­i­nate our media and tell us in the most beau­ti­fully crafted dia­logue why some­thing is bad, and we absorb a lot of that mood. Gossip is vile these days, and when your friend laughs and tells you ‘You’re just awful!’ take it per­son­ally, and stop. Stop being Simon. Even Simon prob­a­bly isn’t Simon at home.

Tip: Anger is the single most use­less force on the planet. Everybody says it: you don’t win, vio­lence wins. I used to say it too. Then a dog shouted it at me, rip­ping my best (read: only) dress trousers in the process. If you frame the con­ver­sa­tion in terms of vio­lence or volume, you only win for now. They’ll be back, with motivation.

Tip: You are not a genius. A real genius should make prob­lems go away, and we have more useful names for such a person now. Genius is a dead-end bit of flat­tery that people use absent-mind­edly, because it’s easier than tal­ly­ing up the ded­i­ca­tion and self-improve­ment it takes to become good at anything.

Tip: Say ‘I’m sorry’. We are often sorry, but we don’t say so because we don’t want the weight. Even if the thing isn’t your fault, it’s bad. Everybody wishes it hadn’t hap­pened. Everybody is sorry. Say it.

Tip: Stop repeat­ing promises. If you get it done, you won’t have to talk about it. If you’re talk­ing about it, you’re wast­ing doing time. Don’t say sorry if you aren’t ready to work next time to make sure it does­n’t happen again. God hates that, friends hate that, and your mother will one day smother you with a pillow.

Tip: Stop with the catch­phrases and the rhetoric. For a while, all us con­scious people started declar­ing our­selves ‘spir­i­tual, not reli­gious’. Thing is, if your spirit com­pels you more than your worldly needs, you’re going to look pretty reli­gious, aren’t you? We went over­board with the ‘look deeper’ con­cept. How hard should people have to dig through our mess to find the good inten­tions? If you’re not doing the work, stop talk­ing about how people ‘just assume’ you are lazy. It gets to a point where all the data leads to a con­clu­sion. If you are really that smart, or that enlight­ened, or that help­ful, it will show.

Tip: It can happen to you, and you’ll prob­a­bly not die.

Tip: If it’s a good thing it needs to happen, and would it kill you to try?

I don’t know if people believe me when I say I write for myself. After all, two out three blog­gers say the same thing. We are a wimpy, wormish lot, truth be told. Anyway. I think these hints are useful to just about every­body, because we are painfully uno­rig­i­nal when it comes to the impor­tant things we leave undone. That’s why I didn’t use the first person that much. Let’s all be better this year, okay? Put the 20-year plans down and build a life.

P.S: These ones are things I feel like shout­ing at the world.

Tip: Cool it with the laugh­ing at people. I often fall out of touch with social media, and when I come back it fright­ens me. We’ve gotten very very mean. There’s so much killer con­tent out there from very funny artists — amaz­ing sto­ries get­ting told in 10 sec­onds — but we seem to prefer laugh­ing at people who didn’t ask to be made fun of. It is dam­ag­ing our spirits.

Tip: Children are get­ting messed up. True, video games will prob­a­bly not make them kill any­body. Is it feed­ing the best in them though? We’ve gone so primal. Cartoons were always non­sen­si­cally vio­lent, but now the char­ac­ters don’t even talk at normal volume. Really the whole of human civ­i­liza­tion has been one big mir­a­cle. Because if it took good par­ent­ing to make good kids, we would­n’t have gotten past the Stone Age. Still, make an effort. Your kid does­n’t want your phone or that toy. They want con­tact. They don’t want a home­boy, they want a role model. When you jump to share your love for porn or drugs or explicit enter­tain­ment, you’re not parent of the year. Nobody is. We’re all lucky to get off with minor scars or petty igno­rance. And don’t be so fast to think it’s not your fault. If look­ing at your kid hurts, it’s prob­a­bly because they picked up your worst habits. Talk to them for real and say you’re sorry for the mess, and help them be wise. Help them be better than you — because, frankly, we stink.

I know. Sorry. You have this fig­ured out. I wish you peace and clar­ity. Make this a happy year for somebody.