It is possible, just now and then, to become downhearted by the way the world has been going. Floods, the ever-extended age of austerity, jolly TV and presenters from the past revealed to have a dark side: for some people, the old year cannot end soon enough. Yet, in its odd, shameless way, 2012 provided some useful lessons. Here are 12 of them:
1 We have learned that niceness, intelligence, experience and a distinguished career do not in themselves create a leader. The BBC’s George Entwistle was clearly a loyal servant of the Corporation who should never have become its master. In fact, leadership is hard to find in modern Britain. Alex Ferguson, Simon Cowell, Gareth Malone… but then who?
2 Going into the jungle for a reality show does not, it turns out, raise popular awareness of the issues of the day. After Nadine Dorries’s unhappy exposure this year, no MP will have to eat an ostrich’s anus in the name of getting the electorate to take politicians seriously.
3 On the other hand, not doing very much beyond smiling amiably while in the heart of government is not a good career move. Surely it can’t get any worse for Nick Clegg next year. Can it?
4 It is good to talk. You are not a social slut if you converse with a stranger. The truism that a great sporting event can help a backward country evolve was proved true this year. London 2012 civilised us, at least temporarily.
5 The on-pitch chat of footballers is unlikely to make it into any dictionary of quotations. Testifying against John Terry at a magistrates’ court, the QPR defender Anton Ferdinand recalled their conversation: “He called me a c***, and I called him a c*** back. And he gave me a gesture as if to say my breath smelled. I said to him, ‘How can you call me a c***? You shagged your teammate’s missus, you’re a c***’.”
6 There is a lot of money to be made from the popularity of light bondage. Some Englishmen are still reeling from what Fifty Shades of Grey revealed: that their problems with girls have been caused by their being too nice.
7 It is also difficult to lose money underestimating the British interest in watching people cook and eat food – 2012 has been the year of spanking and baking.
8 The recession has not been all bad news. Top executives in the UK saw their pay increase by a very respectable 12 per cent in the last financial year. Psychologists are concerned that those at the top in industry, the City and local government might now be suffering from Conscience Die-Back, a disease which stimulates greed while suppressing normal feelings of shame.
9 When a politician opens an answer with “Let’s be absolutely clear about this”, he is about to wriggle out of something.
10 Some useful self-promotion can be gained very easily in the space of 140 characters on Twitter. The novelist Bret Easton Ellis recently tweeted a mildly sexist remark about the director Kathryn Bigelow. A gratifying fuss followed. Finally, at great length and with hilarious self-importance, Easton Ellis wrote an article recanting. It was a Twitter moment, he said. He is gay and may have been drunk. His mother had told him off. He had gone “beyond douchiness”.
11 While old DJs are automatically suspect, old pop stars get a free pass when it comes to inappropriateness of the past. The star who once sang “I can see that you’re 13 years old, I don’t want your ID” is now a knight of the realm and national treasure.
12 There is always someone to blame. The addiction to pursuing the villain of the moment has tightened its grip on armchair vigilantes. Bloodthirsty sanctimoniousness seems likely to be the prevailing moral tone of 2013.