Ten tips for a happy, hype-free New Year

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New year's resolutions are never kept, so the experts tell us, because they are too general. The more specific a resolution, apparently, the more chance we have of sticking to it. In this spirit, I propose that in order to improve the quality of life of our nation we resolve simply to become less self-deluded than we were in 1996. So here's wishing you all a hypocrisy-free 1997 full of more hope than hype.

And here are my suggestions for how we might achieve this.

1 Morality: No one should be allowed to use this word in 1997. Special dispensation may be granted to archbishops, politicians and pundits who may be struck dumb but the word will only be reinstated to those who demonstrate some vaguely moral behaviour themselves rather than drone on about other people's lack of it.

Hopefully the exodus from the moral high ground will mean that morality is once more understood as a code of behaviour rather than a commodity that can be purchased at will by self-appointed seers.

Nothing, not even terrible personal loss, will qualify anyone to speechify about public morals. Policy cannot be grafted on to victimhood or created out of grief. For all the hysteria about moral values, the reality is that talk comes cheap and costs governments nothing. If we want to make the world a better place, let's pay the price or, as our glorious leader said, put up and shut up.

2 Soap operas: People who go round claiming that soap operas are a) going too far, b) not as good as they used to be, or c) damaging the nation's youth should not watch them, leaving the rest of us to enjoy one of our national treasures. This bizarre coterie of Cambridge dons, superannuated headmasters and snobs who don't watch enough television are deranged and should be deported, or at least given a good seeing to by the likes of Grant Mitchell and Jimmy Corkhill.

3 Drugs: Some drugs are good, some drugs are bad. Some are legal, some aren't. Some can kill you quickly, some slowly. Some of us take them some of the time, some of us don't. Some drugs are better than others. What else is there to say?

We could easily bring the debate on drugs up to date by just saying no to the following cliches: a) Evil drug pushers. Everyone knows you get drugs from your mates or mates of your mates. b) Campaigns centred on innocent victims. Leah Betts, who was turned into an extraordinary martyr to a vague anti-drug cause, was never portrayed as she actually was. It turns out that she was an ordinary girl who had experimented with drugs before. c) The idea that only a weird, disturbed and dispossessed sub- section of our youth uses drugs. Survey after survey illustrates that drug use is mainstream rather than a subcultural activity. Why do we continue to deny this? How the hell do you think The Prodigy keep getting to number one?

4 Ireland: The macho pretence that there is an alternative to talking is wearing dangerously thin. Refusal to talk, refusal to admit that there is talking going on anyway, the refusal to acknowledge that no solution will ever come from silence leads to stagnation.

Priding ourselves on our refusal to negotiate is dumb and even dumber politics. Talking is not surrendering to violence, silence just might be.

5 Education: The big issue, supposedly. What kind of issue is this, then? Shall we have education or not? Shall we continue to divide and rule by an educational caste system? The air would be cleared and the whole debate would be greatly improved if only those whose children were actually being educated in local state schools were allowed to comment. This may mean a less verbose year for the likes of Mr Blair and Ms Harman, which may be a tragedy for them, but rather good news for the rest of us.

6 Rock'n'roll: We must resolve that nothing in 1997 is to be deemed the new rock'n'roll. Nor should anyone be allowed to regard the Spice Girls as some sort of provocative text in need of a good deconstruction. They are a pop group, for Christ's sake. Jarvis Cocker should get out more. Liam and Patsy should get out less and have some babies. This is the only way to go, as Madonna has proved. Reproduction is the new rock'n'roll. Remember, you read it here first.

7 Poverty and crime: Those who say that poverty causes crime should be incarcerated alongside those who say there is no link whatsoever. As normal folk appear to realise quite easily that the link between the two could not be so simple, how come experts talk in this daft way? Locked away in their prison cells, members of various think-tanks and foundations can discuss social breakdown to their hearts' content. Obviously there will be no remission for good behaviour.

8 Food: 1997 should be the year to get food back into proportion. If cooking is the new rock'n'roll, then Delia Smith is Courtney Love. Opening restaurants, going to restaurants, writing about restaurants is all fine and dandy, but there is a limit to how much we want to know about what other people have eaten. Food is to be enjoyed, not endlessly recounted and regurgitated as some sort of signifier of aestheticism. Lloyd Grossman, Marco Pierre White and Terence Conran can bore each other to death playing Fantasy Dinner Parties and talking about how to dry extortionately priced mushrooms. In our house, we are still impressed by microwave popcorn.

9 Cyberspace: The final frontier. Not. Many women over 60 are still scared of cash machines. The Internet is better in fantasy than reality, but the digital community would rather not download this information as they seriously believe it may make them look less interesting. Is such a thing possible?

Anyway, to those for whom the promise of "never-ending worldwide communication" is attractive, let me remind you of the reality: endless e-mails from someone who could easily telephone you saying "Please phone me". Why can't anyone be honest about the damn thing?

10 The monarchy: Can't live with them. Can't shoot them. Why ever not?

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