Predicting 2022: New year may not be as horrible as we expect

This story was originally published in the third edition of The Lion’s Tale (January 31st, 2022).

In regards to every new year, there is always a tendency to believe that the year in question will be worse than the last. As 2022 begins, this is especially true for Americans; according to an Ipsos poll, just 71 percent of Americans are optimistic about 2022, compared to the global average of 77 percent. This inclination towards pessimism is well-documented and infamous, but it begs the question as to whether such a predisposition is justified or not.

One may observe COVID-19 and economic data from the previous years and come to the conclusion that it is improbable that such a situation could ever get any worse. This view is reflective of the ‘pessimistic optimism’ of the years​​ that preceded 2022: no matter how bad things are, solace is found in the opinion that it cannot get any worse than it already is. It is vital that an optimistic yet realistic view is taken about 2022 and the years that follow it, as a hope for the future and a want for change is the driving force for improvement in society. 

While absolute pessimism is understandable, it is not useful. It is not productive to decide that a certain year will be terrible in its first month. While it is not possible to say for certain if COVID-19 will end, we should hope that the problems the world is facing, including COVID-19, will improve this year, even just slightly. This is not to deny the seriousness of these issues; these problems do need solutions, but useless pessimism without any meaningful solution being proposed does not help the current situation.

It is clear that 2022 will not bring the “return to normal” such as the years before 2020; it is important that we keep this in mind. Absolute optimism, or the expectation that all of the world’s major problems will end this year, is unrealistic and nigh-impossible. One should not expect a total end to COVID-19 lockdowns and procedures this year; one can be an optimist without denying the real threat these issues pose. However, perhaps we should look forward to small improvements to the current situation this year, even if there is still work to be done by the end of this year. 

It is possible that such an optimistic view, even one that is modest in its expectations, will not age well. Perhaps, contrary to the views of many, it will get worse this year. Even so, a modestly idealistic view is not necessarily a bad thing to have. As previously stated, a sense of optimism and hope is what drives improvement and change in our world. 

If this year proves to be as bad or worse than the years preceding it, it shows that there is a need for work and change next year. Absolute pessimism does not drive societal change or improvement. Simply stating that a certain situation will only get worse while eschewing the proposal of any solutions does not drive said change. Thus, it is clear that within any solution for a serious problem, there is a sense of hope and optimism that such a solution will work.