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Don't drag out the Blue Monday blues

By Harvey Morris | China Daily | Updated: 2017-01-21 07:19

If you're reading this, it means you survived Blue Monday.

The term was coined just over a decade ago to pinpoint the day - usually the third Monday in January - calculated to be the most depressing in the year.

According to a formula credited to a British academic, bad weather, post-holiday debt and the failure to keep New Year's resolutions all combine to make it the most miserable day of the year.

The giveaway is that this bit of pseudoscience was first revealed in a press release from a travel company seeking to boost early bookings of summer holidays.

So, Blue Monday turns out to be just another marketing ploy, just like Black Friday or Cyber Monday or any other of those shop-till-you-drop dates that have invaded the modern calendar. Maybe that is the most depressing thing of all.

Unlike those other commercial fixtures, Blue Monday is not really exportable beyond the Western world. Although many in Europe and North America will need no reminding that it is a gloomy time of the year, much of the world is basking in sunshine on that day.

And in China, 1.4 billion people are gearing up for the extended Spring Festival celebrations, the most important holiday of the year.

It's all a matter of perspective. To quote President Xi Jinping, who quoted Charles Dickens during his speech this week at Davos: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

Just as the Industrial Revolution disrupted Dickens' world, so economic globalization has created new problems. But that is no reason to write it off, as Xi said.

Sadly, however, many in the West do appear to have written it off and we risk lapsing into a chronic funk that will extend well beyond Blue Monday.

With uncertainties provoked by Donald Trump's election victory, Brexit, and the rise of inward-looking populist parties elsewhere in Europe, it seems that everyone is in a sulk - even the winners.

In the United States, the victor barely scraped an approval rating of 40 percent - a historic low - just days before his inauguration. Trump's characteristic reaction was to claim the poll was rigged.

In the United Kingdom, those who successfully backed the country's exit from the European Union continue to groan and gripe at the merest suggestion that Brexit might be watered down.

One reason for the widespread blues is that one half of the population in the US and Europe is being dragged down a populist path not of its choosing and fears the consequences.

Meanwhile, the other half, who cast their votes for promised change, were in fact voting for things to stay the same, or indeed to revert to some idealized past. And nothing ever stays the same.

It is perfectly rational for those who have lost their jobs or seen their incomes decline - in the last decade the latter includes nearly all but the one percent who are super-rich - to blame a system in which the winners take all.

What is less rational or acceptable is to blame one's ills on immigrants and foreigners and trade competitors. That is the mark of a reactionary revolution, not a progressive one.

The one-percenters gathered in Davos have been hearing that vastly more jobs are currently threatened by automation and robotization than by more open foreign trade.

Their challenge is to ensure that the benefits of this new industrial revolution are evenly spread. Technology can be liberating, rather than enslaving; it just has to be done right. That should be the object of voters' demands.

In the meantime, don't despair. As the days get longer and the credit card bill gets shorter, bin the happy pills, look on the bright side and count your blessings.

The author is a senior editorial consultant for China Daily UK.

Don't drag out the Blue Monday blues

(China Daily 01/21/2017 page5)

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