By Tom Ehrich
Seems to me we made substantial progress in 2013.
We got over the idea that "class warfare" didn't exist or was a bullying tactic by envious losers. We saw the warfare up close and personal, saw who was waging it -- the rich against everyone else -- and saw its tragic, anti-democratic and self-defeating outcomes.
Big year in technology. No major advances, unless you count discovery of the NSA's surveillance sickness as an advance. No major new products.
Instead, those of us who rely on technology for our work and home life discovered new ways to manage work, manage time, avoid crowded stores, listen to music, watch television, communicate with family. We did so using year-old smartphones and tablets and two-year-old computers.
We also got a sobering look at the insufferable arrogance of the Silicon Valley techno-set. After over-the-top self-celebrations, gilded-age indulgences and romper room workplaces, serious people began to take technology to saner regions.
People proved to be smart and resilient. They stayed away from theaters showing lousy movies. They ramped down their fascination with Facebook, now revealed as privacy-challenged and ad-saturated. They rallied to a new Pope who seems the real deal and ignored shrill radio commentators calling him a "Marxist." The Tea Party wore out its welcome, leaving Congressional Republicans running over a cliff and no one following them.
Not too many people seemed troubled when a "Duck Dynasty" star got set aside for being a raging bigot. But a whole planet of people cared that Nelson Mandela had waged his lonely struggle against bigotry.
Enterprises clinging to faded business models found their customers venturing elsewhere. Bricks-and-mortar retailers, for example, got swamped by online commerce. Change-resistant churches lost more market share. Small colleges outside the elite dozen faced major pushback against escalating costs.
Book stores and book publishers discovered that people just want to read, not engage in some retro-romance with paper and shelving. Beyonce went straight to the public with her latest pop album and skipped the exploitation layers entirely. (Elvis, Johnny, Ray and the Fab Four deserve a do-over.)
Did everything come up roses? Sadly, no. It was a rotten year in some respects. Think NSA, Chase Bank, John Boehner, Koch Brothers Inc., scammers preying on soldiers and the elderly, payday lenders and other bottom-feeders, and legalize-marijuana shills.
Even so, I end the year feeling positive. My business travels this year took me to some down-home places like Orange, TX, Mobile, AL, and Clarksville, TN. I met some wonderful people who were working hard at being decent, God-loving, family-friendly and sensible.
I think decency is on the rise. So is common sense.