At the end of every year a plethora of TV shows and newspaper accounts covers the most newsworthy events of the year. At the beginning of every new year another plethora of stories greets it with optimism born of the hope that the new year must be better than the old. Having survived more new years than I ever deserved, I feel compelled to end the year with some curmudgeonly observations.

The newsworthy stories of the preceding year are the same stories every year. Oh, the locations of the natural disasters change and the names of the people enduring them change, but every year there are floods and droughts and fires and storms and record heats and colds. The locations of the man-made disasters change, too, but always there are wars and genocide and starvation and murder and the same old demonstrations of man's unspeakable cruelty to man.Every year there are stories about who made the most money and where people are homeless and hungry. Every year there are prizes for the best research or book or poem. There are awards for the people who can run, drive or sail the fastest, shoot the straightest, jump the highest or farthest, and knock little white balls over nets or into holes in the ground.

Since the stories are the same every year, why do we always end the old year tired and full of disillusion and enter the new year so full of hope?

The newspapers and television two days after Christmas reported on floods in Europe and Malaysia, kidnapping in Russia (newsworthy because Russia doesn't get as much kidnapping as we do), terrorism in the Philippines (four dead, 119 wounded) and in Egypt (four police officers killed), war in Bosnia, North Korea joining the happy nations now possessing nuclear weapons, haggling over peace in South Africa and the Mideast and Northern Ireland, haggling over how to provide health care in America.

That's the way the old year went and that's how the new year will go. That is the world in which we live. We will be less disillusioned at the end of 1994 if we don't expect too much of it at the beginning.

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Still, the most cynical among us can't avoid those little nibblings and nudgings of hope. Despite a lifetime of frustration and disillusion, hope edges out experience. We find hope in the fact that Time magazine's Man of the Year is four men - Yitzhak Rabin, Yasser Arafat, Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk - all of whom tried to wage peace, not war.

Things aren't completely the same every year. Blacks and American Indians are treated better than they were when we first started observing New Year's Day. So are women.

As populations grow and the planet shrinks, we have increasing opportunities to recognize the sameness of all humanity. Watch the Moscow Evening News on C-Span and you will see it's just like our own. They report on natural disasters, political shenanigans, economic developments, sports achievements and the weather. They celebrate births and mourn deaths, as does all the rest of humanity.

If only mankind weren't so stupid. Wars and preparations for war make nations poorer. Civilian goods improve the lives of people. When one looks at a world that has never figured that out, one tends to be a bit curmudgeonly at the end of a year.

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