2014 has been a year of discussion about politics, war, technology, immigration, race and gender. Yet what has actually been accomplished?
As a society, it feels like we’re constantly spinning our wheels. We know that there are problems, but we all can’t seem to come together, agree, focus and make change happen.
This problem is bigger than our political differences, economic circumstances and diverse cultural histories. It’s a structural problem. Our society is not designed for social action or concerted goal setting.
Humans are by nature a self-centered species. We’re also creatures of habit who avoid long-term planning at all costs. On an average day, most of us do not even check the news to see what’s happening in the world. If you are one of the ever-rarer avid followers of current events, you probably react every day to what has happened on the news that day.
A black teenager was shot by the police? Protest today! But pass legislation to strengthen police accountability, improve schools, break down the prison-industrial complex and increase budgets for officer training? Never! That would take more than a day.
We already have an excessive number of holidays focused on remembrance. We have Veterans Day and Memorial Day for our troops, Martin Luther King Day for civil rights, Presidents Day for our nation’s leadership, Independence Day for our country’s founding, Thanksgiving to be thankful what we have, Christmas to commemorate Christ’s birth and many more. But what days do we have for expectance?
New Year’s Day is meant to be a day of planning and introspection; a day to set goals for our life over the next three-hundred and sixty-five days. This is great for improving oneself but not so great for influencing big social problems. Who do you know who sets a New Year’s resolution to end poverty in the rural South or reform the tax code to encourage job growth?
What we really need is a national day of planning and contemplation. In marketing and management terms, we must develop an annual strategic plan. Congress obviously won’t plan for the next year – let alone the next day – so that leaves the responsibility up to us.
That’s why I’m calling for a federal holiday on January 2nd called Planner’s Day (maybe Congress can think up a better name since they have clearly demonstrated their proficiency in the naming of post offices). This would be the one day a year that the average Joe would be encouraged to read a book, write a letter to their elected officials, talk to their neighbors or write up a plan on how they can impact others throughout the year.
It would also be a day for organizations to discuss their “big” plans for the year. It even could be the one time in which elections are kept out of the national discussion. Policymakers could be required to debate each other on live television and aim to agree on at least one point of improvement to be executed throughout the year.
Members of the academic community would also be able to participate. They could write analytical treatises and send them to the press in an effort to spur discussion, instead of letting their ideas languish in an obscure journal.
Maybe after a few years of taking an annual breather, we’ll be able to step it up and develop a solid national master plan – and stick to it. Maybe in a decade or two we could solve all of our social problems.
Or, at least we’d get an extra day off work.