OXFORD — At least the new year, 2020, has a nice ring to it.
It sounds like a television program — ABC’s news magazine “20/20” — but it feels more like George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984.”
The television program, which dates back to 1978, normally focuses on human interest stories. The “20/20” title derives from what is considered normal visual acuity.
Orwell’s novel, first published in 1949, takes place in what, 70 years ago, was an imagined future, the year 1984, when much of the world had fallen victim to perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, propaganda and twisting lies into perceived truths.
Sort of reminds you of today when you think on it.
Maybe “Big Brother” doesn’t monitor every move we make, as in the novel, but we carry around these little computers called smart phones that, when we use them to their full capability, allow more than the government to know not only where we are but our shopping habits.
Orwell never heard of Google or Amazon Alexa, but he did a good job of imagining what it would be like to have privacy invaded by technology to the extreme.
The good news is that the world, despite some similarities, isn’t nearly as bad off as in Orwell’s imagined 1984.
The technology is more helpful than harmful, although I sometimes cringe when advertising starts popping up on my computer for a product for which I’ve browsed online.
In fact, I’m using the Google search engine to research data for this column.
What technology can’t do is predict what’s going to happen during the coming year.
Perhaps the most accurate forecast is the old saying, “The more things change the more they stay the same.” Part of the lyrics in a Bon Jovi song, the original quote is attributed to Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, a 19th Century French critic, journalist and novelist.
Of course there’s going to be a lot of news this coming year. There already has been, including renewed tensions in the Middle East, apparent anarchy in Mississippi prisons, and hirings and firings of football coaches at Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
On the list of newsmaking events will be the actions and inactions of a new government administration in Mississippi. Many of the players will be different but a lot of issues will be the same: health care, education and infrastructure, just to mention three.
On the national scene, the impeachment trial of President Trump, if there is one, will be held amid the usual partisan posturing by members of Congress and tweets from the president.
It’s a federal election year with one Senate post on the ballot in Mississippi, as well as all four House of Representatives seats. There’s a good chance all four Mississippi congressmen will be re-elected.
It looks like the Senate race for the post formerly held by Thad Cochran will be a rematch between Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who won a special election in 2018 after Cochran’s retirement, and Democrat Mike Espy.
A good guess is that it will turn out the same way, but who knows what will transpire between now and November.
Less certain is who will emerge as the Democratic nominee for president to run against Donald Trump, assuming he’s still in office, which is more than likely.
The biggest news story for 2020 may actually turn out to be something totally unexpected, some natural or human calamity.
But whatever happens, some things will remain the same, including a great deal of political divisiveness and self-interest. My high school English teacher, when teaching the works of Shakespeare, used to tell us human nature doesn’t change over the years.
Finally, it’s worth noting something columnist George Will recently wrote. In 1945, after witnessing the devastation of atomic bombs on Japan, the leaders who developed the bomb “would have been pleasantly surprised had they known that 2019 would be the 73rd year without the use of what they had created. Sometimes what does not happen is itself momentous.”
Maybe that should be our best wish collectively and individually for 2020 — for certain things not to happen.
Dunagin, who lives in Oxford, is a retired longtime Mississippi newspaperman.