The end of the year looms large, as it does at every end of the year, and the pressure is on for the annual stock-taking to unearth at least some shred of good news. But things are crappy right now and everybody knows it. 2011 is simply not going to be recast as anything remotely pleasant, no matter the number of times we turn it around in our brains.The world’s economy is coming apart like a flaky pastry and there ain’t a baker in the place with a recipe for repair.

News report after news report clocks in with the latest devastation: every day there are more job losses, more company shutdowns, more countries demanding fresh austerity from their citizens, more freak storms that devastated people’s nest eggs, more destitute souls.

So upsetting has been this torrent of economic negativity that even news-junkies among us have taken to avoiding the evening reports and morning paper, opting instead for another Two and a Half Men repeat and the latter few fluff-filled pages of their subway rags.

But as much as these avoiding folks might believe they’re simply relieving themselves of an unnecessary burden, they might actually be doing themselves a serious disservice by ignoring the ugly truth. There is something cathartic, after all, about meeting your enemy’s gaze head on. And not blinking.

Thinking about bad stuff can be good, you see. And what better time than the close of a calendar year to load up on the helpings?

You know how you can feel a cold taking shape on your physical horizon, scratching at your nerve endings, buzzing in your ears? Desperately, you bid the discomfort away. You swallow handfuls of vitamins and gulp boatloads of orange juice and pretend your head isn’t drumming like a timpani. But the cold comes anyway, doesn’t it?

The point is this: willing an uncomfortable encounter away doesn’t make it disappear. Meditating on it, on the other hand, will bring it into focus. “Know thy self,” said Sun Tzu in The Art of War, “know thy enemy.”

Economic ugliness is all around us. Bad news is the rule now (good news the exception). That there’s no shortage of unpleasantness about these days is a revelation to no one. So invite it in. Stare it down. Ask questions of it and see if you’ve got any more of that flavoured gin it likes in your cabinet.

And then take your leave.  

A recessive, Euro-failing, dictator-dancing, debt-laden bad patch, in all its horrible, belt-tightening, innocents-abusing glory, is here and holding tight. But meditating on the year that was dulls its edges and renders it as much a part of the fabric of life as dinnertime and garbage day. Make the bad guy your friend and soon you won’t be able to remember who your enemies are.And when you’re done all that, well, bring on 2012.