OUR ANNUS HORRIBILIS: A Few Words On 2016 by Cian Morey Jan01


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OUR ANNUS HORRIBILIS: A Few Words On 2016 by Cian Morey

At last.

Rarely if ever will the words “Happy New Year” be uttered with such genuine goodwill as they are now, as the world bids good riddance to 2016. In decades to come, grandchildren will flock to the feet of their fireside elders to lap up the legends of “the year it all went wrong”. Poems will be penned; songs will be sung; the history books of the future will look back on all this, say, “So yeah, that happened” and skip sheepishly on to the next twelve months.

2016 was literally the most hated year of the century.

I’m reluctant to talk about this as a sort of detached, omniscient narrator declaring all manner of things like, “Meanwhile in the Cincinnati Zoo, Death was making yet another guerrilla strike”.  This year has had a deeper effect than that on most of us. But I’m also reluctant to get too personal, as too many of us already have. God’s landline isn’t in the Golden Pages (trust me, I’ve looked) and no amount of screaming down the sidebars of Facebook can change a single thing.

Maybe a sort of analysis, then. Not a bland police report, not a bloodbath. A case-study, if you will. Who knows? Maybe 2016 can teach us one or two things.

Politically, most people would find some way to agree that the last twelve months didn’t exactly cut the proverbial mustard. From our current perspective in our new post-Obama world, it might be hard to remember just how hopeless it all felt back in February’s General Election, when we thought we had seen the worst of it with the prospect of a Gerry Adams-led Ireland.


The latter half of 2016 began with the bloody end of a reasonably steady period in British politics, as Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and their notorious Brexiteers led the United Kingdom out of the European Union in one of the most chaotic referendums in history. The Western World reeled on the ripples of its aftershocks, which carried us quite conveniently to the very brink of what can be widely acknowledged as the next disaster – the U.S.A.’s Presidential Election. On the 9th November, The Annoying Orange trumped Hillary Clinton to become President-Elect of America. The impossible had truly happened.

But 2016’s cataclysms were not confined to politics. The last twelve months saw appalling humanitarian emergencies on an unprecedented scale. Eurasia’s massive migrant crisis is still ongoing, with no easy solution in sight. A hesitant and often tip-toeing war on terrorism rages in the Middle East, while the so-called Islamic State has continued its unforeseeable and unforgiving assaults on many major nations of the developed world. In local news, while all of the above is simmering away, much of decision-making Ireland quakes in its boots and tries to look busy about our unending housing crisis, which has left over 6 and a half thousand people homeless.

And on top of all that, the world experienced a notably high number of its leading lights of hope, happiness and inspiration wink out one by one. In the early days of January we lost David Bowie and Alan Rickman in shockingly quick succession (and at the same age), and we would later come to see this as just the start of a frighteningly mortality-centric calendar, whose casualties include, among many others: our own Frank Kelly, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Anton Yelchin, Gene Wilder, Andrew Sachs, a certain beloved gorilla who perished in the alleged crime of the century, and, most recently, both Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds.


So yeah, overall, everything went splendidly.


Without doubt, there is rather a lot in the damage assessment above that lends weight to the idea that 2016 was the worst year ever of all time in the history of forever. Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Not really. If I said that this coming year looks better, I would be lying (which, considering all the other mishaps of the last twelve months, wouldn’t really be that bad). 2016 was the year when all the mistakes were made and 2017 is when we’ll see the consequences of them. OK, so maybe there’s light somewhere halfway down the tunnel? Well, that’s not exactly the case either. It would be reasonable to expect that somewhere in 2016 there was some good to balance the bad, but to be honest the only things that spring to mind for me are Team Ireland’s moments of glory in the European Championships and the O’Donovan brothers’ success in the Olympics (which was unhappily overshadowed by one of our most senior Olympics officials getting himself publicly arrested in a bathrobe for mass fraud).

So is there anything positive at all that we can take from the last year? Well, as I mentioned before, perhaps we have learned a few things. “Positive”, you see, doesn’t have to be “happy”. Ideally it would be, but according to the dictionary it just means “tending to emphasize what is good” or “tending to cause progress or improvement”. So maybe 2016 was an “epic fail”, as some of the more computer-literate among us might put it, but maybe we can learn how to get it right next time.

We’ve learned that racism is still an enormous problem in our allegedly “inclusive and accepting” world. We’ve learned that the American Electoral College system is a terrible idea. We’ve learned that all lives end, and that we just have to make the best of them. We’ve learned definitively that Gerry Adams should never attempt to speak in the Irish language.

But one of the big things that I’ve learned is to appreciate my smaller victories. On a global scale last year was horrendous, but hey, I starred as the comic relief in a production of “Hamlet” recently. I learned how to play the ukulele. I read a few fascinating books. (I think I did reasonably well in a couple of exams.) And these things count. People tend to forget it – I tend to forget it – but these things count just as much as all the huge important things going on in the big bad world. If the huge important things, for whatever reason, don’t happen to go your way, at least you’ve got the personal achievements, don’t forget that. Maybe your team didn’t win the championship, maybe some things on the news frighten you, maybe one of your heroes died this year – but remember that bike you learned to ride, remember that novel you thought you would never get finished but actually did, remember that Facebook post that got you all of those Likes. Remember your family, remember your friends, remember your classmates and your work colleagues, remember your dog or your cat and the considerate concierge who welcomed you to the pet-friendly hotel, remember the person who laughed with you until you cried and remember the person who cried with you until you laughed. Understand that you can still take joy in these little things even when the rest isn’t working out. Understand that there is no such thing as “a better achievement”, they are all worth just the same, and we should celebrate them all. Understand that while the light may not always be obvious in the dark, you can always find it if you look hard enough.

So let’s raise a glass, then, to any lessons we might take from 2016; to all the small victories that we accomplished over the last twelve months; to all the small victories that we will accomplish again in the coming twelve; to the family and the friends that have stayed with us from beginning to end, and all the familiar things that will never change, whatever happens; and to the year 2017, which, for good, for ill or for a bit of both, is sure to be one of the most interesting years that Planet Earth will ever see. Mankind is about to make some serious history.

Happy New Year, everyone.

~ Cian Morey, 1st January 2017