By Barry Lord
Farewell 2016 and for many people not before time.
As the curtain draws on a year of significant social and political change, as well as the general uncertainty that comes with both, it’s time to sift through the remnants of what was a memorable 12 month period but perhaps for the wrong reasons.
Last December, the idea of the next leader of the free world being that bloke from the American version of The Apprentice was as far-fetched as that of the grim reaper snatching David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen in one calendar year or for that matter, Britain leaving the EU.
Well, today I sit here suitably chastened. And I’m certain I’m not alone.
Indeed, future generations of Americans may wonder why their elders once scoffed at the idea of a peanut farmer (Jimmy Carter) and the star of Bedtime for Bunzo (Ronald Reagan) sitting in the Oval Office.
Truly, 2016 proved that anyone can indeed be president and only time will tell if that’s something we should be very scared of.
Not that we have much to crow about on the political front. Whilst two unpopular parties squabbled, our country was effectively without a government for ten weeks plus, leaving the rest of us feeling like the kids in the class left to our own devices while the teacher took an extended trip to the photocopier.
Now with escalating numbers of homeless, rising rental rates and water charges never far from the agenda, strong leadership is needed more than ever.
The same can be said about the Brexit saga, which caught the world on the hop on June 23 and still divides the UK government, general populace and media alike, as voters realised the utopia promised by the ‘Brexiters’, where busybody bureaucrats from Brussels would be given short shrift, didn’t materialise overnight.
Now Britain holds its collective breath waiting for a favourable and amicable split and we in Ireland wonder what the consequences of this broken marriage will have on our economy.
Worryingly, out of the EU debate and presidential elections came the rise of an acceptable form of right wing extremism and provocation, much of it going unchallenged by broadcasters; reasonable debate on employment, immigration, and identity gave way to the politics of the playground, summed up quite perfectly by an appearance on the Late Late Show by the odious Katie Hopkins.
And it was devastating to see the ugly divisiveness of these debates ultimately culminate in the tragic death of serving British MP Jo Cox, for it seemed there really are causes out there people are willing to kill for.
And in keeping with this overall feeling of despondency, 2016 was particularly hard on our pop cultural icons.
January claimed David Bowie, April took Prince and November proved to be Leonard Cohen’s last hurrah.
Many of us felt that a little bit of our childhoods were being chipped away month by month.
To lose one individualistic talent was bad enough, to lose three in the same year was soul destroying and given that we’ve a couple of weeks of 2016 left, everyone is no doubt fearful for the next big name that could get the tap on the shoulder.
But let’s not despair.
A new year is coming and as my father always reminds me, life is a fight, and if you’ve made it this far; if you can smell the Christmas cooking, feel the warmth of the living room fire and be content that your loved ones are still within arm’s reach, then you’ve clearly fought well.
Merry Christmas to you all.