Auld Lang Syne

Greg Gnall
3 min readDec 27, 2023

Although the literal meaning of the traditional Scots song typically sung at midnight of New Year’s Eve is a lamentation on the passing of the old year, for most of us it can just as well mean “Good Riddance.” I challenge anyone to name a recent year where you thought: “what a great year, sorry to see it go!” 2023 has been no exception, as we experienced two horrendous wars, the hottest year on record, accompanied by climate-related events of Biblical proportions, a further breakdown in the political polity, the never-ending plague of Covid, a major banking crisis and the promise and dread of Artificial Intelligence.

Surely there must have been some positive events that insulated us from mass depression and suicide? Let’s look at a few.

The Economy The economy remains strong, bolstered by robust holiday sales and the possibility that the Fed has managed a “soft landing” by rate rises that seem to be taming inflation without killing employment.

Girls Rule: Taylor Swift and Beyonce dominated the entertainment world, racking up billions in ticket sales on their world-wide tours and doubled-up by recreating the experiences on film that brought in millions more. Even an imaginary creation named Barbie almost singlehandedly revived the film industry (okay, with some help from the creator of the atomic bomb) and Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian woman to win a best acting Oscar.

Health Care: Significant strides were made in the world of medicine including promising treatments against malaria, sickle cell anemia, dementia and memory loss and post-partum depression. On the down side, women’s health care took a significant hit from the demise of Roe v. Wade that is threatening the freedom to control their own bodies.

The Environment: Yes, progress is slow and political pushback remains a significant worry. But renewable energy is getting more affordable and effective every day and even red states recognize the boost that it can bring to their own economies. The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), paradoxically held in Dubai, ended in a statement that recognized that the end of the fossil fuel era is near and set goals for its demise.

The Truth Shall Set You Free: Both Rudy Giuliani and George Santos paid the piper as their pathological lies finally caught up with them. Giuliani’s false claims of election tampering against a mother and daughter in Georgia has left him with a $150 million libel judgement that pushed him into personal bankruptcy, and Santos’ perfect record of lying about, well, everything, finally fed up even his own party and he was booted out of Congress while still facing a criminal fraud indictment over his fundraising scams.

Senior Moments: Both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones issued new recordings this year, the Beatles through the magic of technology and the Stones through the modern miracle of Viagra, maybe? Both events lent hope to one octogenarian who is looking to defy the political odds and hold onto his job for four more years.

Yes, there was more bad than good, and we can only hope that 2024 will be better. Peace in Ukraine and Gaza? More progress in battling climate change? Wedding bells for Taylor and Travis? Justice prevailing and democracy preserved? As always, anything is possible. Except the Jets winning the Super Bowl.