Wednesday 7 February 2018

Still waiting...

The problem with growing up is it never happens quickly enough to help. You only get to understand what it really means when you get there and then, when you attain great age and the gift of wisdom settles softly on your shoulders, you find can’t even give it away – nobody wants to know, grandad. By this time you have also consigned much of your own callowness to the soft focus mists of unreliable memory. Yes, you cringe at occasional sharp recollections of your own naive follies, but you also imagine that the gilded youth of your day was somehow better, nobler in intent than now.

The youth of today, eh? It simply cannot be the case that young people are more stupid, less well educated, less disciplined, less well prepared to tackle the world than they were in generations that came before. It can’t be, because this is the complaint of every generation towards those who come after. Followed to its logical conclusion – and this feeling pervades writing from the earliest times – the human race ought to have regressed to grubbing around for roots and berries to survive. It’s something of a surprise we haven’t re-grown tails.

 When I was a child the Internet just didn’t exist, so there is an obvious skill today’s kids possess which was beyond my ken. Ah but, we old codgers insist, they can’t spell though can they? Maybe not, but they can converse in an instant with others all around the world in a language we only think we understand. And just as language evolves – and English appears to be pleasingly malleable – so do sensibilities. So what that many young people appear to reject the nuclear family model we earnestly believe is the ‘proper’ way to build a society? Maybe their globalised, multicultural ideal could work... if it weren’t for us dinosaurs.

So what, am I arguing we should bow down and make way for the new revolution to sweep our world away? Not one bit of it; we should fight it tooth and nail, just as they are fighting for change. Because the counter-intuitive conclusion is that the real equilibrium is the quest for change; constant change. And it is a special kind of change in which everything ultimately stays the same. Is it any wonder that so many movements carry the prefix ‘neo’? The French, I seem to recall, have a phrase for it, if only I could remember it. Ah, memory.

Memory is an interesting human trait, or at least the way we use and abuse it is. Our memories are horribly fallible and also horrifyingly manipulable. We can ‘remember’ events in which we never participated. We can even remember things which never happened. And parts of our memories of things that never happened are also some of the building blocks of our individual character. In other words, even who we imagine we are is partly a work of fiction – and a fiction often written in the words of others.

Know thyself, the Greeks said – and this was quite a while back – ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’. And yet, here we are, still struggling with the concept. Left-right politics, young-old conflicts, black-white contradictions... are there really clear cut boundaries between right and wrong? If there were, the slippery, unsavoury profession of law would not be necessary. And movements would not spring up to create and exploit division. Instead they would seek to work together.

It simply cannot be that everything about capitalism disadvantages the poor. Similarly everything about communism can’t always end in genocide. Hell, even the LibDems might have the odd nugget of a good idea, here and there. But we are all blinded to some degree or another by the simplicities of our own solutions. And we are all similarly resistant to compromise, no matter how much we believe otherwise. Given that the unknowable future will be what we all make it, shouldn’t we make it together?

The wisdom of youth and the energy of age

That aspiration is eminently sensible; of course we should work as a team. It requires the simplest of logic that if we have a common goal we can best achieve it by all pulling in the same direction. In fact, so logical a solution is it that exactly this answer has been suggested many times throughout the ages, by many people... often young people. But what do they know?


  1. Workinng as a team is great and works wonderfully so long as everyone has the same opinion/motivation/end result in mind. It works at a country level only when we have a war to fight, everyone has the same outcome in mind, once its over everyons splinters into their own personal agendas.
    Only recently started reading your blog, thanks for shareing your views, I've enjoyed reading them. DB Manchester.

  2. Sorry about the spelling I should have previewed it.
    DB M/C

  3. "Memory is an interesting human trait, or at least the way we use and abuse it is. Our memories are horribly fallible and also horrifyingly manipulable. We can ‘remember’ events in which we never participated. We can even remember things which never happened."
    So true. It's why I am deeply unhappy about these historic sex abuse cases. The other day a famous harpist and her partner were found guilty of sexual abuse from 30 years ago. I really think there should be a time limit on these cases - say 10 years.