Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Respecting Your Elders

Forty's a funny age. On the one hand you're very aware that you've reached that point where you know you are considered "old" because you're of grandparenting age (unless you're from Long Eaton, where it's 24) and the telltale signs like crows feet, grey hair, and knowing nothing about chart music are well established. On the other hand, you can look at people twice your age jogging in the parks and riding their bikes to their post-retirement gardening jobs and it hits you that, in the big scheme of modern living, you're actually not even halfway there in the Ready For The Knackers Yard stakes.

Being old really isn't what it used to be. I'm not even sure what exactly it is any more. Worse still, I'm not at all sure old people know what being old is. Or at what point old people start being old...

So it is with some trepidation that I begin this rant against the elderly. The people I'm directly complaining about in the following paragraphs are in some cases no greater an age gap than myself and my own daughter. But that's okay, because to her I'm old. That's as it should be. So let's assume the people I am complaining about are the very same twenty year gap. In other words: people of pensionable age.

This is a complaint about rudeness, lack of manners, ignorance and selfishness. More, it's an account of how people I've known, worked with, and encountered over the years apply all these negative characteristics to that elusive and always fresh constant that is The Youth Of Today. Young people are rude. Young people are ignorant. Young people have no respect. Young people have no manners. What a lot of bullshit. It's just easier to notice the negative than to laud the positive. Besides, young people don't need to have all these characteristics because they're learning society. It doesn't get taught in schools.

Old people have no excuse. In recent years I've noticed it more and more. You won't see an old person hold a door open for you, even if you've got a pushchair to struggle through with. I know, I've been there. Old people will push in front of you rather than queue. They won't let you out in traffic. They'll curse you if you don't let them out. They barge into you with shopping trolleys. They clog up supermarket aisles, chatting. They stop randomly in the street. They're even prone to drinking too much and being prone to shouting abuse. These are all things I've experienced first hand, and I know I'm not alone in this. Nor am I alone in thinking "Yeah, and that's all things those same people accuse the Kids Of Today of doing".

What I find amusing in all this is that when I was properly young (i.e. under 25. After that you're getting old: fact) it seemed to be less of the case, and the wartime elderly always treated youthful rudeness, ignorance and the like with their personal mantra: "I fought in the war for the likes of you!" And they did. They were soldiers, and the wives of soldiers, and land girls, and the backbone of the nation that endured more than any of us will ever imagine. In their way, they had a right to complain, seeing the world change, evolve, go faster and faster, darker and more maligned.

These aren't the elderly I'm complaining about. It's the Baby Boomers they spawned that seem to be the problem. To have the I Fought In The War argument you need to be have been no younger than eighteen at the end of the war. That would make the youngest in their eighties. It's not them. It's the people my parents age - like I said, twenty years my senior - that seem to fit the bill. It's almost like they have no Badge to wear, like their parents did. They didn't fight in a war that shaped the world. They didn't witness daily horror, hardship and struggle. Okay, they endured post-war austerity, but it soon became free love, flower power, the yuppie years and so on, through a Cold War blanket of apathy and greed that I'm well aware my own generation is equally guilty of. But we're not the old folks yet...

For all my complaints here, what of us when we're another twenty down the line? How will we behave? If the wartime generation tried their best to maintain the British stiff-upper-lip against a tide of youth expressing their new found freedom, and that youth has become a generation of bitter, self-indulged, bloody-mindedness expressing only contempt for the world around them, what're we going to be?

Okay, I am generalizing, but I challenge anyone, of any age, not to notice it. Even if you're seventy and reading this - which I know is unlikely as the miserable, self-absorbed fuckers won't have got past me complaining about them - you must have noticed how much more often it is that people sixty+ are the worst culprits. But if their generation's history and place in the development of our nation is anything to judge them by it marks my generation as being about ten times worse by then. Mainly because we don't have the wartime memories, or the sixties mentality (even if we do still have the drugs). We'll be running kids down in the street for taking their time at cash machines. Worse, I imagine my own kids' generation will in their seventies be gunning down teenagers just for looking at them funny.

Still... It'll keep the population at a manageable level.