Thursday 20 June 2024


A post about growing old, written from my own perspective because it’s easier to write that way, not because I think these musings are even slightly unusual. Here we go then –

A problem with growing old is how dissatisfaction with the present seems like a nostalgic comparison with the past. Merely the rose tinted spectacles game, but in my case it is generally isn’t that. My memories of the past sometimes compare favourably with the present, but it is too easy to forget the silly fashions, industrial strife, creeping ugliness and the seeds of decline. There are all manner of comparisons any oldie could make, but the seeds and green shoots of decline were there.

As I grew older, a number of changes occurred in my general outlook. I have seen the cycles all old people have seen. The same mistakes, assumptions and fashions cycling round from generation to generation. Lessons have to be learned and relearned, they cannot easily be passed on. No amount of education does that.

As my personal stake in the future ebbs away into younger family members, I also feel a certain indifference towards the present. I know it will pass away and become the past, all old people know that. We know it viscerally in a way that younger people don’t, but in time they will come to know it viscerally too, but we can’t teach them that either.

A strong and persistent impression is how stupidity never relaxes its grip on human affairs. That’s an effect of growing old too, knowing about the durability of stupidity. It’s a human failing, always has been, but we pretend it can be cured in spite of all the evidence that it can’t, it just has to be avoided. Yet stupidity creates opportunities for people who aren’t stupid but are prepared to join in and exploit it.

It’s a core problem, the exploitation of stupidity by people willing to seem equally stupid in order to exploit it. It’s where political equality ends up, a corrupt willingness to seem equally stupid. 

Climate change is just one example, exploited to such an insane degree that it has become racketeering on a vast scale, but this too will fail as stupidity always does. And this is one of the lessons of growing older. Not so much the stupidity, we’ve always known about that, but the intractable nature of it, the impossibility of ever curing ourselves of it.

In my case that’s where the nostalgia comes from, it comes from remembering that stupidity can be contained by sensible people, but today the sensible people have still not found effective ways to counter the overwhelming level of stupid lying our digital world has enabled. The best we can hope for is that this is merely the beginning of another cycle.


DiscoveredJoys said...

Yeah, me too. But on the positive side most old people are overlooked and dismissed as unimportant - and this leaves me (and others) free to say things and think things that might be considered 'wrongthink' in younger people.

I have a lot more time on my hands to push back on the general stupidity of (younger) people. I have a lot more time to pursue complaints right up to the Managing Director of an industry or its regulator. I have a lot more time to 'share the pain' with the people/bureaucracy that caused it.

All small rebellions in themselves, but 'gutta cavat lapidem' - the drip hollows the stone.

Sam Vega said...

That's something seldom considered, the willingness of intelligent people to feign a common stupidity in order to advance a cause. And it's difficult to counter, largely because they can deflect accusations by claiming to not know what you are talking about.

But, as DJ says, we have to keep going. Personally, I'm heartened by the fact that winning an argument with them, making them concede, is difficult. But the right word or glance or tone of voice can get through. "You can keep saying this, you tit, but we both know you don't believe it!" In a very real sense, it is an appeal to their better nature.

A K Haart said...

DJ - yes most old people are overlooked and dismissed as unimportant. A known quantity perhaps. I don't do much pushing back, but that may be because I don't come across much that seems to need it in daily life. Even so, the drip does hollow the stone and maybe the election will highlight that.

Sam - "You can keep saying this, you tit, but we both know you don't believe it!"

That seems to be the strongest general argument against fashionable idiocy. Most people are probably not so hopelessly deceived as to be completely unaware of the thin ice that fashionable views stand on.

Tammly said...

I've been reading 'The victorian internet' by Tom Standage about the sometimes difficult establishment of the 1840s new telegraph system. Once it was up and running ok, it revolutionised human communication, as people from all over the world could communicate news almost instantaneously. There were some idiots, who thought instant communication would lead to greater understanding between peoples, so the end to wars! There were twits then, just as there are now.

A K Haart said...

Tammly - interesting. I'd like to know more about the Victorian telegraph system because I keep coming across references to it in old novels. Haven't got round to it yet, but maybe one day...