What changes a grumpy old man into an angry old man?
Is it simply age or is there something else going on?
These are some of the things which happen as we get closer to that severely malnourished character with the scythe.
- The question “What shall I do today” changes from happy anticipation to gloomy introspection.
- We become invisible to strangers. The tide of youth politely flows round us and continues, its ebb and flow unchanged.
- We may still desire but are no longer desired. In other words the fear of being raped changes to that of being reaped!
- The wise sage we see in ourselves is an opinionated old bore to the young.
- We are loved by the young, but not as equals. We are like some kind of demanding pet.
- Change – we used to love it, now we hate it.
- Those things we used to love now seem pointless.
These are generalisations – another thing we seniors are good at – and there are plenty of exceptions. There are as well, a lot of good things about being 70 plus in a wealthy civilised country which is at peace with others if not with itself. Here are some of them:
- We laugh a lot.
- With some glaring exceptions, we no longer want to do things we are now unable to do.
- We worry less about money.
- We shrug off minor aches and pains as long as we are spared the big ones.
- We learn how to be happy doing less.
- We have plenty of time to do the things we enjoy.
So, is being angry part of the ageing process? I don’t think so. I believe that we are living at a time of exceptional change. Not only are the changes of great magnitude, but they are happening at great speed. The rate of change is accelerating. The younger you are, the less change you have to look back on, so you go with the flow. You are less conscious of the speed of change. Is it surprising that some of us oldies are bewildered and angry about things we have no power over and which seem to be much worse than when we were young?
It is this anger which the Brexit campaign here in Britain so cleverly tapped into. Suddenly my age group was given the power to turn back the clock, and they jumped at it. I was not one of them and my concerns are very different, but I understand their anger.
My concern is that the young are not angry enough! I want them to rise up in rage at the complacency of our politicians when faced with the prospect, not just of accelerating climate change, but all the other horrors waiting to jump out and bite us, the biggest of which is loss of biodiversity. We are consuming ever more of the resources which sustain all life. In the words of a book I read more than 20 years ago and which are as true as ever, we are The Future Eaters. (Tim Flannery 1994)
Far too many of those in power seem to think that tinkering with the system, another tweak of the technology, a move towards “sustainable development”, will solve the problem. I don’t.
I may well be wrong. There are many clever people who completely disagree. I’ve been wrong plenty of times in the past, but on this issue, everything I have read and learnt over the years points to a crisis we have postponed time and again by clever tweaking. At some stage the debt we have built up will be called in. Our future will have been eaten, and at my age, there is so little I can do about it.
That’s what makes me angry.