14-09-2020

Do you remember when you returned I have a new hero. No, not some vain, tattoo spattered songsmith - or simpering television therapist - but an old bloke about the same age as me - which, thinking about it isn’t old at all! Anyway, his name is Jeremy Paxman and he is not happy. The former Newsnight presenter has launched a scathing attack on pretty-well anyone under the age of 55 and claims that nowadays so many people take offence about almost anything - it is only the elderly that you can make legitimate jokes about. Thinking about it is that he’s certainly dead right. However, there is a little more to it than just millennial ‘snowflakes’ feeling aggrieved about everything, they also have a case-to-answer when it comes to finding baby-boomers deeply irritating and even worse…lucky! Bless them - it must be infuriating to be both contemptuous of us and reliant upon us at the same time - it really must hurt. I have lost count of the times when younger members of our extended family have hinted at our luck in life, and the fact that their struggles are much worse than those that we had to face when we were their age. I suppose I could have rebuked them by pointing out to them that our levels of ‘expectation’ were a lot less than theirs at almost every stage of life thus far - but, what would be the point?

I’m trying desperately hard not to get onto that well-trodden and rather tedious - “In our day” set of cliches; but it does seem to me sometimes, that the occasional “look here sunshine…” might be appropriate. Take for instance the environmental debate that is taking place at the moment. I was astonished to read in a newspaper the other day an article blaming my generation for the proliferation of plastic in the world. Yes, really! It was probably written by someone who drinks at least three cups of coffee a day out of polystyrene mugs, throws away cheap ‘sweatshop’ clothes after just one wear and flies away on foreign holiday between two and three times a year. They would be the same young people who will machine wash their children’s (and their own) clothes after just one days wear and will drive the children to-and-from school in a large car, even though it is in walking or cycling distance from home - very ecological I’m sure. And they wag their fingers at us - a generation who had only one dustbin for collection per week for a family of four, who rode bikes to school and picked up groceries in a couple of large paper bags. The cheek of it!

Paxman, in his article, talked about the fact that certain sectors of society “cannot be mocked” unlike the middle-aged and those slightly older - he claims that we are fair game for any type of modern day censure. Take for instance the social horrors that can occur if you get your LBGT’s mixed up with a MG-BGT’s - let alone your BLM’s and that completely baffling set of gender sub-groups that we are all supposed to be supportive of - with both growing admiration and approval. An elderly uncle of mine, who died a few years ago, would innocently call disabled folk “cripples” until I gently persuaded him otherwise, along with other words that could cause offence amongst those determined to be offended. You see, although my uncle was the kindest man you would have met, his descriptive words and phrases were from a much earlier age. However in his mitigation (not that he needed it!) he did fight the real Nazis war-machine as a British soldier for almost two years from Sicily to the Italian Alps. So I think he deserved to be cut-some-slack don’t you? Nowadays, life can be a nightmare for those of us unskilled in ‘correct’ speak, as we grope around for the right description of something or another. Indeed, I’d like to point out that I used the word “grope” earlier, in a non-sexual context, just in case of any misunderstanding!

While I am at it - when did our universities and other seats of learning start organising ‘No Platform’ bans on those they might, or do - disagree with? As an old fashion soul, I take very seriously that old democratic mantra that demanded of a person - “I may hate what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Don’t these young people realise that they are acting like proper fascists - as, those monsters would do exactly the same as them and ban all that disagreed with their singular view on life? Nevertheless, I think that the most tedious element of modern orthodoxy, is that seemingly all-embracing, self anointed, moral superiority that you see, hear, and read almost everywhere nowadays.

Nevertheless, it could be that my own age group and those a little younger have in some ways brought society to this rather weird impasse. Indeed, could in be possible that in removing some of the social and economic barriers of the past, we have contributed to the obsession with ‘self’ that currently afflicts modern society?

Moreover, the next but one generation may be lining up already to undermine and challenge those very same social certainties that inhabit the minds of ‘millennials’ - and so inflict upon us all another new set of rules to live our lives by - I can hardly wait. Perhaps I will leave it there, before I get into rather embarrassing Monty Python territory; or what could be described as a dangerously anarchic, all embracing humour that pokes fun at everyone and everything - and that would never do, now would it?

frankleavers@hotmail.com!

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