In my new role as a pensioner, I have felt it is incumbent on me to fight for the rights of the no longer youthful.
Passing Budgens towards the end of this last week, I found my eye drawn to the headline of that day’s Morning Star. For a start, I was quite surprised to see a copy of such obviously socialist material on sale in such a staunchly Tory area; Sawston does, after all, lie within the constituency of the health secretary, and following this week’s news that the PM is fully behind him, I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the village in the not so distant future. But, to return to the headline: this professed astonishment that a man of 86 could be considered a ‘terrifying extremist’.
One expects better of the Morning Star than this appalling ageism – I know of several people well-past eighty who live far more full lives than I seem able to manage (though none, so far as I know, are attempting to overthrow the state).
I don’t know about you, but I like to think that extremism is something I could practise from a bath chair, clad in tartan slippers and with a blanket over my knees. “Terrifying” may be a more challenging adjective for the over-eighties, but given that some people are afraid of butterflies, it surely cannot be impossible. Ancient Sparta was run by a gerontocracy, but still managed to inspire quite a bit of terror and keep the Persians out of Europe. In more recent years both the Soviet Union and China have been run by the really quite elderly, and both managed to keep the Americans nervous while doing hideous things to significant portions of their own populations.
So, let’s see less of this putting down of those in their ninth decade. If not, the over eighties may rise up – or more likely, organise others to rise up – to teach us the error of our ways. If nothing else, they are forecast to become an ever larger proportion of the voting public, so we are increasingly likely to be governed by those that can appeal to the grey massive: something the Socialists among us may like to consider – perhaps Dennis Skinner, 80 this year, could give them some useful advice!