I used to smoke. Just cigarettes, in the days when 30 seemed likely to be as old as I would get. Then one day I was doing some work at a large tobacco company – this is all a long time ago in another country. They could still smoke at their desks! I was reconstructing a computerised accounting system, and one of the numbers I noticed was a series of investment accounts recorded as “provisions”. These accounts had some very serious numbers in them – GDP of small countries…
“What on earth is this?”
“That’s the money we put aside for when people win the cancer death lawsuits. It’s just prudent.”
“But nobody has won yet, and you keep saying they can’t.”
“They will one day.”
I get the system going and wander back to the car park. As I leave, two Bentley’s turn up and overweight, middle-aged white guys get out, oozing the benefits of good education and fine connections. One of them is a well known politician. They enjoy a loud, humorous conversation as they disappear into the Executive lift.
I gave up smoking that day. Now I placate that craving with scrounged tobacco, but every time I spark one up I feel guilty for giving in to those leaches. And I still smile at the irony of young girls happily putting money in the pockets of the old, white establishment in an effort to be cool.
So I observed these leaches who prey on the young when I was a nineteen year old geek, chuffed with my company car, and (at the time) happily handing over nearly 5% of my after tax income for an addictive drug. They’d got me. When the government tried to take that much money off me a few years later (in the form of a tax) to buy middle class votes, I was marching in the street.
The old have always preyed on the young. Whether it be the gentle application of social mechanisms to make ones dotage gentler, or the most vicious, disgusting extremes of deviant behaviour, the social message that your elders know best has permeated society from time immemorial.
Part of it is true. It’s my job to protect my children and help them avoid the lethal pratfalls of growing up, and preferably the ones that just hurt a lot too. But there’s limit to what can be done - parents know our that our biggest struggle will be to let them get hurt in a way that lets them learn while surviving.
Unfortunately this thinking can misfire. We use our arrogance that “we know best” to serve ourselves. We construct a worldview in our children that supports us. We justify our selfishness (often when we were much younger) as wisdom. We fight to hang on to the delicate web of half-truths and myth that is our reality.
A very clear example is New Zealand’s attitude to Superannuation. We all know that either a) anybody 40 years old or younger could be told today that we will be retiring at a later age, or b) we will not receive the current 65% of national average wage. We know this, but weak, washed out politicians won’t admit it.
We know that Auckland has (largely, and by national and international standards) enjoyed low rates for about 40 years. We still persist in voting for people who scrimp and save just enough to feed the small minds of people who thought a waterfront stadium was a bit, well, ostentatious for one of the largest and most beautiful cities in the southern hemisphere. And coincidentally means I save a few bucks off my rates bill.
All of this we inherited. There’s nothing new here. And now these old bastards are trying to do it to us again:
Today 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.
Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security.”
And yet cynical, (mainly) grey haired old white men trying to tell us that their world of big engines and cheap electricity has nothing to do with climate change. A significant bunch of these arseholes have so distorted their view of the world to justify their behaviour that they’ve even given up on arguing that the climate is changing – now they just say that it’s not their fault.
It disgusts me.
Age has traditionally meant wisdom and dignity. Why can they not just say “we didn’t know?”. Why can they not just accept that the share values of their super-fund holdings are going to melt away like the ice caps? Gracefully say “bugger, didn’t realise, let’s fix it?”
I don’t know how these (mainly) old sods can sleep in their bed knowing that such irrational, ignorant ramblings serve to feed the greatest barrier to getting on and finding a solution to our problems. I wondered whether they had grandchildren… but I realise now that they do. Their delusions have extended to the point where their selfishness and desire to protect some imaginary god-given right to a motor car and a filament light bulb has overridden their love for their children.
There’s a word for that. Psychopath. Maybe we need to have a whip round for some therapy.