Our columnist Steve Tucker casts an optimistic eye over future generations.
One of the most enjoyable things about getting older is the chance it affords to criticise and deride the younger generation. Middle age brings few benefits; suddenly you have more hair coming out of your nose than on your head, and wild sex sessions are foregone in favour of staring out of the window wondering whether you remembered to put your trousers on.
Middle age is indeed nature’s way of telling you that you will be dead soon, so don’t start watching anything too ambitious on Netflix. The young have their whole lives ahead of them and this is, of course, why old people are prone to distrust them. But, in my opinion, such churlishness needs to be set aside for the generation now coming through.
OK, I admit a group of people whose idea of humour is stealing a short video off the internet of a dog getting off a bed and adding a subtitle saying: “Me getting out of bed on Monday morning”, is pretty easy to ridicule, but let’s cut some slack here.
By the way, apparently it’s called a meme, but don’t ask me how to pronounce it, probably ‘meme.’ Anyway, this criticism of the younger generation by the one that preceded it is, of course, a phenomenon as old as time.
Probably back in the stone age, wizened old prehistoric blokes, aged around 27, looked at the efforts of youngsters and snorted: “When we made fire we didn’t have anything as fanciful as two sticks. We had to punch a diplodocus to death first. Youngsters today don’t know they’re born. Ugh.”
In Renaissance times there were probably complaints about the size of codpieces: “Forsooth the young fool verily might take someone’s eye out with that”. Victorian oldies would moan that youngsters were going too fast on their penny farthings. It just happens.
Conversely they say the young loathe the old and, in my opinion, there has never been a better time for them to do just that. The current crop of we oldies is daft. We are myopic fools and the sooner we shuffle off this mortal coil, you feel, the better things might be for everyone.
I mean, there are droves of us out there who actually fell for someone like Nigel Farage with his self-serving spiel. How shameful do you need things painted?
Indeed as I gaze back over the world we have created, along with those older that we are leaving behind, it’s hard to see anything but a trail of destruction. Like the path of some dreadful hurricane rather than the golden legacy the most foolish of us might like to imagine in our more teary-eyed moments of nostalgia.
Not content with leading the planet to ecological catastrophe thanks to a greedy, get-rich-quick, we’ll-fix-it-later mentality, our legacy too has been nothing but rampant racism, misogyny, prejudice, xenophobia and selfishness. Indeed our epitaph should be: “Here lie those who helped create and then turned a blind eye to the world’s ills, but at least we had a nice time doing it”.
Blimey, any silly old fart prone to look at those coming behind us, must have the skin of a rhino to regard them with any form of scorn. Rather, it is the young who must look at us and shrug their shoulders in disappointment and disbelief.
I’m not saying the upcoming generations are some kind of perfect specimens without faults. That would be crazy. But, on the whole, the contact I have had with teenagers and young people has left me impressed, and kind of proud, that they seem to have a firmer grasp of the important things in life than me and my generation ever did.
Don’t forget they have achieved this despite rather than because of the attitudes of those who laughingly might be described as their elders and betters.
One only has to look at the #metoo campaign, which has done more to advance sexual equality in a shorter space of time than any movement in history. There is something reassuring in seeing strong, young women making things uncomfortable for many, as they gain the powers denied them by the pig-ignorant patriarchy one hopes will one day be consigned to history.
Think of the young anti-gun campaigners in Trump’s America, who have seen their classmates, friends and teachers mown down in monstrous acts and have said: “You know what, we’re not going to take this crap anymore”. Here are teenagers with the poise and grace sadly lacking in most the world’s elder statesmen.
When it comes to saving our increasingly vulnerable planet too, it’s not idiots like me who might pull us back from the brink, but those coming after me, who are finally understanding the extent of the problem, and are actually prepared to get off their backsides and do something about it.
We oldies are gone. Disgraced. Yesterday’s people. The future belongs to our socially-aware, switched-on progeny. I cannot help but think that maybe, at last, we are leaving matters in safer hands.
To young people today, I say, refuse to be changed. As you get older, don’t believe you have to fit into this role or that you have to do this or do that: get a crap job, get a mortgage, get a cat (OK, get a cat if you want), vote Tory, forget the things that really matter because Saturday Night Takeaway is on. That is what THEY want you to do.
Be bold, be strong, be kind, fight for what you know is right and above all, enjoy your youth, it only happens once, I can certainly vouch for that.