Over dinner I saw that another atrocity had been committed in this evening’s commuter rush. The armed wing of Old Man Pincott’s ‘Elders’ had already claimed responsibility. I flicked over to Reality News to hear an ageing actor read their statement aloud – you’ll have seen him dressed up like the renegade himself in the trademark chequered shirt, high-waist slacks, those sensible shoes. His watery eyes and white whiskered face were aflame with patchy anger. He spat words at the assembled cameras. Even his voice carried the same high vibrato, the same incendiary zeal, as Pincott’s before his voice was forever banned from the airwaves:
“To watch our young ones embrace or body-swerve commitment, slam-dunking meds or booze or work, wracking their bodies with sports and sex or any number of addictions, with a tenacity I haven’t seen since the day was mine and to say – to do – nothing, to stand for nothing, moreover to be asked to stand aside further into the dark margins, to create more stage space for this sick, cyclical drama of youth to unfold in all its boring glory – this is what is demanded of us, your rightful Elders. This is what is called for. An impossible negotiation. You say: move out of the damned way! Shut your wrinkled mouths! Make of your geriatric selves an irrelevance. Better yet, wither ye away.”
I watched for the cut – there: the studio producer, an old friend, a pro – scenes of bloody carnage, what Pincott ironically calls ‘mercy killings’ to ensure these innocents died young before corruption and canker swelled in their bodies like the ranks of his tumescent following. I flicked off the television and went outside.
In the garden, beneath clouds and stars my grandson sat on a low wall engulfed in the pixelated pedestrian bitstream of his game console.
“Okay, Billy? How’s it going?” He looked through me. I smiled and pulled up a chair next to him.
Sure, we make opposition like Pincott’s easy. We encourage it, even. Only stupid societies don’t wish to learn from the old, and as societies go, we are way up there with the worst. We are ageing too, dammit. The explosion of celebrity-obsessed tabloids are surely an inversely correlated sign. Read the rhetoric in the party manifestos. Visit the bright box-homes in deathly cull-de-sacs in which our young intend us to be sequestered. Beyond a certain age you only have to venture out to feel the antipathy in public spaces, in public transport. Hell, just in public. To be old is to be a separate species. Invalid. Literally, we all become in-valid. The more moderate political wing of the Elders wants to legislate for respect.
But the Elders are wrong. Pincott is wrong. Our dramas are just different, sleepier, more measured plots. Shuffling plots. We, the mouldering fruit of its loins, don’t really know this world any better than the young. There was no golden age. Society is not decaying any faster than it was for the Romans. And deep down we know it.
A challenge: to stand not in opposition but shoulder to shoulder with these self-same young and look at a world that you think you know. To see it afresh as an alien place takes imagination. And yet by the time you do this, it certainly is an alien place. We must handle the transitions. We pass it on. Okay? Or they take it. Nothing remains, all right, except the wisdom and experience that is our gift. Hold on and it will be pried from your arthritic fingers, or you can pass it on willingly. It is the same with respect.
“Hi Grandad,” said Billy. “I missed you.”
Do you hear that, Old Man Pincott?
In the cascade of social contracts the voluntary agreements we make will always outshine, will always have more dimensions, more facets, more impact, than familial legislation to bind us to those we do not wish to know. And to break the rules? To forage for meaning in these margins and forge new templates for communicating across the boundaries of generations? To kill, even, one’s own ageing ego and push back the parameters and allow a younger soul entry on their own terms into this adventurous world? To move oneself, finally, out of the damned way? Yes, these are heresies for the Elders.
But this is what it means to love.
Above me a new moon in this nicotine sky, these pointed ends, these cusps.