Saturday, August 1, 2009

One crisis, one age, one family (aka the human race) – and a new President!

Written by COB, Luton

I was disturbed when Myrna (editor of BB) told me that her conversations with under 35's (and I expect that included lots of under 25's!) about their perception of those of us over 50 (which I am – a full two years older than Myrna!) included references to people who "sit on the sofa", "watch the news" and "have white hair" – to which I say "what's wrong with any of that!".

It's about as relevant as saying that under 35's (OK – mainly under 25's) wear (in the case of boys and young men) clothes that clearly do not fit, amble around shopping centres as if they don't have a job and have no intention of getting one and wish everybody within a thirty yard radius to hear all about the latest girlfriend – or in the case of the girls, their latest boyfriend ("he's got an Audi – cool man").

Having got all that off my chest, let's get down to some key issues – it looks like western economies are shrinking (that's less jobs for all, young and old), the population is ageing (that's a problem for you under 35's – you have to pay for the 50 plus generation as we age) and the UK, the rest of Europe and the US (and the Caribbean!) need to establish what's important in life (note – it's not just money and having a good time).

So, let the generations (and the races and the classes/income groups) stop slagging each other off - not only is it "a good thing" to pull in the same direction – but we have no choice!

You may not agree – more rantings from some late 50's guy who has nothing better to do than send Myrna articles that she is too nice to throw in the waste bin!

However, I see inter-generational support in action a great deal – but would like to see more. Quite a number of people that I work with could not work if a parent, other relative or neighbour did not pick up their child from school and give them their tea until their mum or dad gets home from work – often on more or less a daily basis!

Similarly, most people in their 50's or 60's who have children in their late teens or in their twenties would love to be in a position to help their kids buy a flat or house when they are ready – and in other cases, where money is tighter, that help takes the form of a child (or sometimes partner) living with (and often partially at the expense of) a parent or parents because they can't afford to rent or buy their own place.

That brings us to Obama – how come? Anyway, he's only 47! And he is black and he is bright (Blackbright!).

It seems to me that he spans the generations – remember his visit to, and clear affinity with, his grandmother, who had brought him up and who died a few days before the election in November? Think of his responsibilities to the young men and women in the US military (which many young blacks join as one of the best (and sometimes only) way that they can get a college education or technical qualification) in overseas theatres of conflict? Think of the massive – forget that, potentially overwhelming – sense of duty that he owes to the generations of black Americans who have been denied rights and opportunities and who he now represents as a highly educated and highly sophisticated black man at the head of what is still the world's most powerful nation? He has to deliver education, jobs, healthcare – and a more peaceful world (not to mention some progress on climate change!).

If Obama has two terms in office, he will at the end be 55 – having worked around 16 hours a day for more or less 7 days a week for 8 years – and there are lots of other over 55's (most of them, actually!) working a full day whether in a shop, factory or office and then at home (keeping the house going, going to the supermarket, paying the bills, doing the DIY, keeping the house clean and functioning) – and (to all under 35's) that's what life is like, more or less until you drop!

So, we are all in it together – parents supporting children, the children become adults and support their own children and may also have to give a helping hand to their parents (as the 50+ become 60+ and 70+), grandparents helping out their working children (may be child minding, may be money or accommodation, may be all of these!).

I think that all of this is part of Obama's message (I hope that it is!) – forget age, forget class, forget money, forget race – see the big picture of mutual dependence and support because otherwise we are all the losers! OK, it is annoying when a 50+ person asks you to repeat something (at least my wife finds it annoying!) but so what – there are bigger issues.

I am a middle aged (nearing the end of my 50's actually) white man who is a big Obama fan and who hopes that he will deliver harmony and fairness and do a great deal to make the US (and the western world) more of a cohesive society where young and old, rich and poor and black and white get every encouragement and opportunity to develop themselves and thereby make a contribution to society!

I will now get off my soapbox.