We are surrounded by change. Every day of every life, every single one of us experiences something changing. Mostly, change appears unnoticed as we move through each day but it is still there.
Very often those with the clout to say so embrace youth, particularly politicians who are very fond of explaining their latest great and grand idea by saying how it will benefit ‘young people’. As I asked in my book, ‘Comments of a Common Man’, and for that matter here in my column, where does that leave people who are not ‘young’, and just as pertinently, what happens to people when they are no longer ‘young’. At what age does somebody stop being ‘young’? And there’s the rub – the most inexorable change is to us, on a daily basis.
Not too long ago, in conversation with a teenager (yes, despite a mistaken impression to the contrary, teenagers can and do converse, mostly with great intelligence and verve) I made the point that on their last birthday, their age changed. They were no longer the age they were a day earlier. They were older and entering their next year on this earth and in this life. Thus, they were living with change; that to themselves. In this respect, the demonisation of the elderly in the UK is a self-defeating exercise – no matter that we may not like it very much all of us are heading in the same direction. We will get old. It is an unavoidable fact of life and there does not and has never existed, anybody who can change that. I have something of a thing about it and I do so because even I, like you, will age. We will all get old - including those who decry more mature members of society so casually.
Michael Heseltine did so recently. The former Conservative MP, in his call for a second referendum over Brexit, suggested that the result would be different (he meant in favour of remain) as many of those who voted to leave were old and had since died. Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable did much the same thing at the time of the referendum in 2016 when he said: ‘The young have been shafted by the old’. Yet neither man are spring chickens – both are quite old. Which leads us rather neatly back to the question already raised: since they are so ancient, why is anybody taking any notice of either? They are old. They don’t count.
This view, yet propagated by historic monuments like Heseltine and Cable, carries much weight in today’s UK but it is still short-sighted and rather dangerous. Both of these two really should be listened to as the experience of their lives can enrich the lives of those much younger, just as those who are younger can enrich Heseltine and Cable. Assuming of course, either care to listen. It may be that the lessons they can impart are along the lines of how not to do things rather than the opposite but that is neither here nor there. One has to listen first. And to do that, one has to accept that change has happened – the two of them changed by getting older. Just as we all will.
The BBC is undergoing change too and for the same reason. It loses Jonathan Dimbleby from the radio programme ‘Any Questions’ shortly, as it has already lost his older brother David from the TV equivalent, ‘Question Time’. Andrew Neil departs from ‘This Week’ in the coming summer. All three are getting on a bit. These broadcasters may not be to everybody’s liking but their great experience, gained over many years, is what led to what has become a byword for Brexit when David, fronting the BBC’s coverage of the referendum and the result became clear, said: ‘The British people have spoken – we’re out!’.
Undoubtedly somewhat unexpected but Brexit is the most profound change in modern times. So why are so many so disinclined to accept it? A majority won the day. Get over it! Change happens. Just as we ourselves change every day, we must accept change.
That doesn’t mean we must meekly roll over and do nothing about it however. Brexit has to happen but we can change the effect of it by altering our stance to it and committing ourselves to be a close friend and ally to the European Union and its member countries. Even though we may not be a member of it, why can we not adopt those aspects of it that work for both sides? After all, the UK and the EU are not enemies.
Another of the biggest changes to everyday lives in recent times is the rise of the internet and social media. The online world has changed the world (you’re reading this for a start) and although there is much to be lauded about the internet, it has its downside. So we need to adapt a little. Just as we must adapt individually as we get older, we need to change a little of how the internet operates. We need to weed out the bad bits and keep the good parts.
Which is the tricky bit; all those politicians who continue to court the young also are in the vanguard of the ‘ban everything’ movement and do so because – according to their particular agenda – it is for the ‘public good’. Put another way, they wish to modify our behaviour to suit theirs. Whether we like it or not. And that includes getting older – I for one do not wish to be ignored or done some kind of harm to merely because I grow older.
Be careful what you wish for. For it is blindly accepting the changes imposed without question that change becomes a bad thing rather than a good one. Across its member countries (including the UK) the EU has done much that is good but it has also done much that isn’t; jobs and livelihoods have been lost as a result. So the EU must change or other countries may decide as the UK has and indicate a wish to leave (however slim the majority vote may be).
When politicians demand change, question them. Demand they explain why, what for, what the results will be, how it will be paid for. Because if you don’t, change becomes a bad thing and change for the sake of it usually is.
Change must still happen - but it really doesn’t have to be for the worse.
© Kevan James 2019
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