Korea: reverse ageists' refuge;Opinion

14th May 1999 at 01:00
MY father got his first parking ticket recently. I awaited thunderbolts - or at least some huffing and puffing - but no. With quiet dignity the martinet who, in his heyday, could have 600 people down on their knees picking up litter simply wrote out a cheque. He acquiesced to the inevitable, a personification of the wisdom that comes with age.

I lack his equanimity. Most things bother me: people who ring up at 6 o'clock trying to sell me UPVC double glazing, Serb spokesmen, the slavish cult of youth in general and William Hague in particular. I do not blame William Hague for being only 38. Neither do I blame him for getting himself elected as Conservative leader. We all need to earn a living and I don't suppose Young William was exactly inundated with offers.

No, my objection to Hague goes deeper: I simply refuse to live in any country where the government is headed up by someone born when I was already at school and maturely modelling things in Fuzzy Felt. Fortunately the Tory leader knows there are a lot of us who feel like this for he is doing his best to make sure that mass emigration shouldn't become a necessity for the next few years at least.

However I know it will happen one day, just as I've realised that the next actor to play James Bond will probably be no older than me. Now is the time to confront this ridiculous prejudice of mine. If I start changing passports every time someone my junior gets elected I'll soon end up with nowhere to live but Kim Il Sung's North Korea.

I blame our schools for this belief that anyone younger than oneself is automatically inferior and totally incapable of running a country. The tribalism that emerges when you segregate people by age creates a mindset similar to the animal food chain with everyone despising the creatures below until only the Year 1 are left - causing them to go round and beat up the local creche.

Every day however the number of people in the world younger than oneself increases. Whereas the number who are older diminishes. This is a sobering thought and we have to accept it, just as teachers learn to accept that people they once gave detentions to are querying their income tax returns and handing out parking tickets.

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