Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Not a Bad Old Life?
Reading about the lives my peer group of retirees are living-cruises, frequent holidays abroad, activity breaks and various other forms of ‘skiing(that’s ‘spending the kids’ inheritance’ to you) re-inforces my view that the Western European ‘baby boomer’ generation which arrived after the second world war, is probably the most favoured in the history of the world. Why so?
1. We haven’t had to fight a war. Our parents’ generation heroically did that, in some cases twice, and saved us from what would have been a pretty dismal life under a tyranny.
2. We’ve benefited from relatively full employment- no desperate thirties style privations for us.
3. Longevity has increased astonishingly so that we can expect- touch wood- to live for 20% longer than our parents did.
4. Pensions are due to decline over the next twenty years but the boomers, with luck, will just about make the cut. It’s our children and grandchildren who will face the colder winds of declining pensions. And the best of luck to them.
5. We have benefited from the extraordinary material plenty which has characterized the postwar world. Very little starvation in the affluent west. We have filled our boots with cars, household electrical goods, computers and related IT wizardry plus cheap flights just when restrictions are beginning to be envisaged. And we have enjoyed the benefits of pollution producing industries just as greenhouse gases are being restricted and many ‘high carbon footprint’ goods are going up in price.
6. We have avoided the dangers of terrorism for the most part and it is future generations who will have to grapple with the further jihad of militant Islam.
7. Finally, and I'm not sure why I've waited so long to make this point, all of us- males and females, have enjoyed a liberation from over a century's sexual and emotional repression. Beginning in the sixties a huge number of taboos have been destroyed with the result that we have enjoyed, in an experiential way, a kind of cultural renaissance. If there is a backlash we will probably have shuffled on from this world when it strikes.
Sounds about right? I think so. But we should not be too smug. Growing old –we know from our parents if not from general observation- is no joke at all. And nothing can take the place of the years we have behind us rather than in front of us. But on balance we’ve had a pretty good old life and should be exceeding grateful to fate or whatever arranges these things.