Growing older and wiser ... and greyer


Calvin sums it up so simply doesn't he? It's a bit like that bumper sticker "Get a teenager while they still know everything". The certainty of youth, the certainty of naivety, the certainty of ignorance. All so very close, so very linked.

When I was in my teens (in the 80s, probably before most of you were out of nappies) I was very right wing. I think teens think in absolutes, a bit like children, very right and wrong, very fair or not fair, very black and white. There are no shades of grey because no one made you think about them yet. I was right wing because it seemed the most 'fair'. You work hard you get stuff, you break laws you go to prison, you have a baby it's up to you to feed and clothe it. But I know as many people that were left wing then, and are more right wing now!

As you grow older hopefully you gain both an education and experience. Now I look at the world through different eyes. My hair is greyer and so is my view of the world. I have been poor and in debt (briefly) while living in a rented bedsit, I have been unemployed, not because I was lazy but because I couldn't get a job, and I have struggled to find money at the end of the week for food. I have discovered that I have a disability too. I have had a child and see that she will grow up in an imperfect world and suddenly just expecting her to 'manage' seems all wrong. I want her to have a fair life of course, but my understanding of 'fair' has shifted. Is it fair to be born disabled? Is it fair to lose your job?

I'm far from being completely on the left but I'm certainly not on the right anymore. Why shouldn't people move countries if they like. Why should corporations get away with cunning tax savings but the low paid still have to pay it. Paying benefits to the low paid has a new slant when I realise that by doing so we are subsidising the company they work for, does that company need the help or is it a huge one that can easily afford to pay a living wage? Should we support small companies this way anyway?

Why are we at war? Why don't other countries join wars like we do and who made up the police of the world? When I was younger I would have had no problem at all picking a side, knowing who was right and who was wrong, now I look at the awful histories on either side and find the choice is grey, like the dust that settles around bombed out schools.

Like Calvin I find the knowledge doesn't help. Knowledge can be paralysing. How can I decide from the shades of grey in the world. How do you know who to support? What to choose? Are you older with shades of grey or is life still black and white for you?

Maybe I need to be like Calvin, throw away my studying, my reading, my thinking and sometimes, just behave like teen me, on impulse, on gut feeling. And just act.

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