Happy International Day of the Older Person.
It’s not today. It was sometime earlier in the week. I forget when, exactly. Wednesday, I think. Not being able to remember stuff is one of the side effects of getting older. It’s also a side effect of appearing before the Marikana or Seriti commissions. And I expect there will be several cases of early-onset amnesia when the Nkandla imbroglio begins unraveling in court.
It wouldn’t be the United Nations if they didn’t couch it in such a diplomatic way. There’s nothing technically wrong with calling it the International Day of the Old Person. After all, the only people it might offend are the old. They would gather outside UN headquarters in New York, rattling their Zimmer frames and wheezing indignantly, “Who are you calling old, whippersnapper?”
By setting aside a day for the Older Person, everyone apart from newborn babies feels included. To a three-year-old, someone who’s just turned five is an older person. That’s the job of the UN – to keep everyone happy. Especially China and Russia.
We don’t always treat old people with the respect they deserve. What am I talking about? Old people don’t deserve respect simply because they’re old. If Hitler hadn’t shot himself, and watched what he ate, he would have been 125 today. If you saw him struggling to carry his basket in the Spar, would you say, “Here, Mr Hitler. Let me give you a hand with that” or would you push him over and say, “That’s for murdering six million Jews, you crazy old fuck.”
In other words, you don’t automatically respect someone because they are old. You might, begrudgingly, respect them for having survived the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune, the murder and the mayhem, the drunk drivers, the psychotic spouses and the random ravages of deadly disease.
I am very impatient with the old. If your time on earth is almost at an end, why, in god’s name, wouldn’t you drive faster? I could go on, but that would be cruel. Actually, the reason I don’t go on is because, thanks to the UN’s mealy mouthed choice of phrase, it has occurred to me that I may well fall into their definition of Older Person.
I went to their home page and discovered the theme for this year’s commemoration was, “Leaving No One Behind: Promoting a Society for All.” The first part sounds like a slogan the US Marines might use. I think I’ve even heard it in movies like Black Hawk Down.
“Nobody gets left behind!”
“But sergeant, the skinnies done chopped the capn’s ass to bits a’ready!”
I do know that “Nobody Gets Left Behind” is a song by American heavy metal band Five Finger Death Punch. Ban-ki Moon looks like he might be a fan.
The second part of the theme, “Promoting a Society for All”, is just the kind of pompous, soporific piffle for which the UN is best known. If ever there was a theme by committee, this is it. It was clearly a two-member committee. A retired US army general on one side of the table and a Fijian lesbian folksinger on the other.
I don’t even know how the UN can look at itself in the mirror in the morning. You cannot, with a straight face, say you’re leaving no one behind when the richest 300 people on earth have more wealth than they poorest three billion put together. When there are 870 million people suffering from chronic undernourishment. When one in five people can’t read or write – most of them women.
You can’t go around saying Nobody Gets Left Behind when the world is made up almost entirely of people being left behind. It’s like saying Everybody Gets a Lollypop even after the lollypop factory has been turned into a toxic dump for nuclear waste. Or something.
I tried to find out what these three-piece peace-making leeches considered an Older Person. I wanted to know if I should throw myself a party or off a cliff. Nowhere on their website did it say how old you had to be.
Most days I wake up around 11am or so and feel like someone in their early thirties. By midnight most of my face has fallen off and I have 13/10 vision. The right eye is 10. It sounds like a perfect score, but it isn’t really. Sometimes I will tell this to the person standing next to me and he will snort and brag that he has 20/20 vision. The numbers come down a bit after my tequila glass has been surgically removed from his eye socket.
The website tells me that by 2030 there will be 1.4 billion people over 60. It’s the kind of statistic that leaves one feeling a little slack-jawed and droolish. That might be a consequence of aging, but it’s more likely a consequence of being faced with a set of numbers that mean absolutely nothing to anyone other than the mildly myopic Korean researcher in Room 101 who ferreted it out in the first place.
If you’re not shocked by this week’s news that the world has lost more than half its wildlife in the last 40 years, then you’re unlikely to feel anything more than mild unease at the news that there will be more old people than children in the world in 2047.
I find children and old people equally annoying.
The mention of 60 must be the UN’s subtle way of letting us know the age upon which one becomes an Older Person. This is splendid news. I have a long way to go. Long being a subjective and relative term.
One of the consequences of aging is that one’s sense of outrage dissipates faster than it used to. I clearly remember staying outraged at something or other for an entire day and well into the night, until eventually alcohol would grab me by the throat and hiss, “That’s enough outrage. Just relax or I’ll kill you.” That might not always have been the alcohol talking.
These days I can barely stay outraged long enough to write my column. Nothing anyone says or does makes the slightest bit of difference to the rapacious freebooters plundering the treasury like there’s no tomorrow. Which there won’t be, at this rate. We should be setting Dog the bounty hunter on Zuma’s ass.
Anyway. Old people. According to the website, these were some of the exciting things that happened this IDOP.
Norway put on a special do at Meloy frivilligsentral. At 12.30 there was something called Fysisk Aktivitet. Knowing the Scandinavians, it probably involved rolling around naked in the snow and beating each other with saplings. At 14.30 it was Middag, which is confusing. 17.00 was kaffe and at 17.30 all hell broke loose with Dans. An hour later it was Arrangementet avsluttes. I imagine this was when the sluts were brought in from Sweden.
Singapore celebrated IDOP for the first time this year after relaxing city laws that required citizens to have their body clocks stopped on their 59th birthday. Their theme was “effective communication”. This is a good one because old people never listen to what you’re saying. And even if they do, they deliberately misunderstand and try to set you on fire.
The International Labour Organisation in Geneva got into the spirit of the occasion by releasing a new policy paper. This is pretty wild for Switzerland.
In Bangkok the Global AgeWatch Index 2014 was launched. Being Bangkok, you might have thought they would at least have treated the codgers to a free lap dance and a squirt of amyl nitrate.
Index 2014 lets you look up your country to see how well your old bastards are being treated. South Africa shuffled home 80th out of 96 countries. Then again, we were second highest in the region. Then again, again, that’s not saying much.
And Britain held a seminar called The Age of No Retirement. It was probably one of David Cameron’s deeply caring schemes. Vote Conservative. The party that works you until you drop dead.
Inexplicably, I didn’t hear about any of the events that our benevolent government must surely have staged countrywide for our senior citizens last week.
Perhaps they didn’t get the memo.