Brief Encounters : how should ageing reflect on human exceptionalism (2)

Brief Encounters : how should ageing reflect on human exceptionalism (2)

Philosophy
Chad Varah It was after an interview. I had, so I mused, been brilliant. Of course, I did not get the job. With an hour free, I walked to St. Stephens in Walbrook, a Wren masterpiece, usually empty but free to enter and, let me say without fear of contraception, just about the most beautiful place on earth. An old man in a black cloak was shuffling around the entrance; obviously once tall, he was now stooped and ungainly. I recognised him, remembering his once eagle eyes as well as that clipped imperious speech, now muted to little more than a mumble. As I approached, I noticed that he was inspecting what looked like a log-book, signatures of and messages from visitors. “All the great befrienders from over the world…
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Brief Encounters : how should ageing reflect on human exceptionalism (1)?

Brief Encounters : how should ageing reflect on human exceptionalism (1)?

Philosophy
Does the ageing eye bring perspective or distortion, disappointment or contentment  -  as past encounters are revisited? Christopher Hitchens I met the guy on the fringes of a think-tankish meeting somewhere in central London, sometime in the 1980s. Having something to do with the publication of a pamphlet on the political situation in Cyprus, I had a vague but half-justified reason for being thus introduced by a friend of mine. What I remember was how polite he was as he insisted, through my mumbles, in making sure he had got my name right. We talked rather aimlessly for a few minutes when, empty of new conversation, I took my leave. I regret it now, not living even a wee bit longer under that fabulous fluency of speech and charm. Following…
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The ballad of John Braniff, the passing of the working class, the marginalisation of poverty.

Philosophy
When I was about 13 years of age, four men came to the house. I am confident still that I had never seen any of them before. They were hearty but grey, sitting at the table until John joined them. Then he suddenly shuffled into the room, sat down and put his head in his hands. No, he did not want to go out for a walk or join them downtown for a drink. This was my grandfather, frail, monosyllabic and dying. The men tried to tease and cajole him. But the encounter was brought to an abrupt, wordless end and the men left. I believe that I never saw them again. On 25th August 1951, the company had given John a silver platter to mark his 50 years continuous…
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Look back, look up, look out!    Or why eco-economics now needs a Club of Romantic Maximalism

Look back, look up, look out! Or why eco-economics now needs a Club of Romantic Maximalism

Philosophy
Far back in the 20th century, Baby-Boomers had to get used to what we might call blockbuster pessimism. We can indeed think backwards to 1972 and the Club of Rome with its Limits to Growth proposition or to 1982’s The Global 2000 Report to the President -  Entering the Twenty-First Century (with its catchpenny strap : Commissioned By Carter/Disregarded by Reagan). As this is an anniversary year for both works, one can indeed expect many invitations to think backwards thus and to wonder why, with so many elaborate warnings to hand, the world never got itself pure and clean in time for the 21st century. As they say in Ayrshire, yous wiz telt  -  and at least one voice in the CoR is claiming that the world “hit the snooze…
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“Why should the poor be flattered”?

“Why should the poor be flattered”?

Topicality
If I am 65 years old, in what age-shaped ways do I approach markets   -   and indeed life itself  -  differently from others (at whatever life stage)? Am I frustrated at how invisible people like myself seem in TV commercials (except the ones for life insurance and funeral finance)? Do I ever feel that some shops are just not for the likes of me? In other words, can I sense a form of oblique discrimination in the air, unmistakeable under the muzak? Am I ever embarrassed at the please-pay-here moment when I catch my grey/bald reflection as I hand over for tilling/bagging an Italian DVD thriller involving medieval nuns or four bottles of discount fragrance or a very fancy pair of purple trainers for people with plantar fasciitis?   Do…
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Ageing and Social Care  : Principles of Play (1)

Ageing and Social Care : Principles of Play (1)

Topicality
Somewhere in her political diaries, Barbara Castle recounts a conversation she has in the 1970s with the Labour Party’s Director of Research. The venue is the platform of Labour Conference in Blackpool and their very private discussion centres on the cumulative impact on public spending that would be result of accepting so many delegate resolutions  -  all demanding ever more outlay on good causes. With silent headshakes, they both agree that the demands, taken in total and with each being perfectly worthy, are unsustainable. The implication at work is that there was just no moral or intellectual space in which to regulate and prioritise state spending. A destructive over-reach (for wannabe radicals) was consequently inevitable. Now, let’s hereby affirm that the level of tax raised in a country like the…
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Forever Always Young?  (Or does retroactive pattern-seeking in old age ever create value?)

Forever Always Young? (Or does retroactive pattern-seeking in old age ever create value?)

Philosophy
Gustave Flaubert spoke to me once, telling me how unwise it is to touch your idols, given that the gilt is bound to come away on your hands. We hold this thought  -  which is not in itself specifically about ageing  -  while we add another. To wit : much of adult life involves a deliberate and entirely healthy dismissal of one’s childhood and adolescence. (more…)
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Ageing in Africa : it would be a fine thing.

Topicality
Just recently, UN News told the world that a large number of communities across Africa (and indeed elsewhere) were “facing catastrophic levels of acute hunger”. In real-time fact, some 34 million people were starving. By the Spring of 2021, the FAO was categorizing some 34 African states as requiring “external assistance for food”. The reason behind such dire straits was multiple : armed violence provoking mass movement of refugees, troubled harvests, volatility of staple prices, floods and locusts, droughts   -  the mix of human agency and bad luck cursing already malnourished economies and severely limited welfare-ism. Meanwhile, even before coronavirus struck, official figures (such as there are) were confirming a sad truth : millions of Africans are not going to see out their fifties. Life expectancy in, say, the Central…
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