Friday, 21 November 2014

No wonder things are getting worse: the saints are all dying

Every generation claims, once it reaches a certain age, that the world has sadly deteriorated since its youth. 

It often seemed to me that this was just the perennial problem of the old complaining about the young. No generation gets old without finding that the next is exhibiting a deplorable loss of standards.

It’s particularly amusing in my own. I love it when people who were teenagers in the sixties, as I was, complaining about the behaviour of the young. It has a nostalgic quality. It reminds me of our elders denouncing us as long-haired layabout louts, who believed the world owed us a living and had never learned consideration for others (without wondering who was responsible for teaching us at the time we were failing to learn these invaluable lessons).

Still, there are times when I look at the news and it occurs to me that there might be a rational explanation for humanity
s gradual deterioration over time. This seems particularly clear when someone celebrated dies. Today for instance the press is full of tributes to Mike Nicholls.

“A mentor, friend, colleague. One of the best observers of life.”

“… the funniest, smartest, most generous, wisest, kindest of all… a truly good man…”

“… one of the most generous people I have ever known…” 

So far I haven’t come across anyone saying “we shall never see his like again”, but even so, it’s fairly clear that if such a man leaves the world to the rest of us ordinary mortals, the overall stock of mankind must inevitably decline in quality.

The best go here
and the average goes to hell
It’s even worse when a child dies, whether of natural or violent causes. Have you noticed how every teenager who dies was something of an angel?

“Loving to his family, cheerful to his friends, he would light up his class with his laugh and help anyone who needed it.”

“She will be missed for her kindness, her ready smile, her enthusiasm that inspired everyone she came into contact with.”

“The entire school is in shock. She was one of the most popular and kindest of people, as well as an outstanding student.”

If these are taken from us, it leaves us with just the common grind of teenagers, the kind that leads many to believe that teenagers are best drowned at birth. The ones whom the gods choose were already otherworldly even before they reached the other world; the kind who stay behind are all-too-this-worldly: noisy, truculent, angry or depressive in turns, contemplating their own deaths when their problems aren’t solved for them, contemplating death for others if anyone tries to help.

The ones who depart this vale of tears never left a dirty sock lying on their bedroom floor, or drank straight out of the milk bottle from the fridge, or finished the shampoo in the course of a shower that used up all the hot water anyway. They did their homework, got up early, wished their families well and left the house so promptly that they always got to school on time.

Late teenagers were never late.

The general picture is depressing. The best hurry off to the next world, while the one they leave behind declines still further. We stay to rot while they decompose.

At least until its our turn.

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