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OFF CENTRE – Letter to the older ones – Page 1

Sherwyn Walters

OFF CENTRE – Letter to the  older ones – Page 1

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I en no young yam.
But it wasn’t old age that caused the inapt sequence.
Instead of writing to the youth last week, I should have written to you first. After all, the tendencies of the young can often be traced back to you older ones.
Now, following the draft document on the National Youth Policy, which defines the youth as those between 15 and 29, I am using the term “older ones” to mean those over 29.
So if you are 30 or over, my letter is to you – and it is even longer.
First, lemme tell you this: if you were shouting “Preach it, brother” and “Tell them, man” when you were peeking at last week’s letter (’cause it wasn’t to you), you better understand that I am calling on you to stop leading the youth down the paths mentioned in that letter. By your behaviour and your talk you have done it over and over.
Some older people can’t wait to hand some unprepared young person a “baton” (a car, a position, prominence, property, the keys to the kingdom, it seems sometimes).
Others have been focusing the young more on entitlements than on responsibilities.
Many of you 30-plus people have been spouting off without the requisite knowledge, and on the radio tiring out people like Tony Marshall, who dares to ask you to back up your statements, only to find out that the only backup you had was “Ahhm . . . errrr” or a popular sentiment or a quarter-digested idea or some huff and puff.
In workplaces you have, not infrequently, responded in perverse ways to the wonderful opportunity to be involved in decision-making, letting loose the dragon of resistance (or worse) when the way chosen is not your way.
Be a good example to the young, nuh. So many older misleaders of the young: curse birds, objectifiers of women, irresponsible fathers, pee-ers ’longside de road, misandrists, blackguardish women, thwarters of discipline, gossips; you who indiscriminately burn stuff, keep unneighbourly noise, litter. I would bet that it don’ be mostly under-30s who do those things.
And it isn’t usually the under-30s blocking the road with vehicles to have a conversation and then dowsing people in cuss when they dare to blow their horns.
It wasn’t no under-30 that left his car blocking people from getting out of a certain supermarket de other day and then when people rightfully expressed concern come out shouting: “Wunna cahn tell me nuttin. I en no hand to mout’ person, I got seven apartments.”
He got age, he got apartments, but he will never have enough money to buy common decency or class. It makes yuh think that dey should be a law that would cause him to be given a bull pistle lash for every 20 years of his age.
(Not that it would take that many to straighten him out. You ever hear the one about the man who get one lash with a bull pistle and jump into the Careenage and shout out: “Throw some water in here, pleeeeeaaaaase.”)
You know, they say you can’t bend a tree when it is old – and that is mostly true. A lot of trees have been hard-wired, so to speak, to be more and more unbendable as they grow older. But why is it that many older people behave like trees? There are critical differences: a human being is a thinking, learning, self-controlled entity – unlike a tree.
So I part ways with those who say you can’t expect older people to change. Truth is, we should expect older people to change. You have been exposed to more (more experience, more knowledge, more nuances of life), have had more time to practise – so it is not to your credit that you are seen as intractable.
Why should older people be more grumpy, more impatient, more inconsiderate, more uncivil, less understanding, less self-restrained, less open-minded, less virtuous? It doesn’t make any sense.
There are many areas in which the older ones should expect higher standards of themselves than of the young, except where the faculties have been severely compromised by advancing age. Unfortunately, they – the faculties, that is – are often forced into early retirement by their owners.
Change – that nemesis of the leisurely human spirit – is still an option. You may be old, but you en cold.
Sherwyn Walters is a writer who became a teacher, a song analyst, a broadcaster and an editor. Email: [email protected]

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