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Ms Bennett (55) and the gerontophobes.

THE OLD ARE definitely not on the left’s list of favourite “communities” any more. According to Catherine Bennett (55), an Observer columnist, they’re not only guilty of taking young folks’ money and clinging doggedly to employment but they’re also cursed with “distressing opinions” that all correctly thinking people find offensive (see ‘Don’t older people often say the funniest things?’).

That’s what comes of having had the misfortune to grow up in primitive eras “beset by poverty, race hate, homophobia, sexism, virtually every ism in existence”. It’s not clear if Ms Bennett (55) is talking about the previous 30,000 years of human life or just the 1950s. But if there’s one good thing about the past it was the complete absence of these damned “isms” that we’re constantly berated with. I spent the first six years of my existence in the 1950s, and though I have a pretty good memory, I can’t recall any of this ism-ing going on. But that’s probably because I wasn’t reading either the Observer or the Guardian. If I had been, I’d have realised the regular weekend lynch mobs were actually a bad thing.

I have to admit that when I began Ms Bennett’s (55) piece I was confused. I truly thought it was a spoof. Can anyone really be this offensive about old people? Especially those who’d grown up during and after the war against fascism; the people who built the Welfare State? Those white-haired dears dying of hypothermia every winter or starving to death in NHS beds?

Apparently yes. Ms Bennett (55) may as well have said not only do they hate blacks, gays and women but they also stink of cigarettes and piss.

That many people of my parents’ generation had opinions we find unpleasant is true, but it’s equally true that they had every right to hold them. Hadn’t they been through a world war to preserve the right to think what they wanted, rather than have the state dictate it to them?

Again, apparently not. In Ms Bennett’s (55) universe all views are tolerated – but only if they agree with those of the left. Anything out of place deserves “purging”. How disturbing it must be for those old fogies to find themselves in this thoroughly modernised but oddly Stalinist world in which we are posed the challenge of “how to deploy their best aspects”, as if they were just minions for the state to use as it wishes.

Still, we are exhorted to cut these bigots a bit of “ideological slack”, since we’re now living in a multicultural society. That’s generous of her. Presumably when she talks about that society she doesn’t have in mind the bloodstained streets of Woolwich or the burning suburbs of Stockholm over in the socialist heaven of Sweden.

But what is it specifically that has aroused Ms Bennett (55) to such heights of gerontophobia (aha! a phobia we can tar the left with!)? Well, it’s the passage of the gay marriage bill. Some people had objections to it, and that, as we know, is unacceptable, and too many of those objecting bigots were gadgies.

Quite why hetero lefties get so wound up about gays is a mystery to most of us. Are they in the closet themselves? Are they jealous? One thing’s for sure – plain old gayness is not enough for them: now they’re plundering the outer limits of sexual variety for nuggets of self-righteousness. They’re barrel-scraping the “cis” and “trans” communities, which in literary terms is like finding yourself in the poetry basement, where you can often be in a minority of one.

As I read Ms Bennett’s (55) patronising drivel, I enjoyed a frisson of schadenfreude-to-come. I envisage her after a long and fruitful life of being witty, well-paid and persistently wrong, gazing down from a dreary suburb in that Karl-Marx-Stadt in the sky, raging impotently at the dismissive memories of her descendants: “God, she is just so old-fashioned. She used to say the funniest things.”

Michael Blackburn.

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