I don't have any wisdom teeth.

I didn't have them taken out or anything, they're just not there and never were.  I am a mutant.  One of the first things some people say upon hearing about this unusual state of affairs is usually a hilarious variant on the "Why am I not surprised?" gag - the implication being that I'm a bit daft and lack wisdom.

Of course that's all a bit arse over front and back to tit. As we all know very well they're called "wisdom" because they appear later in life when (presumably) one has accumulated some.  They're not called "wisdom" because their appearance imparts it, nor because their eruption makes you stagger about calling for Mr Grimsdale (unless that's your dentist's name).

Age and wisdom used to be inextricably linked. Not so much nowadays. Anyone who hates Thugg the Caveman and his illuminating antics should skip to the end of the next bit.

In Thugg's day reaching the ripe old age of 35 was something to be proud of.  It meant that you'd been able to avoid the attention of the tigers and bears, hadn't fallen foul of cave-foot or spear-mouth and had steered clear of getting into fights with younger would-be alpha males.

Successfully getting old also usually indicated that you'd exercised great courage, resourcefulness and cunning and such qualities earned the respect of the younger, less experienced members of the tribe.  After all you could teach them so much. If they followed your advice they too might be able to reach their mid thirties relatively unscathed.

Like many old people in this time, Old Buggar had become something of a guru, a shaman for Thugg's tribe.  He was now 38 and knew virtually everything there was to know.  Nine times out of ten if someone had a problem, Old Buggar would be able to solve it. From a purely selfish point of view, he was a very valuable resource and needed to be kept safe.  Those tribes lucky enough to be in possession of an Old Buggar survived, sometimes flourishing. Consequently, as was so often the way with these things, evolution did its work and people started to cherish and respect their old folk out of pure instinct.

It's an instinct we still have today. The problem is that quite often instincts aren't good for us any more. Some remnants of Thugg's programming make us overeat, others are responsible for racism and intolerance. Whilst back before the ice age anyone who was selfish and stupid would have simply met an premature end, in the 21st Century they just don't die that often. Now is a much safer place than then. What's more some of them seem to think that the world owes them respect and deference purely because they've been alive for more years than other people, even if they've squandered that time.  Personally I don't think having been born in an earlier decade than me is a skill worthy of admiration. Anyone can do it whether they're a saint or a serial killer.

Respect has to be earned, whatever your age, gender or race.

I'm not saying everyone has to be able to perform open heart surgery, write the definitive text on modern Marxism or direct a successful revival of Balzac's Le Père Goriot in the West End.  Just treating other people with the courtesy with which you'd like to be treated would be enough.

And I am sure there are a lot of people around just like that. I just don't seem to meet any of them.  I get the mad old curmudgeons.

Which is probably why I'm turning into one.

0 comments

Post a Comment