Winston Churchill is often quoted as saying, “If a man is not a socialist by the time he is 20, he has no heart. If he is not a conservative by the time he is 40, he has no brain.” It sounds like Churchill, fearless and funny, but apparently he never said it.
And it’s not true of everyone.
Three of my friends, circling age 70, are as far left now (or even further left) than they were in their twenties. Let’s call them Paul, George and Ringo – don’t ask me why those would come to mind as pseudonyms for Boomers.
Paul is a dedicated environmentalist who hates Donald Trump, despises one-percenters and can’t stand what he calls plutocrats. He rages against them in emails to me.
George was an anarchist in his twenties, and a little fascinating because you just don’t meet that many anarchists. Now he is a more garden-variety socialist, angry and repetitive.
Ringo can be emotional when it comes to politics, but he’s not as angry as Paul or George. He’ll at least consider other points of view before he rejects them. But reject them, he does.
I’ve been wondering lately whether these three friends have something in common that would explain their devotion to the left of the political spectrum, even as they approach their dotage.
Let’s talk about class. Paul is married to an elementary school teacher, and he’s made a decent second income as an environmentalist, though not as much as his partner (note the reverse gender imbalance). He has never shown much interest in the accumulation of wealth, but he is the closest to middle class of the three.
George is the smartest of all of us, but except when he was married to a nurse, he’s never had a steady income.
Ringo is more lower class. His working life has included stints in factories, and in his retirement years, he has chosen a life of poverty.
They have maleness in common, whatever that means these days.
None has any affiliation with an organized religion.
There isn’t a snazzy dresser among them.
All three had challenges with their fathers. Paul’s dad was a well-paid professional man who drank himself to death in Paul’s twenties. George’s father died when George was twelve. Ringo was abused by both his parents in ways that are beyond unpleasant.
They mess you up, your mum and dad, as the poet once said. (Editor’s note: Philip Larkin didn’t say “mess”, but grandchildren might be reading this).
Why does any of this matter?
Anger, like socialism, is more of a young man’s game. It’s not healthy to carry the weight of it into your senior years.
And Canada has challenges we can’t ignore. Whether right, left or centre, everyone needs to recognize that we’re racking up some huge bills, and we need to figure out how to pay them. Frankly, ‘make the rich pay’ will never accomplish this on its own. We need experiments with bipartisanship or bilateralism instead of yelling at each other across the left/right divide.
Staci Rae was the editor of Boomers & Beyond as well as three other local magazines she and her husband, Geoff Rae, started. In our emails she was Esteemed Editor or Mistress of the Realm of the Red Pen, whereas I was Humble Scribe. Tragically, Esteemed Editor died on us (her family, her writers and her readers) on October 1. Somebody, left, right or centre, needs to invent a cure for cancer. It’s not right that Death should take a person so young who was so much fun.