An Old Revolution

Clenched fist salute

To the barricades

And so another week goes by, with rides largely determined by when they can be fitted-in around work and other commitments. It’s unusual for me to have to demote cycling so far down the pecking order, but needs must sometimes.

What time I have had to think on a bike has been dominated by thoughts of revolution. To explain –

Earlier this week I saw the Mark Thomas show, 100 Acts of Minor Dissent – a good show by a good man and good performer who’s been consistently on the side of good over the decades, at the good venue that is Norden Farm. It was all good and I went with friends so I was in good company too. So, what’s not to like? Nothing – except that we were almost all old.

It’s difficult to say with absolute certainty but I’d be very surprised if the average age of the audience wasn’t somewhere well on the other side of 50. Certainly, I didn’t feel old there. And why that’s perhaps important is that once upon a time dissent (protest, action, radicalism, revolution) was perceived to be and I think actually was, largely, the province of the young.

Once, it seemed only the young had the mental freedom, the energy, the time and the willingness – through having little to lose – to be radical. The older you became, the more you were sucked-in to the system and the more interest you had in maintaining the status quo. And once upon a time there was a not particularly rigorous dole system and there were student grants and they combined to create a certainty of sorts, a broad type of bedrock that radical thoughts could be built upon. That has all been swept away. Enforced vocational training, unpaid internships and student debt will foster nothing.

So, what I’ve found myself wondering is whether it’s now up to us 50+ people to be the radicals. If the broad-brush-stroke picture of getting older and more affluent is right, then perhaps we need to be using our relative security and comfort as a new bedrock, upon which to build change rather than stasis. Speaking in terms of generations, many of us will have had the experience of radical views in our youth, even if only vicariously. Perhaps it’s up to us to (re)discover our once more radical selves and our perhaps lost idealism. If there’s a wisdom that comes with age, then that wisdom is saying very loudly and clearly that there’s one hell of a lot that we should be being angry and radical about.