If a recent report is to be believed, it turns out a lot of people in their fifties and sixties are turning up in accident and emergency wards after getting drunk. The BBC headline is a bit misleading while being literally true. It is worded to imply these oldies but boldies are the victims of assault and that alcohol is the cause. This is belied by the actual text. “[Researchers] suggested some older binge drinkers were still behaving as they did when younger, in the 1980s and 1990s.”
So to put it bluntly, old gits are getting drunk and picking into fights.
It is a fact of life that many people don’t change that much as they get older. We pick up habits and stick to them. We are also conditioned by are experiences. It’s a bit like the way cinemas used to operate. You turned up whenever and bought a ticket. You could then walk in and watch the film from whatever point it had reached. You were free to stay as long as you liked. So if you got there twenty minutes late you could sit in for that much of the next showing. This was done commonly enough for the phrase “this is where we came in” to become a cliché.
Let’s have a look at where someone born in 1960 came in. Keynesian demand management was delivering close to full employment. Social security payments were an adequate if not a generous backup if things went wrong. There was a by now well established National Health Service. Free education meant people from any background could realistically aspire to achieve any role.
The economy around the world was growing so there were many opportunities that this generation could access with their good health and education. This was made even easier by advances in communication and travel. Basically this was a generation that had every conceivable advantage that they could possibly have. And yet many of them chose to turn their backs on the social democratic consensus that followed the war and support free market anti-social political projects that ostensibly were about individual choices and incentives. It is easy to be reckless about the future when you are comfortable right now, and boy were they ever. The ultimate example of shortsightedness was of course the UK giving up all the work it had put in to building the European Union. To be sure, like every other organisation created by flawed human beings, the EU isn’t perfect. But it has delivered peace, prosperity and convenience – so it’s got a pretty positive balance sheet.
This latest story indicates that the short sightedness extends further than just their attitudes to politics. They seem to be equally likely to live for the day and to give little thought to the effects time is having on their bodies. So they are still going on benders and losing all self control. They might still have the money, but they no longer have the powers of recuperation of their younger selves.
So they end up in accident and emergency. They no doubt tell themselves that this is because they are great ‘characters’. The reality is they are just being a burden on the institution that the generation before them created and the generation after them is staffing.