Back in the dim and distant past when I was in the full flush of my self-righteous judgmental politicizing, no not last week. I was a pretty arrogant young man, convinced my ideals were the correct ones and that others should acknowledge my brilliance. On bad days this may still be true, or on good days depending on which side of the aisle you are standing.
I have recently been fascinated by the idea that as we get older we tend to become more conservative. This adage seems to be a confirmed belief for some a fact if you will. The basis appears to be that as we accrue more wealth we desire to protect it from taxes and the infamous “other” in the world. Never having actually accrued a whole lot of wealth in my life to protect this has not been a problem. So maybe it is just that some believe that as we get older we get less idealistic and more self serving, I have often been a self serving bastard in my life but usually when I was younger.
Again and again as I protested my way. through life, throwing eggs at politicians and ranting against injustice, the grayer heads would smile and say “he’ll grow out of it.” Maybe I am just too pigheaded, fixed in my ways or as some would say incorrigible.
So at 52 I am still somehow convinced that I am right, it is better to treat others with respect and value them as humans than treat them as the “other.”
This may go back to the evening when I sat on a cold floor in Northumberland as a young woman from Hull took the time to explain to me that Dick Gaughan may very well be the greatest political singer/songwriter in the world. Forget Dylan or Bragg or Seeger, Gaughan with his passionate voice and intricate playing was the real deal. She made me sit still and listen to the album Handful of Earth which in its two sides tackled intolerance and bigotry and political division in the most direct and straight forward way imaginable. Gaughan’s Scottish accent required attention to the lyrics. His intensity was tangible in every song and his sincerity could not be doubted. This was a man who walked the talk.
Two days later we were on a picket line supporting the miners and Gaughan was there, singing and ranting against the injustices of Thatchers Britain. I remember at some point in the night I shook his hand and he made eye contact and mumbled “you’ll do.” I have no idea what he meant, I have however since then felt the need to live up to some expectation to take care of my fellow man.
A couple of days later me and that girl from Hull went to see The Clash and screamed our souls into the chasm that seemed to be engulfing our small world at the time. She danced like a wild thing her green eyes flashing and brunette hair flowing and I thought this was what we should do forever.
Several weeks later we climbed up the Long Crag in Northumberland, we stood by the cairn and hollered into the wind.
Some days that’s all you can do is holler into the wind she said smiled and we climbed down.
A few years later when we had both moved on I went to see Dick Gaughan again, it was just as powerful an evening.