Monday, June 25, 2012

I Am Never Getting Old

The Age of Politics

As I approve of a youth that has something of the old man in him, so I am no less pleased with an old man that has something of the youth. He that follows this rule may be old in body, but can never be so in mind.
Marcus Tullius Cicero [106 BCE–43 BCE]
These were the words of my four-year-old son—"I am never getting old," a declaration more than an observation. It was made after I bumped my head on the car door, also bruising my right eye. Yes, there was some blood, a bump and a the forming of a small red scar on the bridge of my nose. In his estimation, I failed to see the car door looming in front of me because of my age; I am 54. An older father no doubt, but not yet past my prime. Are we not living longer? Is not 60 the new 45? 70 the new 55?

Well, perhaps not. But life-expectancy rates have been steadily increasing in western nations, averaging over 80 in the top thirty nations. (Here are some figures: the United States ranks 50th with a life-expactancy of 78.49; Canada is 12th with a life-expectancy of 81.48 years; and Israel is 18th with a life expectancy of 81.08 years. Monaco is first with a life-expectancy of 89.68 years.)

The oldest recorded living person, Jeanne Calment [1875-1997] of France, lived to age 122. There are many others who have lived well over 100. The oldest living person currently alive, and whose age can be verified, is Besse Cooper [b: August 26, 1896], an American, living in a nursing home in Monroe, Georgia, who is currently 115. The United States has the greatest number of centenarians, with an estimated 72,000 persons 100 and older. Persons in western nations are living longer.

Yet, our political leaders are getting younger. Consider a few of the following leaders: President Barack Obama of the United States is 50 (b: August 4, 1961); Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada is 53 (b: April 30, 1959); Chancellor Angela Merkel (b: July 17, 1954) of Germany is 57; President François Hollande (b: August 12, 1954), of France is 57; Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia is 59 (b: October 7, 1952); and Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is 62 (b: October 21, 1949). Mitt Romney (b: March 12, 1947), who is 65, should he win the U.S. presidential election in November, would be the senior member of this group of leaders.

As a comparison, consider that Ronald Reagan [1911-2004] was 70 when he became president of the U.S in 1981 and served two terms; Charles de Gaulle [1890-1970] was 68 when he became president of France in 1959 and served until he was 78; Winston Churchill [1874-1965] was 65 when he first became prime minister of Britain in 1940, and was 77 when he took office for the second time in 1951; Lester B. Pearson [1897-1972] became prime minister of Canada at 66 in 1963; and Golda Meir [1898-1978] was 70 when she became prime minister of Israel in 1969, serving until she was 76.

Today, the leaders leave office young. After such modern youthful and often energetic leaders serve their time, they tend to drift off to public lectures and book promotional tours, their many years devoted to things other than matters of state. At least not officially. It used to be thought that older leaders were wiser and more mature, using their collected years of experience in politics to make good decisions, Now, in a culture that values youth above all, our leaders are becoming younger. Much younger. Do we fear older leaders? Do we look at them as senile? Or is it a matter that in a culture that equates youth with virility that the opposite is true?

Perhaps my son is right in his youthful declaration. "I am never getting old."


1 comment:

  1. People age differently. Some get increasingly well-informed, wiser, and more brilliant. Others lose their memories. Some do neither, but may become more grumpy. Variety is the spuice of life.

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