“Society is indeed a contract. It is a partnership . . . not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” – Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)
Observing the French revolution in 1790 Burke saw that a societies functioned successfully when all those in it treated each other with mutual respect and that those who governed did so thinking about future generations while remembering the lessons of the past.
When one meets and speaks to his elders one should listen to the wisdom that age brings. There are people alive today who saw and fought against the horrors of fascism, who experienced the cold war and who have lived through a period of profound change. Stubbornly stomping our feet when our elders disagree with us is a sign of deep immaturity. Instead we should listen, learn and think.
There are very few things more appalling then to see people try and turn the young against the elderly. We hear it when people say while lamenting the loss of the EU referendum “The young have had their futures stolen from them” as if the elderly have not made their decisions based on additional years of wisdom. Even worse there seem to be some who welcome the deaths of those who voted leave and see this as a legitimate reason to rerun the referendum. The Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee, high priest of the woke middle class left, last week tweeted:
What was 'the will of people' is now 'the will of dead people'.From Saturday, new young remain voters on register tip the balance v old dead leavers.Time for a Final Say Referendumhttps://t.co/kgNiwm334R
— Polly Toynbee (@pollytoynbee) January 17, 2019
To see society as separate groups all opposing each other with different interests in some sort of pyramid of privilege is a terrible way to view the world. And yet there are too many in politics, particular those on the left who continuously persist with the politics of division. The working class vs the bourgeoisie, whites vs BAME people, women vs men, Muslims vs Non-Muslims, gay vs straight and young vs old. Even where divisions don’t exist there will be someone somewhere who will seek to create them for malevolent political gain.
If we are lucky we will all live to a grand old age. And after years of paying out taxes, of life experience and of accumulation of knowledge let us hope that the young will respect and value us. We are stronger as a nation when we remember the lessons of the past, when we live life to the full in the present and we act with thought for posterity. The social contract encompasses us all.
Idreece Khan is a data scientist working in London. Follow him on twitter: @IdreeceKhan