Peter Rhodes on crystal balls, religious mania and why plenty of old folk make a country better

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

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New boss – Keir Starmer

Crystal-ball department. A reader suggests that when this pandemic is over: “There will be a massive spike in sales of ear muffs. People will be surprised and deafened by a fully functioning modern society.” This raises the grisly spectre of people getting all nostalgic. Ah, remember how quiet it was during the pandemic? Apart, that is, from all the weeping.

A particularly devout Catholic writer on the radio was pleading for some churches to be opened during the pandemic because for worshippers like him, being separated from the sacraments was unbearable. In any case, he went on, there was a tradition of the Church being “heroic” in such times. To a wicked old atheist like me, this sort of stuff is deluded nonsense.

If your faith demands it, then by all means be heroic with your own life. But there's nothing remotely heroic about endangering other people by spreading a virus. To put it in simple terms, the expression: “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” is heroic. The expression: “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow somebody else will die, whatever, innit?” is not heroic.

If you're a Remoaner (remember those?) secretly hoping that the new Labour leader Keir Starmer will try to postpone Britain's departure from the EU because of the pandemic, think again. No politician in their right mind would contemplate making political capital out of a national tragedy. Of course, I cannot speak for the ones not in their right mind.

A reader accuses me of suggesting the over-70s are “made of sterner stuff and better than the 'snowflakes?' In my defence, the word “snowflake” has not appeared in this column since October 2018 and I happen to have a high regard for the youth of today, which sometimes leads to fallings-out with my older readers. There is an unpleasant ageism war creeping into this pandemic. You will even find comments online suggesting that a cull of old folk would be no bad thing.

The truth is that a world with lots of old people is a better planet. All over the world, old people provide free child care and financial support. They also tend to be more law-abiding. But the benefits of a broad grey fringe to a society may go much deeper. An older country is far less likely to go to war. A study last year by America's Dartmouth College concluded: “The world is essentially comprised of two demographic worlds - regions with mostly stable older societies, where conflicts are unlikely to be an issue; and regions with mostly younger societies, which appear to be more vulnerable to conflict.”

Things to do in lockdown. You will be devastated to hear that I have abandoned the official census of the woodlice in my garden shed. I thought they were taking it seriously but a close analysis of the answers suggests otherwise. They cannot all be Methodists.

Peter Rhodes

By Peter Rhodes

Award-winning columnist and blogger. Keeping an eye on the tribulations and trivia of a fast-changing world


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