Tony Benn: 87 and still an activist

I’m 59 years old this year. That’s six years to my retirement.

Age creeps up on you. One day you’re trundling along in that indeterminate phase between youth and contented middle age, and the next you are contemplating your pension.

That is, if I’m allowed a pension. They will probably have abolished pensions by then, in order to pay more bonuses for bankers.

Age does have its compensations, however.

I’ve needed glasses to read for many years. More recently I’ve needed glasses all the time. The disadvantage of this is that it means that I’m showing my age. The advantage is that when I take my glasses off the whole world dissolves into a soft blur of colour. Everything begins to look like an Impressionist painting.

When I was younger and had perfect vision, I would always be quick to focus in on signs of imperfection. These days I notice the imperfection far less and I am much more inclined to see the world’s beauty and to want to celebrate it.

I was talking to one of my neighbours the other day. He’d read a story of mine defending student’s protest. He looked me up and down with a puzzled look. “Well you dress smartly,” he said. “You don’t look like an anarchist.”

He might have added: “Aren’t you too old to hold such views?”

To which I would have replied, “look at Tony Benn. He’s 87 years old and he’s still fighting for the cause.”

I’d hate to think that age would dull my radical edge, or take away my capacity for critical thought.

I still believe that the world has to change if we are to continue to survive as a species. And I still want to be one of the people helping to make that change.

So if you ask me, do I support protesters everywhere in their struggle to make a better world, my answer would be yes. But if you ask, will I be out there on the streets with them protesting, I’d have to say, it depends on what time it is.

I get tired and crabby after dark. It’s my age you know.

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