Monday, 30 May 2011

Sunday night would have been... The Who, My Generation

The Who at the Marquee Club, 1967

My generation too of course. 'Hope I die before I get old' they sang, and two of them did. Mostly that's a pantomime though, and I was never quite a Who boy. Maybe I came from stock that never had a firm expectation of living very long.

A bad night, getting up and watching some TV then returning to bed. I eventually wake to Start the Week and Catherine Mayer talking about her book Amortality, the baby boom generation's desire to live like kids for ever and then pass away on the midnight with no pain, leaving a beautiful corpse.

Not sure that Budapest 1948 was exactly Baby Boom City, but I did grow up here, not there. One of the other speakers, Salil Shetty of Amnesty International, pipes in with the perfectly valid point that there are many parts of the world where amortality isn't a privileged choice, because mortality itself is so pressing. It is valid, yes, and at the same time I think how difficult it is for human beings to relate to what is not around them. People measure themselves by what they know at their fingers' ends. It is hard to say to someone uncomfortable in their London bed that there are people sleeping in desperate circumstances in, say, a jail in Syria. The house of the imagination has only so much room. Unhappiness is a relative condition that feels absolute to those in distress.

But best not take amortality at face value. It is comical and ridiculous and oddly smug, like smashing a guitar in the Marquee in 1967. You cannot live by gestures alone, but gestures are there to be made.

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