Saturday, 14 September 2013

Social Attitudes: Older

But what are the other tell-tale signs of getting older? There's the greying at the temples, not knowing what song is No 1, and, politically, the steady drift rightward. That last one is not controversial, is it? After all, to quote the aphorism regularly, and wrongly, attributed to Churchill; "If a man is not a socialist by the time he is 20, he has no heart. If he is not a conservative by the time he is 40, he has no brain."

Evidence of this hoary wisdom appeared to come with this week's publication of the British Social Attitudes survey. The standout finding was that Britain had changed its collective mind on homosexuality since the first such study in 1983. Back then, 50% regarded same-sex relationships as "always wrong". Now that figure is down to 22%. The hold-outs were the old. Among those born in the 1940s, 46% still thought homosexuality was wrong; only 18% of those born in the 80s said the same.

Indeed, when pressed to explain the overall shift, researchers explained that it wasn't so much that individual Britons were softening their previous hostility to gay people. Rather, those older people who had been implacably hostile were, to put it baldly, dying out – replaced by youngsters who were more tolerant.

It's the same picture on, say, women working outside the home – broadly accepted by most, still difficult for many over-65s. But it also fits with the archetypal image we have of the old – regularly reinforced by popular culture – as grumpy, stubborn and a little bit bigoted. This, we presume, is just how it is – an organic part of the ageing process, as inevitable as wrinkles.

But it's not quite like that. Talk to those who study these patterns and they'll explain that it's not the fact that people are in their late 60s or 70s that gives them these attitudes, but rather the specific period in which they were raised. On gay rights, many of today's senior citizens were shaped in a climate that saw homosexuals as deviants and criminals: for many, those views have simply stuck. It's not as if they were once tolerant and have hardened their hearts as they've grown older. Equally, there's no reason to believe that today's twentysomethings will become anti-gay as they age. On the contrary, the data suggests the attitudes forged now will be theirs for life...

The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland asks; I'm getting older. So am I becoming more rightwing?

Well, there you go.
This is a bit simplistic.
Yes, peoples' social mores will be shaped by the age they grew up in, but peoples' attitudes clearly can change - for better or for far worse.
Fagburn was quite looking forward to getting old, loosening up a little, and turning into a complete and utter Nazi. 

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