Something to Say

Ray Gosling has died at the age of 74. An English journalist author broadcaster, controversialist and gay rights activist, he produced more than 100 TV features and was a regular broadcaster. On their website this morning The Independent says Ray Gosling’s great gifts were ‘fearlessness, curiosity and an intuitive ability to connect with interviewees from any class or ethnic background’. Since he was 60 Gosling had been living in a care home. ‘I had gone through these terrible years – and age had taken its toll. I was becoming beyond coherence with grief and bewilderment and anger some days’.

Announcing his death on the BBC’s Today programme this morning, there was a clip of an interview with him a little while ago. ‘I had something to say when I was young ’he said, ‘and I have something to say now that I am old’.

Text for today! If you have been a communicator for much of your life, it’s hard to have to give up. True for Gosling who -in what he regarded as his dotage he continued to do some broadcasting – it’s true of very un-famous and much more modestly gifted people such as me.

There are several problems – what to say, who to say it to, and whether there’s any point in having a say anyway.

What to say? Age brings with it a disconnection. You and your values and beliefs were fashioned half a century or so ago. The world has changed since then. The cult of individualism and the power of commerce claim and define many people’s social attitudes. Religion has been pushed to the margins of thought, and politics has become a dirty word. Do we who are old have to sink back into the role of a congenital moaner, or do we carry some wisdom that is relevant to the age in which we still live?

But who do we share our thoughts with? The disadvantage of being old is that all your friendships (and thank God for them) tend to be with people who are also old.

People in their middle age are often busy trying to pay their mortgages and maintaining their place in society and bringing up their family, and whilst the young are often kind to older people, they find them out of touch. And politicians are more interested in spin than in dialogue. I still want to have my say.

Old habits die hard. Faced with the heart-breaking inequities in the world and in our own country, a religion that in the face of massive indifference is tempted to retreat into formalism and ritual, news media that is devoid of moral judgment, surely it’s a betrayal to be silent.