It’s a great comfort to me, as the knees creak, the memory fumbles and I find myself making involuntary grunts as I rise from any form of chair, that young people are, to use modern parlance, as thick as mince.
I generalise, of course, but it’s a concern for anyone of advancing years that there is a whole herd of young bucks out there just waiting to put their adolescent antlers to the test and butt me into the shadows.
It’s the way it has always been, as one generation builds on the knowledge of those who went before, combining that with their endless energy and willingness to take risks to get where they want to be.
Well, perhaps. But it all falls apart on that assumption that our next generation is necessarily equipped in any way to hoik me away from the head of the table.
I may be kidding myself and my perspective is skewed by age and cynicism, but for evidence I offer you young people on TV quiz shows.
Not University Challenge, of course, although there are a fair few there who go through an entire programme without uttering a word, and just as many who come up with an answer of such staggering stupidity as to attract the withering scorn of Jeremy Paxman.
Unless, of course, they are an attractive young blonde, but let’s not go there – let’s turn our attention instead to the massed ranks of students who turn up on daytime quiz programmes.
My point of reference here is Pointless, still a peerless format for quiz fans however much they try to muck it up with celebrity sessions.
Not a week goes by without someone who confidently introduces themselves as a proud graduate of such and such from the university of never heard of it, and you’d expect that they wouldn’t have been able to reach adulthood and higher education without knowing a few of the basics.
Not a bit of it. These clueless competitors routinely crash and burn because they seem blissfully unaware of crucial dates in history or the names of the capital cities of our nearest neighbours, and with vocabularies so limited that they struggle to come up with a word ending in ‘ian’ because their brain – there’s one, but it would probably score quite highly – just isn’t stuffed with enough random knowledge.
You may sniff and note that today’s youngsters win hands down when it comes to new technology, and that there’s no point cramming all those little nuggets into your brain when you can check them in seconds on Google.
It’s a fair point, but my reply would be this: If you don’t have a very broad general knowledge, and you volunteer to be seen by millions of people in an arena where a lack of general knowledge is probably going to make you look like a right pillock, isn’t that in itself a definition of being as thick as mince? I rest my case, and my mind rests easy.