A baby lawyer called me a “sarcastic, dismissive asshole” in the comments yesterday. I wasn’t offended and I didn’t deny it. It’s one of the good things about growing old, in contrast to the bad things like discovering painful body parts you never realized you had. You live through ties getting wider, then thinner, then going away and coming back. You live through hemlines going down, then up, then sideways and asymmetrical, a horrible look.
A penthouse apartment in Chicago has come on the market that hasn’t been touched since the 1970s. I can well remember when the style was all the rage, when kitchen appliances were either Harvest Gold or Avocado Green, or out of fashion. Today, stainless steel is the preferred look. Back then, industrial would have been horribly unfashionable.
What this means is that fashions change. When I visited Graceland, which remains today as it was when Elvis left the building, I wondered what young people saw in the green shag carpet on the ceiling. Did they laugh at its ridiculousness? Do they not realize that today’s fashions are just as ridiculous, but theirs?
Mark Herrmann made the point when he noted the reason experienced lawyers seem to always be obsessed with problems, whereas new lawyers couldn’t be bothered worrying about them. Why do curmudgeons always assume the worst? Because we’ve lived through bad things happening, while you haven’t.
Whatever gets you all worked up today will fade into obscurity eventually, to be replaced by something else, whether another outrage or some happiness that means nothing to you now. The only thing you really need to be concerned about is that you don’t dedicate too much to the cause, because changes that seem so critical at the moment are going to be pimptastic some day in the future.
We could discuss Chesterton’s Fence, but you would dismiss that as some dinosaur’s notion of perpetuating the patriarchy, or oppression, or whatever dismissive contention the kids use to fight gray beard dismissiveness. This is your Avocado Green refrigerator, your shag carpet. You just can’t see it yet, because you’re too close to it and lack the benefit of having lived through cycles of change.
You know how much you love to rely on “lived experiences”? Yeah, old guys have them too, you know. We just have a whole lot more of them than you do, so we’re not inclined to believe that any one of them is the most important thing ever and demands that everything be changed. Trust me, it’s a pain in the ass to get the shag carpet off the ceiling.
But it also gives us a leg up on seeing the long view. No, not every old guy is right, any more than any one is right. No, we don’t all see things the same way, undercutting any contention that our answers are right and yours are wrong. We’re as diverse in views any other group. We can be as wrong as any other group. But we do have the benefit of having lived through more than you. So if you think you’re really smart, really astute, then imagine how much smarter and more astute you will be with the same brilliance you now possess plus another 30 years of life under your belt.
There is a reason why old guys don’t get offended when babies call us names, aside from the fact that we’ve lived through our own children throwing their own hissy fits and know that they come out the other end eventually. You see, we just don’t have a great deal of respect for your opinions. You haven’t earned it yet.
It’s not that you’re wrong. You may very well be right. But we thought we were right when we were young too, and look at the mess we made of things. Go take another look at the Chicago apartment. It’s horrible, but it was the height of fashion in its day. So before we take you seriously, you need to prove that you will do a better job of things than we did, and you won’t be able to do so for another 20 to 50 years. Until then, we just can’t take you too seriously.
So you want to call me names because I don’t respect your opinions? That’s fine. I hope it makes you feel better. I have no problem with your being happy, even though your need to express it in my comments, to me, is pretty foolish. Do you think I’m going to change my ways because of it?
As for what does affect the way an old guy like me thinks, it’s what people who have earned my respect have to say. I take them a lot more seriously, whether I agree or not. I appreciate that they’ve suffered an Avocado Green kitchen and realize that the height of hemlines means nothing.
Yup, I am now an Admiral in the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska. When I asked Judge Richard Kopf, to whom I am indebted for getting me the appointment, what that meant, he informed me that my duty was to go down with the ship. If you want to call me a “sarcastic dismissive asshole,” from now on, it’s Admiral sarcastic dismissive asshole to you.
And I am, indeed, prepared to go down with the ship. That means I will continue to dismiss your very important opinions when I think they’re nonsensical, no matter how much that hurts your feelings, diminishes your agency and makes you feel compelled to tell me that I am a sarcastic dismissive asshole. I do this for you, even though you can’t appreciate it yet. You will eventually thank me for it.
You can hate what I write here all you want. It doesn’t change anything. And while I may get annoyed and exasperated with your tenacious defense of shag carpeting, your passionate feelings, your self-absorption (yes, I realize that I’m self-absorbed too, but then, you come to read my words at SJ; I don’t go to read your words anywhere), I’ve lived long enough to earn my opinions. I could be completely wrong, but I don’t think so or I wouldn’t write what I write. And should I ultimately be proven wrong, that’s fine with me, too. I will at least have done my best to make you stop and think before you tear down the fence because you don’t understand why it exists.
Plus, I’m now an Admiral, which makes me pimptastic.