Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.
E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)
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Jane's Blogosphere: blogtrack for Natalie Solent.
( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)
The Old Comrades:
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Friday, March 17, 2006
Who will hide our shame? You've heard me before on how the columnist Bernard Levin made me want to be a blogger before blogs existed. I thought it doubly sad that a man so eloquent should die of Alzheimer's. I had had no idea. I had noticed that his last few books seemed gloomier, but he wisely withdrew from writing before mental decline became obvious.
When he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, President Reagan made a dignified announcement and disappeared into private life. That did not mean he become a complete recluse and he was sometimes seen around with his retinue, smiling benignly. At least people understood when they met him. Former colleagues who met Harold Wilson, Lord Wilson of Rievaulx as he had then become, in his last years were very hurt that a man with a famous memory stared straight past them as if he had never known them. But not that many people met him.
In the throes of syphilis Lord Randolph Churchill made speeches that were pitiable by some accounts and obviously mad by others. Such was the fraternal solidarity of the House and the deference of the age that the press scarcely breathed a word. Nowadays silence would not be kept, but modern politicians suffering from mental decline have Whips, minders, party leaders and ultimately voters to ensure that their tragedy is not too public for too long.
Journalists going senile have editors to do them the last kindness of refusing to print their work.
Bloggers have ...?
I expect some of us will still be blogging at the age of eighty or ninety or more. In most cases, that will be a fine thing. Society nowadays tends to shove the old out of the discussion. I like to think of some of the names on my links list still gaining readers and influence even though they have been obliged to use a hoverchair for the last twenty years and a brainwave-controlled stylus for ten. And I am sure there is no better way of staying mentally acute than to begin every day with a furious fisking. Some of us, though, will go gaga. It's gonna happen. Three or four of my favourite bloggers at least will go down to senile dementia or Alzheimer's or one of the other Furies that pursue those who commit the crime of living too long. Emails suggesting that the day has already come in my case will be batted aside with a forty-one year old's laugh - but one day the emails might be right and I might refuse to believe it.
I'm imagining the sunny, disinfected lounge of a rest home. One of the residents is hunched over a paper-thin computer, typing in the old fashioned way. I'll imagine him as male since I prefer not to imagine my own possible future. His gnarled fingers can still move at a fair pace across the keyboard although the slurred mutterings that come from him would tell any observer that what he publishes no longer makes sense. The nurses think it's sad. He used to be quite famous. But they know, as we do, that it would be outrageous to take away internet access from a person who has committed no crime. In fact, having grown up in the internet age, they feel it more profoundly than we do. They would no more try to stop him from posting than they would physically gag him.
It took time for him to reach this state. For several years his writing consisted of rambling but still comprehensible screeds that were a source of burning embarrassment to his friends and glee to his enemies. Because he became so verbose as he grew older, his writing from this period is greater in volume than the sharp, witty posts that once won him admirers worldwide.
All sense is gone now. Still he types, adding post after meaningless post to a blog that stretches back through the decades. People still quote the early ones sometimes. Until recently he used to send anyone who gave him a trackback strange emails, alternately hectoring and conspiratorial - but he can no longer manage that process. He can still press "publish" and he does. He laughs sometimes at jokes that only he understands.
He always said it would be a wonderful day when there were no more gatekeepers.