The pub was busy with the summer crowd. I love this time of year when I don’t have to worry about socks and sweaters, pants and jackets. This is T-shirts, shorts and sandals weather. Except we have local water restrictions and wild fires in the province.
After my walk along the shore I half emptied the cool refreshing pint that Vicky sat down in front of me the moment I sat down. Camp was late, which was usually good news since this meant customers in the book store. He finally arrived and like me downed half his pint. These are thirsty days. ‘What’s on your mind these days? Plenty of things to worry about I take it.,’ Camp said.
There are three things that scare me Camp,’ I said.
‘What are those? Old age, incontinency, losing your mind?’
‘I’m not talking about my insignificant self, Camp, I’m talking about the fate of humanity.’
‘Oh boy, you have big shoulders my friend but please go on.’
‘The fact that the Colorado river is drying up and most of Europe’s lakes and rivers are at their lowest ever level has me concerned.’
‘There is plenty of water on this planet but most of it is not potable and too salty. ‘Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink…’ as Coleridge said in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. And where there is a lack of water there is a lack of food which leads to wars, suffering and migration. It’s happening as we speak.’
‘I’m also worried about the rise of autocracies, the fact that so many people live in an alternate reality where lies and propaganda replace truths and facts.’
‘And democracies are under threat by demagoguery, populism and political cults, all of them fueled by a social media sub-culture of fake news, lies and conspiracies,’ Camp interrupted.
‘I guess People are afraid of change and uncertainty and many feel left behind. They want security, simplicity and therefore chose to belong to a group of believers where they eschew science, intelligent discourse and critical thinking. They listen to the ones who promise to bring back the future that will look like some idolized past that never existed.’
‘As in religion.’
‘Or the GOP.’
‘We will have choices to make in the near future but those entail trust in a system, in science, in the teachers and even the politicians. We need to make sure that the electorate is informed which means education and we have to ensure that our institution serve the greater and common good, not just individuals and investors.’
‘Yeah, that’s a tall order Camp and you’re right, but this is North America not Scandinavia. We all want a simpler time, as imagined somewhere in the past; back to a time about 30 years ago, when the wall came down, the cold war ended and democracy was going to spread all the way to the levant and China; to a time when the music mattered and hopes of a borderless, united world was a naïve but common dream. I think I remember.’
‘The past is always a convenient place for dreams and wishes,’ Camp said.
‘Which leads me to my third fear. I have dystopic nightmares of disintegration of our social order and fear for our kids and grandkids. I would love to see the outcome of our present world in about 200 years. You think there is a chance?’
‘What? Of you or the world being around?’
‘The world will be here going around the sun for another few billion years but us homo sapiens will probably join the dodo and dinosaurs before too long. I would love to live to 200 but then I would probably want to go to 500 years once I get there. Let’s just make the best of the time we have,’ I said.
Camp raised a quizzical eyebrow and nodded sagely. ‘I think you’re worried about your retirement. Here is my advice, for whatever it’s worth: Delay the decay, if you like doing it, stay engaged.’
Getting old is not really an achievement, more a crapshoot and a lottery and retirement is not guaranteed freedom and leisure but I’m looking forward to be master of my own time and servant to none.’
‘We all have to serve somebody, as Bob Dylan said.
‘I guess I’ll serve Clare which is after all my greater good,’ I warbled, which earned me a free drink on the house since Vicky overheard.
‘You make me laugh,’ she said.
Life is good when there is cold, free beer and a few laughs.