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Saturday, 12 January 2013

Fault lines

My younger son is a never-ending source of sideways slants on the human condition, which range from deeply profound through intriguing but speculative to gibberish he doesn't even believe himself.

Thing is you never know which you've just heard until you've spent half an hour looking at it from all angles, which could easily be half an hour you'll never get back again.

The latest throwaway remark to jolt my complacency came while I was driving him to Kilmarnock, the Ayrshire town that first published another great Scots iconoclast.

"I blame you hippies," he tells me, à propos of nothing.

"For what?" I ask.

"You name it," he replies. "Teenage pregnancy, autism, bird flu, climate change, the expansion of the universe, the economic collapse of the western world."

"All caused by hippies?" I ask, pulling into a gap in the slow lane to let a big Merc three feet from my back bumper glide effortlessly past.

"Every one of them," he says. "Think about it. Most of our problems are caused by repressive, authoritarian individuals and the systems they create to exploit the rest of us and keep us in line."

"True," I say. "But that's exactly the people the hippies despised."

"Precisely," he says. "So it made them try harder. Until then they'd had it easy. Nobody questioned them. Then you long-haired lovers came along and they got worried. If everybody made peace not war, they'd be out in the cold.

“So the last 50 years of lurching to the right have been a reaction to a bunch of unwashed idiots letting it all hang out in muddy fields,” I say.

“Correct,” he replies, ignoring the sarcasm.  

“Well it’s a theory. But let me ask you something. Why did you say ‘you hippies’? Doesn’t the half-inch hair, the suave suit and the cultured conversation suggest to your unobservant eye that I am not and never have been a hippy?”

“Not now," he replies. "But you can’t fool me. You were out there with the other beards and kaftans, long before I was born, swaying in the sunshine, tripping on acid and skipping through the daisies like a big daft girl.”

He pauses for breath and the swish of the windscreen wipers fills the momentary silence. None of the responses that come to mind seem adequate to counter the calumny. He takes my silence for agreement and delivers the final verdict.

“It’s all your fault,” he says.

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