Thu | Feb 22, 2018

Letter of the Day | Ageing, relevance, and irrelevance

Published:Thursday | December 1, 2016 | 12:00 AM


I saw a picture of Mr Edward Seaga recently, being helped to the polls. A far cry from the Seaga with whom I'm more familiar back in the day when he was Jamaica's prime minister. Earlier on, in the run-up to the local government elections, I saw a picture of the leader of the opposition, running up an aisle at one of her election power centres, to 'mobilise' her staffers into action. In that photo, she does not to me, look a day older than when she first got into national politics.

Mr Seaga turned 86 this past May. Mrs Portia Simpson Miller - 15 years Mr Seaga's junior, will turn 71 this month. We all physically, age differently. And who knows, when Mrs Portia Simpson Miller gets into her 80s, God's willing, she might be just as physically sprightly as she is now.

But as I have been looking on both - continuing to read what one of them writes, and continuing to listen to what one of them continues to say - the entire business of ageing, staying relevant, and avoiding irrelevance, came to mind.

I give both Mr Seaga and Mrs Portia Simpson Miller, two thumbs-up, for staying in the game. Or in the latter's case, at least, trying to.

But, staying relevant is not as easy as one might think. Sometimes, your area of expertise has diminished in its marketable value; sometimes, your ability to make the rounds has become limited; sometimes, the environment that once valued your expertise has shrunk, or may even no longer exist. Last, you may have become so cantankerous that even 'with skills', no one wants to engage either you or your services. Whichever it might be, in a rapidly changing world, it might be easier to become irrelevant than it is to stay relevant. But there's a trick. If with advancing age, we insist on staying relevant and stay in the game, we may have to reinvent ourselves.

Mr Seaga, despite advancing years, has tackled some important socio-economic topics in his Sunday-morning newsprint column. You name it, Mr Seaga has not shirked away from tackling it




Regardless of one's politics and regardless of whether you agree with Mr Seaga's points of view or not, at least he forces you to think. And out of his public discourses come ideas, some of which might be actionable. Mr Seaga has reinvented himself, and as frail as he might appear, he's in the game.

Recently, in the run-up to the parish council elections, Mrs Portia Simpson Miller uttered some unsavoury words in her remarks in Claremont, St Ann. Those comments have been drawing expressions of derision, horror, shock, and ridicule from all and sundry. I found myself asking, what have I learnt from those comments of Mrs Simpson Miller? And when last have I learnt anything of either importance or relevance from her various public utterings?

But never mind me. When parents write of shielding their impressionable children from those sorts of public diatribes, there's no doubt in my mind that Mrs Portia Simpson Miller is no longer relevant. And that irrelevance goes beyond being just a politician. When people don't want to hear you speak in the presence of their children, that's hitting rock bottom. And the sad thing is, Mrs Portia Simpson Miller is beyond reinventing herself.

Ray Ford