It appears that wisdom does not always come with age. Sometimes old age arrives all by itself.
Wisdom, it seems to me, is knowledge that has been emotionally assimilated. It occurs when the theoretical is realized through experience. You go through it mentally and physically and taste it for what it is. Then you know.
But in a world that is constantly changing, there are those among us who stubbornly remain the same, who hang onto their misconceptions regardless of the outcomes of their failed policies and actions. Why? Perhaps it is because they never have to suffer the outcomes or results of their own actions.
Here in affluent America, we have legislators who make laws but are somehow exempt from them. Now identified (thanks to A.M. Codevilla) as the Ruling Class, they are special, and therefore, they never have to learn what we are forced to learn about their programs.
We Country Class little people are not supposed to notice that, by the way.
Such a Ruling Class member is Bush the Elder, the unlikely bosom buddy of fellow blue blood B.J. Clinton. Yet since "like attracts like" is a reliable principle, the question arises: how has G.H.W. flouted the restraints of normal protocol and loyalty?
Bush was the GOP establishment (Ruling Class) pick against Reagan (Country Class), who won the nomination by popular vote. Didn't Reagan, in the interest of unity, take Bush as his running mate? And yet wasn't it Bush who dropped the constitutional baton of American exceptionalism after the Reagan years and publicly used the phrase "New World Order"? Bush later said to Mikhail Gorbachev at the end of Reagan's term that "Reagan is a conservative, an extreme conservative. All the dummies and blockheads are with him."
There we see the requisite contempt for the people that singles Bush the Elder out as blue blood Ruling Class. And now he is publicly endorsing Mitt Romney as the preferred GOP candidate for POTUS in 2012. Can you say kiss.of.death? Sarah Palin should consider herself lucky.
When Grandpa's too old to drive
Human nature is the same everywhere in the world, and so are social customs. Retirement in the second half of life used to be universal. In India in the old days, for example, a man would retire around the age of 50. His son would take over the family business, and the parents would shift their attention to more spiritual pursuits, preparing for the afterlife. In Western countries, too, the elders would slow down once their children had grown and moved out.
Yet the standard for politicians deviates from the norm whenever they exist in a democratic society. In India, we see that Nehru died at his desk; and Indira Gandhi was assassinated, as was her son and successor, Rajiv Gandhi. Neither has any relation to Mohandas Gandhi, who, by the way, was also assassinated. At the risk of sounding somewhat flippant, I cannot help but observe that this seems to be a common mechanism for term limits in India.
In the U.S., this tendency of clinging to power until the moment of death prevails as well. I recall Obama's luncheon on Inauguration Day when Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy, seated at the same table, both began retching on camera, unable to eat properly. And each man met his demise later that year due to health problems.
The point is that power is so intoxicating that those who have a shred prefer to keep it, even as they rot away and fall into their second childhood in full public view, wearing their Depends, drooling into their handkerchiefs, and blathering half-witted nonsense which is then quoted in the state-run media and passed off as noteworthy.
I am all for respecting one's elders, but I would point out that the word "respect" actually means "to look at." Those with wisdom gleaned from effort, trial, determination, failure, and ultimate success in the real world deserve a hearing. But for those eternal children who have been protected from the inconveniences thereof -- give them a talk show. Just don't let them run the country anymore.
Sibyl West is a professional yoga teacher and a perennial student of Vedanta philosophy who lived for 25 years in the Far East. She is the editor in chief of Ramparts360.com and was named AFP-Texas Blogger of the Year for 2010.