“Old Men Are Dangerous”

This is allegedly a quote from George Bernard Shaw. The idea is that they are dangerous because they no longer care about the world, having their eyes fixed on Eternity. Therefore, they are capable of all kinds of mischief.

In his own old age, Shaw must have hoped that he was still as dangerous to the smug ruling classes as he had been all his life. Shaw cared about the world passionately until his last breath – like other exceptional men such as Churchill and de Gaulle. It comes with being great.

Shaw must have been thinking about other old men. He was right. In their dotage they can indeed be dangerous. Especially to themselves, like King Lear.

Stephen Harper certainly agrees with Shaw. In his proposal for Senate reform, he suggests a nine-year term limit. That in addition to the existing age limit of seventy-five. Since he knows most senators over seventy-five are neither great nor in their dotage he must think they are dangerous.

Even if they are Conservative.


10 responses to ““Old Men Are Dangerous”

  1. Michael Gundy

    I beg to disagree. Age is not an indication of dotage or lack of wisdom. It is easy to confuse fatigue and a general world weariness with a decline in communications quickly.

    Remember, some of us are born “old”, while others never achieve that state.

  2. Eric,

    You are great and dangerous because you too care about the world passionately! Therefore, you do not qualify to be a Senator. Are you sure Shaw linked dotage with dangerous?

    Mike S.

    • I tried to become a senator long before I was seventy-five and was rebuffed repeatedly on the grounds that I was too dangerous.

  3. Horace Krever

    The word ‘allegedly’ can come out. Captain Shotover, in “Heartbreak House”, act 2 (1919). Before the amendment to section 99 of the BNA Act (now the Constitution Act, 1867), changing the retirement age of Canadian superior court judges to 75, they could sit for life. Perhaps it was thought that those older than 75 were “dangerous”. Some of them were but so were some under 75.

  4. So it’s a quote from GBS, but spoken by a character in one of his plays. Arguably, then, not necessarily Shaw’s personal opinion.

  5. Steve Paulsen

    Anyone who can write a title like “Truth, Beauty, and Good Business” is still dangerous.

  6. Carol Kushner

    Canada’s ever lowering rate of crime (by demographer David Foote and criminologist Tony Doob among others) has been attributed to our aging population. Granted the population in the highest age groups is dominated by women, who on average live longer than men, and commit fewer crimes. All the same, aging per se appears to have a moderating affect on men as well – there aren’t too many elderly bank robbers or perpetrators of violent crime.

  7. Carol’s comment struck a chord in light of the news report as the elderly American gentlemen who robbed a bank of a single dollar, and sat down in the reception area to be arrested, so that he would be taken to jail and obtain needed health care. Should we expect a spike in crime from the American elderly? Will they, and their grandchildren, chose to choke the jails of America by refusing to post bail? Should we be afraid? Who should be afraid? How might this change the culture of the American jail?