Is gentle reader secure? I would hope not, for it must be a terrible curse.

Speaking recently to an elderly gentleman, who had once however been much younger, I was told how he envied the young today. He spoke especially of university students, of whom he had formerly been one. This was about the time I was contriving to be born, or very soon after — towards the middle of the 1950s. He came from a rural community in eastern Ontario, or rather two such communities, but in the same location.¬†One was Scotch, the other French, in our county of Glengarry.

More completely, one was Scotch Highland Orange Lodge Presbyterian; the other, slightly more sophisticated and poorer, French Canadian Peasant Catholic, with a church somewhere. (Nobody knew where it was.)

They got along well. The French spoke English, and the Scotch spoke no French. This helped them to understand each other. (Had the Gaelic been retained, there might have been fights.)

Perhaps I have given too much background, already; but gentle readers in New Zealand must picture the scene. My informant is old enough to have come from somewhere. It was from a little village that was more like a crossroads, where all the buildings (houses, barns, &c) were painted grey (except those which had never been painted).

The Canadian pianist, Glenn Gould, once commented on this. He said if you had a house in the suburbs, where all the doors were painted grey, and a neighbour was painting his door red, you would be under a moral obligation to plead with him.

Now that is one sort of security, which can be powerful when it is community-enforced, or as we say today, “a community value.” But Frederic, or Fred as I shall call him, assured me that the rural place he came from, and of which he had the fondest memories, was catatonically boring.

If one drove through that intersection today, which still has arguable remains, though not of the highest archaeological standard, one would not remember one had been there. This is because one would not notice passing through. Today it has no commercial enterprises, and the Orange Lodge is gone. Does it still have Frenchmen? No one knows.

Now, Fred was a bright ambitious boy, who learnt how to read. He got good marks in school, and in the course of time, went into a university. This was in a town, where he met other university students, and professors, though no one as smart and well-informed as his first grade teacher. Finally, he graduated. (The subject wasn’t important: English or whatever.)

This was the big event of his life. After that, he could get a good job, and did, here in the big city. He could make a good multiple of what his income might otherwise had been — easy work, regular hours, no heavy lifting. There were annual vacations.

The next big event in his life was his retirement. After this he could collect a pension. Decades have passed, and he is still collecting it. There was something about a wife and family, but they seem to have gone away.

Well, I wouldn’t want to tell you more; I’d feel I were invading Fred’s privacy. My one point was going to be about security. Fred himself said he had a lot. And he was envious of “the kids today.” He was referring specifically to the university students.

“When they graduate, they might not get a well-paid job. They might not be able to find any job at all, or will have to find a new one every few years, or weeks. They won’t know what comes next, or even if, forty years from now, there will be a pension.” Fairly certainly they will start and end with a mountain of debt, &c.

For sure, they live interesting lives. They have been freed from the curse of security.