New Old Scapegoats. A poem by O.W. Pape

The «Neue Zuericher Zeitung» has identified
Old people
As the new «problem generation» – because
They want all the rights and no duties,
They are the most pampered generation of all times,
Going on cruises all the time –
Polluting the seven seas.
They don’t take the climate change seriously,
They are not cooperative in the corona crisis –
Young people have to force their parents to stay at home.

A German rapper recently welcomed Covid 19
As it kills only “old white men”,
And a young pop singer said it’s normal and natural
That old people die – so let them die.
A journalist in Switzerland suggested that
Old people over 65 should not be allowed to vote.

If I had been visiting my daughter in Ireland in March
I would now be locked in her house in Galway – being 76.
If I had gone to my second home in Lombardy/Italy in March
It would have been the same.
Luckily, I stayed in my Swiss home on Lake Constance.
I walk in the fields and forests above the village – no other humans there
Only unsuspecting cows resting peacefully under apple trees
Assembled in biblical bliss.
Except one day
when I met four professional singers
in a meadow under big trees
singing religious songs
two women and two men – soprano and baritone
rehearsing outside in the fresh air.
They were standing in a square, two metres apart.
When I approached, they stopped singing and
Stepped back a little, greeting me friendly and
Wishing me a good day.
When I had passed, they continued singing
And I could hear their lovely voices for some time.

I cannot disturb the young people up here on my nature walks
They are downhill clustering around the take away joints like “Bob’s Diner”,
“Thai Express”, “Best Pizza in Town”, or “Number One Kebap” –
While I have discovered the joy and satisfaction of home cooking
as the restaurants are closed.

I have longer telephone calls and skype conversations
With my two daughters and my granddaughter
In Zuerich and in Galway.
I read a lot – books I always wanted to read but thought I hadn’t got the time –
John Dos Passos or Siri Hustvedt.
I get more sleep than usual and I feel good.
Is it against the law?

I don’t like collective labels like
“the old people” and “the young people” –
I am an individual being and so is everyone else.
There are intelligent, sensible and empathetic young and old individuals –
and there are also stupid, mindless and egoistic young and old ones.
And it will be the intelligent, sensible and empathetic individuals –
Young and old –
who will get us through the pandemic.


O.W. Pape is German. He taught English and German Literature and Linguistics in German, British, Irish, and North American Universities and visited Ireland about 60 times in the last forty years for work and for well-being. He lives in Switzerland and in Italy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *