Many ‘wise men’ I looked up to were frauds – Ashok Ferrey | Sunday Observer
To my younger self...

Many ‘wise men’ I looked up to were frauds – Ashok Ferrey

10 October, 2021

Reflecting on simple and happy times of fun and adventure. The 60s, 70s and 80s, an era of carefree life and free love. This week Youth Observer speaks to writer Ashok Ferrey going down memory lane and sharing his good times with the younger generation.

Q: What do you have to tell your younger self?

A: So many of those experts, so many of those ‘wise men’ you looked up to when you were young - well they were found to be charlatans and frauds, after all, weren’t they? Have the courage of your convictions; trust your intuition and you won’t go wrong; and if you find you have gone wrong, it doesn’t matter. You’re young, you’re permitted to make mistakes.

Q: Any regrets?

Ashok Ferry his youth

A: Not really. I have come to realize that even though things might have happened very differently, there is a grander more complex design underneath which may not be so obvious to you at the time. Your job is always to submit to this superior will, with as much good grace as you can muster.

Q: The best time of your life?

A: I was just out of university with a degree in Pure Maths from Oxford. Against all the best advice of my parents and friends I became a builder’s labourer, then a builder in London. Unexpectedly, I began to make money. I was young, free and single, as the song goes - in the big bad world of the West. It’s all there in my new book ‘The Unmarriageable Man’. Looking back, even people in Britain think of those years now as a sort of Golden Age.

Q: What did your generation have that this generation doesn’t?

A: A sense of the importance of physical presence, and the ability to live in the present. Young people spend so much of their life in the virtual world of their minds. On the one hand, this is a very philosophically sophisticated and advanced way of life.

On the other, it is a denial of life’s basic animal quality, its sheer sensuousness, which is half the fun of being human. It is not enough to Instagram what you’re about to eat. You have to smell it, touch it, lick it, taste it. And let’s not forget the person in front of you either! By attempting to share this moment with the world outside you risk losing that vital raw power of the moment.

Q: What does this generation have that your generation didn’t?

A: The ability to be in everybody else’s life simultaneously! Such a wonderfully powerful tool, yet so dangerous to one’s integrity. Your life is no longer your own - even the act of cancelling your online presence is seen as a hostile act. It is demanded of you that you be transparent and available at all times. So you have to live your life as they did in those olden day palaces - where every bedroom leads into every other. You end up having to live with one eye on the mirror at all times.

Q: Your advice to the young generation?

A: The same advice that the older generation gave when the young ones discovered fire! Use it wisely. Remember it can destroy you. People nowadays can know, almost simultaneously, what other people around the world are thinking.

Incredibly comforting, and nothing short of miraculous. It also means that others expect you to have an informed opinion on everything instantly. It is then very tempting to give up the power of considered, measured, original thought for the quick online fix because you don’t want to be left behind; and you certainly don’t want to be found in the wrong camp.

This has given rise to the global tribalism we currently have, the sort of hysterical witch-hunts it has led to. Gently agreeing to disagree no longer seems to be an option. So my advice to you is this: try to decide for yourself: but only because you think it is right; not because so many millions of other people tell you it is.