It was the most sensitive of times, it was the crudest of times. It was the most informal of times (all that cheerful use of first names), it was the most impersonal of times (all those recorded messages). It was the most tolerant of times, it was (where its own pieties were concerned) the most conformist of times . . .

Someone once wrote a book—about the mid-nineteenth century, I think—called The Age of Paradox. It is not a very revealing title. Every age since the Old Stone Age has been an Age of Paradox, just as every age has been an Age of Transition. But at least we can fairly claim that no age has bristled with more paradoxes than our own.

Take attitudes to the elderly. In principle we all abhor ageism; but in a culture increasingly bent on jettisoning the past, ageism can assume strange...

 
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