Many moons ago I met a guy in a bar in Kenya. We were the only two white faces in the place. And it wasn't much of a place. I was drunk but he was drunker. He was one of those guys who would always be drunker. And of course he told his story.
He had journeyed to Africa as a young man. Like so many before him, he had been determined to make the Dark Continent a little lighter. His thing was malaria. As a high flying medical guy he wanted to get an up close and personal look at one of mankind's oldest enemies. His studies took him north to what was then Lake Rudolf where he found small communities who had been scraping the same living off the same baked land for centuries. A particularly nasty local strain of malaria maintained a horrific level of infant mortality.
50% of kids never made it to the age of five.
So my man set out his stall to change things. He ended up living on the banks of Lake Rudolf for twenty years and by the time he finally found the cure the British had been booted out and with it the name of the lake which was now Lake Turkana.
But there was a thing. Twenty years had been long enough for him to realise that for this society to work properly it was vital that only 50% of the kids made it to five years old. Were all the kids to reach adulthood, everything would slip out of kilter. For centuries the human population had found a way to rotate the crops they grew to ensure there was always just about enough food to go around. Were he to end the malaria deaths, the situation would soon change. With more mouths to feed the locals would have try and farm the land harder and soon they would turn their fields into dust. Without enough food the young would vote with their feet and leave for the sprawling shanty towns around Nairobi, leaving the old behind. In a matter of decades the carefully balanced society would have been destroyed. He would have killed them with his kindness.
So after weeks of agonising, he decided to keep the cure he had found to himself. Had he made the right choice? Who can possibly say? But he couldn't find a way to live with the knowledge of all those dead kids he could have saved.
So he drank. All the time.
My mind has wandered back to our glum drinking session from time to time over the last thirty years.
I was there again yesterday.
Yesterday I was feeling much the same as endless millions of people all over the world must be feeling right now as the news rolls out from Trump's America. How on earth have we got here? And more to the point, how on earth can we open the eyes of a majority of people up here in Scotland to vote to escape this evolving nightmare? Last week I listened to one Michael Greenwell's Scottish Independence Podcasts where an election boffin called Dr Craig Dalzell laid our the hard facts for all of us on the 'Yes' side of the Indy argument.
There was nothing vary complicated about what he had to say. When IndyRef 2 comes around, we either find a way to win over a significant bunch of old people or we lose.
In 2014 it was the older generation who won it for Better Together. 96% of the over 65's turned out and they overwhelmingly slammed the door in the faces of the 18 to 24's and their dreams of something better. And yes, only 50% of the younger group turned out, but that hardly means they deserve everything they get.
At the time I found it hard to deal with the fact we were the first nation in history to vote against the chance of independence and a better future. I don't feel so bad about it any more. Now I have realised almost every one of the 39 countries who chose optimism and hope were predominantly young nations. They simply didn't have the millions of over 65's to snuff out the hopes of the young.
As the good doctor laid out his statistics, I got to thinking about the broken doctor in the African bar. Over the last thirty years or so, a whole variety of medical breakthroughs have lifted our average lifespan by a whole ten years.
Which is good, right? Surely, it has to be good.
Well. Maybe not so much.
Taking the average age up to eighty has destroyed the ecosystems of our western democracies in much the same way as my alcoholic doctor knew his cure would destroy the balance of nature on the shores of Lake Rudolf.
If the average age in the countries of the West was still seventy, then the world would look like a very different place to the one we are looking at today. Scotland would be independent. There would be no Brexit. There would be no Trump. There would be no prospect of Marine Le Pen.
What we have now is how the world looks when the old are given a disproportionate amount of electoral power.
And this malaise goes way beyond the ballot box. Well over half of the money the governments of the West manage to raise in tax is spent on the over 65's. Of course it is. Politicians of all colours know only too well their only viable route to power is to bribe the old. So we splash the cash on free bus passes and triple lock pensions and to pay for the bribes we cut university funding. Who needs to worry about the long term future when the next election is only a matter of a few years away?
Once upon a time the media might have taken politicians to task for their shameless bribing of the old. Not any more. The young don't spend any of their cash on buying a newspaper which means the press barons are every bit as dependent on the old as the politicians. So is it really any wonder the likes of the Mail fill their pages with just the kind of endless xenophobic nastiness their readers like to hear? Maybe this is why so much of our media seems to spend their time getting all misty eyed for the good old days of the 1950's when it was OK to tell nigger jokes and Britain still had an Empire to call its own.
And all the while the young get shafted and then shafted again. They are the ones who are expected to work and pay all the tax to keep the old in the style they have become accustomed to. The young will never get the chance to buy a house for £3000 and sell it for a third of a million forty years later. The young will never know what a final salary pension looks like. Instead it will be their lot to work for over seventy years and then Christ knows what. Most will never own a house or manage to put together any savings. By the time they reach their final years they will find the coffers have been emptied out.
We get up tight when young people vent their frustration by committing acts of vandalism. But is it really such a big deal? Spray paint is easily enough wiped clean. The acts of vandalism our leaders are committing right now to pander to the old are about a million times more damaging.
It actually borders on complete lunacy.
Here's a couple of examples.
Old people don't like foreigners. They want foreigners kept out. So we've all had Brexit rammed down our throats. And of course our gallant leaders are making it abundantly clear Brexit means much less Johnny Foreigner.
Because the settled will of the British people is that we don't like Johnny Foreigner.
And according to the tabloid press everything is going swimmingly. No doubt the Mail is filled with adverts for conservatories and cruises.
A few days ago the Royal College of Nurses released some figures which they probably hoped might generate some concerned news coverage. Applications from nurses from EU countries wanting to come to Britain to work for the NHS have fallen by 94% since June.
Every single hospital in the UK has vacancies for nurses. Getting on for third of the nurses in our hospitals are from the EU and right now they are in the process of packing their bags. Who can blame them? All of a sudden this doesn't feel like a very welcoming place to live any more. Oh and of course they have just had a 20% pay cut because their salary is paid in pounds sterling and pounds sterling suddenly are not worth so much any more.
So we need to train our own nurses! Lots of them! More of them! Well, we do train them and as soon as they have the right set of certificates they do exactly the same as the EU nurses are doing. They bugger off. Because the UK is every bit as unwelcoming for young people as it is for foreigners. Having English as a first language guarantees a start in Canada of New Zealand where they also get the chance to own a home of their own rather than paying extortionate rent to some old landlord who has cashed in their equity release bribe.
Then there is the whole thing with universities. This is one of the few things we have to sell which the rest of the world wants to buy. We make billions out of all the smart young people who come from all over the world to attend our universities. And it is a win, win as these very same young people actually pay for the privilege of coming here to carry out the kind of research we need to keep us hanging on in there as a first world nation.
Well the oldies didn't like that. They weren't having any of it. Far too many brown faces on the bus. Some of them even laughing!
Well they won't have to worry about it for much longer. Applications from foreign students have gone the same way as applications from EU nurses.
You got it. Down by 94%
Professors who have been working here for thirty years and more are getting heavy duty letters from the Home Office telling them they need to make preparations to leave the UK.
Wonderful. Brexit means less nurses and collapsing universities. Perfect. It would be nice if the media gave any of this any coverage, but they don't of course because their old readers don't want to hear it. So they talk about who killed Princess Diana instead.
I can't help but wonder how many medical scientists are in the same boat as my man in the Kenyan bar. Wondering what if.....?
I wonder if they sometimes picture what a world would look like if the average life span was still three score and ten? Who knows?
I guess the only answer is for us to give up our right to vote on the very same day we draw our state pension. And that of course will never happen so it seems we are doomed to put up with more of the same until the patience of the young finally runs out and the pavements glitter with broken glass. Eventually the young will get tired of being screwed over all the time. Then what? Then we will all be in the hands of twenty first century versions of Leon Trotsky and Che Guevarra. It might be a brave new world or it might be a bloody nightmare. History tells us the latter is rather more likely. I for one would be more than happy to give up my vote when I hit 66 to give democracy the chance of working again.
Until then, the best hope of getting out of this evolving nightmare is to try by hook or by crook to find a way to convince the old folk of Scotland to give the young folk of Scotland a decent future by voting 'Yes' next time around.