Ageism: the act of discriminating against a person or people due to their age.
I was listening to Radio 1 this morning – the most ageist radio station in existence, belonging to one of the most openly ageist establishments in existence: The BBC. It got me thinking.
Prejudice is never acceptable, however to think any less of a person because of how old they are is not only politically incorrect, it’s also a bit daft. And here’s why:
To discriminate against someone because they are older than you is to discriminate against the person you will one day become. To harshly judge someone because they are younger than you is to judge the person you used to be.
Of course, you may have a preference for things to be young or old (cheese, wine and leather sofas are usually better after the passage of time, but milk and salad leaves are infinitely better young). Applying a preference for young and old when it comes to human beings, however, doesn’t make any sense.
Ageism, whether towards your elders or towards youth is born of many factors. Mainly, these consist of:
- A mistaken assumption that their age is a reflection of how much they know or understand about the world
- Fear of the new (if you’re discriminating against ‘Da Yoot’) or fear of growing old (if you’re discriminating against your ‘Elders’)
Both of these scenarios are tragic. What ageist people fail to realise is that we all have so much to learn from each other, if only we could see the other as a person worthy of our respect, and not just as a parody of everything we loathe.
As a young person, rather than see older people as out of touch, naïve, weak, you could instead realise that older people have been around for much longer and have lived several generations. They’ve been children, they’ve been teenagers, they’ve been young adults. If you think they won’t relate to your wild ways, you’d be surprised. Once the boundaries between generations have dropped, there will almost certainly be stories to be heard to make you realise you aren’t as wild as you thought you were. You didn’t invent fun, you inherited it. Much is to be learned from our seniors about life skills. Certain things in this world are like Levi’s 501s (been around forever), such as love, war, friendships, travel. And, although the landscape may have changed a bit, the sentiments have not. We could learn so much from the generations that came before us if we stop treating them like extensions of the authority figures in our lives and start relating to them as equals.
Similarly, to assume that a person is uneducated, ignorant or unpleasant because they are younger than us is a terrible waste of an opportunity to learn. The world is changing at an alarming rate, but to assume that new things don’t have any value (that music isn’t as good as it used to be, that technology is scary) is to deny yourself a whole lifetime of new and exciting experiences. The younger generation can teach us about these things. Open up and admit it: just because you’re older, doesn’t mean you’re right about everything. We should learn some humility and allow ourselves to be surprised and delighted by young people and the new things they can bring to our world.
All of this is all very right-on and everything, but if these words wash over you like so much April rain, consider this:
To discriminate against the past or the future is to show a fundamental lack of understanding about the concept of linear time.
Whether you believe linear time exists or not, doesn’t matter. Our whole society – nay, our entire concept of reality – currently relies on the concept of linear time. Without it, catching a train would be a real drag.
Therefore, I propose that not only is ageism wrong, it’s just plain ridiculous. If you indulge in the judgement of the past or future you then you clearly don’t have any understanding about how life works, and you’re a moron. Whatever your age.