Friday, November 30, 2012


Yesterday's thoughts on PCism reminded me of a complaint of my own, and if I say so myself, it's a valid one, one which matches the original intentions of political correctness: reaching for general courtesy and thoughtfulness for others.

It's a tricky question to ask in the current economic climate, but why is so much emphasis placed on numbers? Numbers are at the top and bottom of most of our common problems, economy-wise, climate-wise, vote-wise and otherwise, but when it comes to numbers of years a person spends on Earth, numbers ought to be accorded less importance.

Among the young and those heading towards middle-age, there appears to be a feeling that sentient life somehow declines and eventually stops soon after the 50th year.

Stereotyping or labelling of any group, generation or individual on the basis of age is illogical. An example of this came up during the recent election circus. A piece by Niall Ferguson at The Daily Beast was basically a tear-down piece of Joe Biden's VP debate performance. Last para:
What we saw last week was not just a contrast between Irish-American political styles. We saw the opening round in the clash of generations that will soon dominate American politics. If Laughing Uncle Joe—who turns 70 this year—has nothing better to offer than “It’s going to be OK,” then I suspect a surprisingly large number of younger voters will turn instead to young Father—and future veep—Paul Ryan.

Apart from the right-wing slant of the whole piece, this pitting of one generation against another bugs me.

Some seem to assume that the accumulation of knowledge, experience and emotional intelligence the average person gathers through time simply degenerates into so much goo, with the hapless individual rapidly descending into vegetative state, just waiting for the journey to the funeral home. Where did this idea come from? I think it comes from the past and should be rapidly updated. People, of whatever age, who cling to this notion are old themselves - in their mindset.

Ageism is one more big "ism" needing to be addressed. In the USA and UK there is legislation in place to combat racism and sexism; the USA also has legislation dealing with age discrimination in employment - I don't know how well that works. I accept that there are many considerations an employer has to weigh, especially in cases where lengthy and expensive training is part of the job, when choosing between a younger person and a person who is nearing retirement. That kind of thing isn't what annoys me. I worked in the department administering Employment Tribunals in the UK for 24 years, and became sharply aware that issues are hardly ever clear-cut in such cases.

What really concerns me is the more social aspect of ageism. People of "a certain age" are expected to accept insults and sneers while ethnic minorities and younger women have some protection of the law against discrimination, slurs and name-calling.

"Ageism is as odious as racism and sexism" - that's a quote from someone called Claude Pepper, but I've said it myself, often. Description of older individuals as geezers, wrinklies, crotchety, blue-hairs, senile, etc. is abuse, as hurtful and degrading as someone being called "nigger", "rag-head" and other such slurs. Many people just don't understand this - or don't wish to understand, or care. This same carelessness and ignorance is, sadly, why legislation became necessary to stem the tide of racism and sexism. Insulting the elderly happens without thought by some, often the same people who are sensitive to racism and sexism.

Chart above is from a website Ageism Hurts.

In the section Seeing Ageism:
Once a person begins to understand the depths to which ageism insidiously infiltrates American (and UK - my addition) society, it is easy to recognize it operating at every level of daily life. The idea that old people are supposed to be frail, incompetent, less than, and laughable permeates culture so thoroughly that it takes real attention to catch the small messages as they slip by..........
A further aspect of ageism is generationism, something I've noticed often, and have blogged about before. The so-called "Boomer" generation often comes under attack by younger writers of Generation X and others. Boomers are blamed for leaving later generations the dreadful mess they will soon inherit. They omit to mention the benefits they've grown up with, due in part to the efforts, courage and expertise of those older generations.


Wisewebwoman said...

Well said, T, well said.

I am now in the category of "sweetie" to so many toddler waitstaff that I want to puke or make a wild scene. It is so patronizing and demeaning.

And no, it is not said in a "nice" way.


mike said...

As our societies have become more industrialized and prosperous, there has been less willingness of each successive generation to live in multi-generational housing. Part of the American dream has been to have our own home, which has become defined as one or two parents with their children. A century ago, multi-generational housing was the norm and grandchildren had a strong sense of relatedness and consequential respect for their elders. Grandma and Grandpa are now relegated from their own home to the nursing home rather than burden their children, in most cases.

It pays to have consumers desire your corporate products and to start that consumers wanting it at a young age, so most products are aimed for a young audience. It pays to make advertisements with beautiful, young, sexy, vital people in them, as these actors present a subliminal message, regardless of the product being sold. These beautiful actors will also attract the attention of the older viewer, so the message is not lost on them, either...we all like eye-candy. Most Hollywood movies star younger actors, because we oldies aren't box office draws!

Capitalism is best manipulated through greed and desire, which youth does not suppress. I have to appreciate the observation of a professor that noted most of her college students (younguns) were poor, couldn't afford to purchase their required texts, and most were on some form of assistance, yet all of them had the latest, most expensive digital accoutrements. Our culture tends to put a great deal of importance on self-interest and immediate gratification. Our youth is better fit to live in the moment than to see long-range planning for the self. This self-centeredness minimizes the ability to feel for others of any age group.

Many national issues involving the older generations, as you indicate, Twilight, have the appearance of dragging our economy down. The current discussions of the "fiscal cliff" involve conversations whether to reduce entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare. Benefits to the elderly have long been viewed as a drag on the economy...if they'd only die quicker, the younger generations wouldn't have to suffer now.

The more recent generations have had parents that were OCD about raising children correctly by allowing more freedom of expression, which I believe has led to disrespect of everyone, but particularly older individuals. The younger generations have been induced to believe they are the important ones here and now. I think many parents have shown little respect for their own values by allowing their children to call the shots, so why would that child mature and think older individuals are worthy of respect?

Perhaps the most important influence of ageism is the example that we elders provide for our younger generations. I am constantly bombarded with insults, slights, animosity, and hatred every time I see the older generations discuss their individual views of current issues. Our last presidential election was evidence enough. It's OK for older people to lie, cheat, show disrespect and vehemency toward each other, if it benefits the purpose. How can that example be beneficial toward anyone showing respect? The likes of Dems-Repubs, Ann Coulter, Donald Trump, or Rush Limbaugh have permanently scarred civility.

I have to admit that I was in the "don't trust anyone over 30" generation! I can drone on, but I'll leave it at this.

Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~~ Oh yes - I know that feeling well!

Back in Yorkshire "sweetie" is more likely to be "luv" - which I never did mind, because people call other people - of all ages "luv" - not only those of a certain age - I found that endearing (though not everyone did). "Sweetie", said in certain circumstances, has a rather sinister feel to it I always think - though probably not intended that way. "Honey" is a tad better - I don't mind that so much.

Twilight said...

mike ~~ You've made many good points, Mike - thank you!

Money, unsurprisingly , is at the core of much that drives and feeds ageism. Corporations and advertisers know that senior generations will be consuming for only a limited time longer, whereas the young bunch will be around for many fiscal decades to come - so they play to that audience.....whether in the sphere of fashion, techno-crap, movies,TV shows - everything; irrespective of the fact that older consumers usually have far more spare cash to spend. The advertisers encourage the young to live on credit - that same credit which brought the nation almost to its knees not too long ago.

Those "entitlements" which are supposed to be part of what is dragging the country down have accumulated from a lifetime's contributions and a lifetime of work - they are entitlements in the best meaning of the word - not in the rather nasty meaning that word has picked up recently. But yes - many must feel it'd be a good thing if we shuffled off this mortal coil at around the age of 55....maybe even earlier.

I agree with all your points, except perhaps your observation in the last 2 paras. For each older person who lies and cheats and shows disrespect we can find one who does exactly the opposite: Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep (soon to be former Rep) Dennis Kucinich, and several writers of integrity on political matters are seniors. I think trust has to be based on the individual not on age groups, or generations Mike.

anyjazz said...

Yes, our youngsters tend to blame their preceding generation for everything in their world that they regard as unpleasant. That has probably always been the norm. But in recent decades even that has eroded into divisions of classes: Rich against poor, educated against uneducated, race divisions, gender bias, political parties and many others. Finally, it’s age groups. In less than a hundred years, we’ve gone from honoring our elderly to tolerating them and now to looking for ways to make them transparent.

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~~ I never even thought of blaming the preceding generation for unpleasant things in my world - I had nothing but gratitude for what they'd all done to nsure that we, their young HAD a future at all - at leas a future not under the Nazi boot. I'm sure much the same feelings were presnt in the USA for your own generation - more or less the same as my own, a/jazz.
The world thankfully has not had to endure a 3rd world war - ours was the last generation who did so. Maybe that has something to do with today's attitudes.

The world has changed so much. As you say, now there are divisions and divisions within divisions, and even further divisions within the secondary divisons.....none seem to be discouraged or even seriously questioned.

Divide and conquer, perhaps?

R J Adams said...

I've nothing to add to the already wise comments above....except, BOOMERS! I suffer apoplexy whenever arrogant, twerpy, little media anchors, still wet behind the ears, trot out that grotesque apology for a descriptive noun as though we who happened to be born just post-war are some weird species of parasite in need of extermination. It's time we began our own age discrimination - against this latest generation who think they are the only relevant members of society.
PS I think my father once said something similar about me!

Twilight said...

RH Adams ~~ LOL! Yes I hate the very word "Boomer" - wasn't he a rabbit in "Watership Down", or some animal in a similar book? :-)
I'm a War Baby myself, forgotten generation for the most part, and disappearing fast.