On Ageism

How did we let the wisdom of the aged get away from us?

Once upon a time it was a great thing to grow old.

No. That’s not quite how I meant it to sound. I mean life was hard.

No matter what era you lived in, there was always a struggle. Famine. War. Disease. Drought. Blight.

It was hard to get old in a world filled with so many challenges.

Science hasn’t made that any easier either.

Half of us don’t trust the science, even when we know it.

The other half is simply too stupid to recognize how much of the world has changed since they were born.

And even then, they were still special.

Because until recently, let say the last hundred years, more or less, depending on where you live, being old meant you were venerated. Being old meant you had the clout only time could grant you.

Seasoned. Experienced. Veteran.

Lauded. Appreciated. Venerated.

Venerate

to regard with great respect; revere.
“Mother Teresa is venerated as a saint”
synonyms:revere, regard highly, reverence, worship, hallow, hold sacred, exalt, vaunt, adore, honor, respect, esteem

Being old meant your words had value. You had psychological clout. You knew secrets. You were often wiser than you liked to appear. Nobody likes a know-it-all, even if you are always right…

Let’s face it, appearing dotty is one of the benefits of being old, too.

There still a few cultures where the old still have some social clout. Yes, it cuts both ways, but I have rarely met a granny whom I didn’t respect. There is something about the way the light hits their eye.

A knowing. A clarity. Like she can see right through you. Your every movement a telegraph of information. Your every breath reveals symphonies about your state of mind.

This is why granny was so formidable. She could read you like a book.

With a side of Cliff Notes.

This is why ageism is so hard on our culture today.

Yes, you read that right. Ageism is hard on our culture.

When we (the culture) discriminate against older workers, older people, senior citizens, people of advanced years, whatever euphemism you use to avoid talking about those people you don’t talk about, you harm yourselves.

You deny people who have lived, who have understood a hardship beyond anything you can imagine and have survived it, some better than others, many wiser for it. Hardships come at least once a generation.

This means one generation lives it, the next hears about the last waiting for the next. Science has made it possible for hardship to skip a generation, through advances in civilization.

This skipped generation is the one which is most dangerous.

They breed a generation which has not seen hardship and not heard about it either. They become extravagant and wasteful in their old age. They don’t remember pulling together during the tough times. They are not connected to their neighbors. They know nothing of solidarity.

This means they will exploit each other and everyone around them, until one day they look around and have aided one sliver of society to grow powerful; without the limits of morality, they would stop at nothing, defy convention, do whatever it took to be wealthy.

Hence the current rapine orgy-fest of destruction of our Baby Boomers-in-Charge all over the world.

They did not get the wisdom of the aged. It was too far away. Hospitalized for their own protection. Hidden away. The threat of death, forestalled by hospice, distance and convenience.

Disconnected from age, they pretend they can live forever. Learning nothing. Teaching nothing. Experiencing nothing. Nothing that matters, nothing with the stress of life on it. No lesson where the outcome of failure was loss. Without this lesson you cannot say you have ever known hardship.

For many, this is the story of our existence.

The irony of this whole process is: It creates ageism.

Those in power fear the old. They know the best cons haven’t been seen in a while. Take out an old idea, wave it around, and youngsters can be tricked again.

Not old people. They remember. They have seen this before. They know when they see something that goes against the ‘Pact of Charity’ for my fellows.

This is why they keep the old out of the workplace. They know fair wages, they had them once. They know fair treatment. They fought for it directly. They know duplicitous assholes. They have them at home and recognize them instantly.

Ageism is the real punishment of growing old.

Living in a society which depreciates your value rather than appreciating your accumulated genius through experience (for which there is LITERALLY no other way to acquire) except by having done it.

No school can ever provide it. No potion will ever replicate it. No accrediting body can every ratify it. No one will ever make an app for it.

It is an ephemeral magic unable to be acquired any other way and whose value is incalculable when seen in action. Ask any grandma, she can show you.

Experience: the only thing we still make one day at a time.

It is a jewel of immeasurable value.

Stop squandering it.

Venerate it.

Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning essayist, author and journalist for various online publications, anthologies and websites which fancy themselves having discriminating tastes in speculative fiction, non-fiction journalism and critical thinking.

He is a known collaborator as the Answer-Man with Krypton Radio and the Good Men Project. He edits Future SF Magazine, right here on Medium and blows the doors off the Nerdist’s comic commentary when he writes on Quora.com. He also coordinates and works with the Afrosurreal Writing Workshop in the city of Oakland. In his spare time, he collaborates with Black Comic Creators in an effort to promote their work and the impending Black Age of Comics.

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Imagine if he didn’t have to drive for Uber…