Let’s Elder Justice
“The notion of moral responsibility is always forward looking” —Sam Harris
The terms “elder” and “justice” are forward looking. They provide a clear vision that guides our actions to the desired future of our life and legacy—for society and for ourself. They are proactive and preventive. Let’s explore where we are, now.
First names, first
Chances are your parents carefully chose your first name,
- a word that announces their aspirations;
- a word, when pronounced by others, strengthens your sense of self, and;
- a word that helps determine how you script and signature your self—in relation and response to society’s ever-changing expectations.
We are always on a first-name basis, with ourselves. So, too, with our family and friends. Others seek a respectful relationship by using our surname prefaced with a title — Coach, Ms, Doctor, Officer, Reverend, for example, that reflects and reifies our lifelong roles, goals, and relationships.
Cutting across the bias of our social fabric
Unfortunately, others may distance us with derogatory and debilitating descriptors throughout and about our life. We feel the ramifications not only in the present but for our future self, as well.
Throughout our life course, complex, compounded commissions and omissions result in cumulative or intersectional inequities that may be based on bias—individualism, included.
Our socially-constructed and perceived distinctions are ever salient, but so are our biases—here, negative biases based on the perception of a person’s or group’s attributes manifested as “–isms.” And yet, not all isms involve injustice—magnetism, for example. However, unjust -isms maintain an illusion of superiority over, and discrimination against, a person or group.
Schisms and isms
Injustice involves the denial of our rights, responsibilities, and opportunities. Injustice is based on bias, implicit and explicit. Distinctions are manifested through stereotypes, prejudices, and discriminations that are cognitive, emotional, and behavioral, respectively. Biases are forms and norms of social harm—injustice—endured lifelong.
Let’s not be indiscriminate about forms of debilitating discrimination, or privilege: each category is a function of a different logic, each demands a distinct strategy to mitigate behaviors defined and confined by discrimination.
When we heal harms, individuals and groups can realize potential through pragmatic prospection—to, “think about the future so as to guide actions to bring about desirable outcomes.” Pragmatic prospection is a tonic against an bias that impacts our future self and justice: ageism, which debilitates our shared future.
“Ageism is unlike any other form of prejudice in that…we are all at risk of experiencing it as we age.” — Paul Nash, Tonya Taylor, and Becca Levy
Elder justice is in its infancy as compared with our other moral, social, and legal obligations. Justice is not about just one cause or just another; it’s inclusive and embracing. Elder justice can help complete, not compete with, other causes — mindful of Hegel’s claim, paraphrased, that, “The conflict is not between good and evil but between goods that are each making too exclusive a claim.”
Our common good can blossom when our common ground is cultivated by the power of conscience — personal and, then, relational — which is “understood as moral belief applied to conduct” that guides us along our shared path.
“The notion of moral responsibility is always forward looking”—Sam Harris
Our future self and justice share a moral responsibility and so provide a leverage point to address other forms of structural and systemic injustice — and a greater vision, not a division, of our shared future.
Language and thought lead our way — starting in the distant past and extending far in to our future, should we be so fortunate.
Coming to terms with terminology
It’s time we come to terms with terminology. In doing so we will realize how the words we choose matter in ways that are both seen and unseen.
Long ago, at the dawn of humanity, the flat Serengeti was not a level playing field for our ancestors — until they tipped it in their favor. We didn’t just tamper with our immediate physical environment, but created new ones far away and far within: we expanded our niche in space and time through language and in our mind — as understood by the late Derek Bickerton. Dr. Bickerton harnessed his own far-reaching cognitive capacity and compelling prose to propose, if not prove, that language came first, before thought, in his clear if not controversial book subtitled “How humans made language, how language made humans.”
To surmise “first, thought” puts the cart before the horse; for starters, it suggests we think our mind is in the driver’s seat; next, its very expression is linguistic. We think that language was crafted as our vehicle for thoughts. Yet, even our most private, personal thoughts — even thinking in silence — are advanced and announced, from syllable to syntax, by language.
So, let’s harness our language to explore the synergy of our future self and justice. Neither have an expiration date. Both are timeless as they cradle our life and legacy.
The term “elder,” is …
- a noun that can connote sage wisdom or, conversely, imply reduced competency;
- a subject imbued with agency, or subjugated by schema;
- an object that may be revered, or objectified;
- and, finally, a term that imposes term limits as it can distance and debilitate our future self.
In combination, “elder” is an adjective that limits the greater meaning of a noun — in our case, “justice.”
“Let’s Elder Justice”
Today, and all along the way, “Let’s elder justice.”
Let’s consider “elder” as a transitive verb that expresses an action and transitions through its object — “justice” — to complete its meaning.
In it most functional form, as a verb with high transitivity “elder” profoundly affects the agency of its direct object — justice — to the same degree the verb “empower” does, for example.
“Let’s elder justice” —
- Let’s recognize that (elder) abuse is a crime and a social harm.
- Let’s acknowledge that social harms victimize all society and our shared future.
- Let‘s’ reaffirm that, as persons who have suffered from social harms, we have standing.
- Let’s realize our social compact between society and our (future) self, in equal measure.
- Let’s maintain our promise of trust to protect our life and legacy.
- Let’s couple our rights and responsibilities, in equal measure.
- Let’s strengthen our safety networks, personal and professional.
- Let’s implement prevention, intervention, mitigation, and investment strategies informed by their evidence-based effectiveness.
- Let’s stand up for justice, empower Concerned Persons to act, and catalyze experts who have their back, by practicing Upstandership.
- Let’s share our concern.
- first name — Deluzain, H. E. (1996) Names and Behavior. Behind the Name.
- future self — Hardy, B. (2022) Be Your Future Self, Now. Hay House Business.
- cumulative or intersectional inequities — Nash, P., Taylor, T. & Levy, B. (2020) The Intersectionality of Ageism. Innovation in Aging, Volume 4, Issue Supplement 1, December 16, 2020, pages 846–847.
- isms — Krieger, N. Measures of Racism, Sexism, Heterosexism, and Gender Binarism for Health Equity Research: From Structural Injustice to Embodied Harm — An Ecosocial Analysis. Annual Review of Public Health, Vol. 41, April 2020, pages 37–62.
- pragmatic prospection — Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K.D., and Oettingen. (2016) Pragmatic Prospection: How and Why People Think about the Future. Review of General Psychology, Volume 20, Issue 1, March 1, 2016, pages 3–16.
- ageism — Butler, R.N. (1969) Age-Ism: Another Form of Bigotry. The Gerontologist, Volume 9, Issue 4, Part 1, Winter 1969, pages 243–246. This is Dr. Butler’s seminal peer-reviewed work on ageism.
- ageism is unlike any other form of prejudice — Nash, P., Taylor, T., & Levy, B. (2020) The Intersectionality of Ageism, Innovation in Aging, Volume 4, Issue Supplement 1, September 1, 2020, pages 846–847.
- conduct — Vischer, R. K. (2010) Conscience and the Common Good: Reclaiming the space between person and state. Cambridge University Press. Ch. 4, Conscience and the Common Good, p. 98.
- moral responsibility — Harris, S. (2020) Free Will, Part 6: The Paradox of Responsibility; Waking Up
- leverage point — Meadows, D. (1969) Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System. The Donella Meadows Project: Academy for Systems Change. (Also available from the Sustainability Institute, 1999)
- language — Bickerton, D. (2010) Adam’s Tongue: How Humans Made Language, How Language Made Humans. Hill and Wang.
- competency — Sweetland, J., Volmert, A., & O’Neil, M. (2017) An Empirical Approach to Reframing Aging and Ageism. A FrameWorks Research Report. FrameWorks Institute. • Gugliucci, M. R. and Price, S. (May 1, 2022) Maine Voices: Reframing aging and embracing the power of older adults. Portland Press Herald, The Telegram.
- perceiving — Balcetis, E. and Lassiter, G. D. (2010) Social Psychology of Visual Perception. Routledge.
- Informed by Halesworth, Suffolk, England.
- View up to Wasteland Approach Trail, Dragoon Mountains, Arizona, part of the Madrean Sky Islands.