Disclosure: I'm now a septuagenarian. Sounds better in Latin.
The odd thing is, I don't feel it. Not a bit. So when I first encountered ageism, I went into denial. Or laughed as though it was a joke.
But it isn't. Ours is one of the few human societies in which the default position for age is disrespect. You have to earn your stripes all over again. You either become invisible, or are too often shrugged off with amused or not-so-amused contempt.
The odd thing is that this attitude extends across the political spectrum. Expect no mercy from progressives on this score. One recently referred to the plethora of "old, white newspaper columnists." Well, white, sure. That bespeaks a relatively privileged subject-position, and is worth noting in a country with a growing Indigenous (one-million-plus) and visible minority (five-million-plus) population. The punditocracy is far from inclusive in this respect, yet more of those voices need to be heard. They should be part of the national conversation -- and especially so when they are the topic of that conversation. This is hardly even worth debating.
But "old," used as a pejorative, really needs to be, er, retired. It's even used by old people to refer to other old people in that manner. Terry Glavin, who qualified last year for CPP, once did that to me.
So I objected to the aforesaid progressive's use of the word. They almost inevitably doubled down. Called me a "man-baby," somewhat paradoxically. It reminded me of the days when women began to object to being called "girls." It's an endearment, quoth the backlash bros. It's just a word. Besides, don't they call each other that? (Or am I mixing this up with the bizarre debates over the n-word?) When does a girl become a woman? When does a person of years become "old?"
Person of years. I like that.
People seem eager to help out. Doors are held open for me. Folks heading in my metaphorical direction smile at me. I apparently qualify for "senior's discounts," but never ask for them. "Senior?" Hell, naw.
So the Big Dismissal can't be universally true. Donald Trump is my age. (Well, he has six months on me.) Voters seemed to ignore his years, wrinkles, fake hair, fake skin, and paunch. Not to mention his crude sexual voracity. They're no doubt buying up all that cheap hawker's merchandise from the Trump Store -- the latest is a pair of inaugural lapel pins, by the way. Before that, it was beer mugs and MAGA-hat Christmas tree ornaments. Somehow he still runs with the cool kids.
So maybe there's hope. Yet, encountering casual ageism still stings. The contents of a column are what should count, not the age of the writer. "Old" doesn't mean out of touch, or unable to think, or un-engaged, or living off the avails of idées fixes. There is no such thing as "age privilege" in our intersectional analyses. Age actually de-privileges. Boomer wealth, an accumulation usually based upon a lifetime of work and inheritance, gets inherited in turn. And most boomers aren't wealthy at all. Many are living below the poverty line, with no means of working themselves over it.
Those of us lucky enough to have pensions are receiving investment returns on a lifetime of forced savings. Young folks lucky enough to have jobs aren't keeping us afloat, despite the resentment-feeding fairy tales. (Health-care costs, on the other hand, are indeed unequally distributed: another strong argument for immigration. But even the young will make use of universal healthcare someday, they should live so long.)
Does this work in reverse? Of course. Humans like to generalize. The phrase "before you were born" gives one a smug sense of satisfaction. We become irritated watching so many young people fall into the same ideological prisons and semantic traps that we did ourselves. The same mistakes, fueled with too much self-confidence and impetuousness, keep getting made. There doesn't seem to be a damned thing we can do about it except shake our canes in frustration.
By the time they learn, and get the same guff from their own kids, we'll be in the ground. Ashes and dust, unable to enjoy even the minor satisfaction of an "I told you so." That would make a good headstone comment, though. Social media snark by other means.
Until then, they're welcome on my lawn. Just keep the noise down a little, OK?
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