Why are we supposed to respect our elders? Think about it. When were you first told, "Respect your elders."? I remember being told that phrase when I was young. Like, really young. It went hand in hand with 'Children should be seen and not heard' and 'Because I said so, that's why!'
These are things we never questioned, because questioning lead to negative stimuli: no dessert, your TV got taken away, you got the belt if you pushed the matter too far. Now that I'm older - and have told a few of my elders exactly where they could stick their respect - I realize that it's all just bologna.
On the way out of the parking garage at work, today, an exceedingly old man was on the sidewalk with his walker and he was staring at the cars going out of the exit. He was really pissed that nobody had stopped so that he could walk across the flow of traffic, despite the fact that there are sidewalks - like the one he was on - all around the garage. Of course, if you ask me, stopping the flow of traffic in a busy shopping center so someone can walk across a lane he or she isn't supposed to be walking across is a little dumb and potentially dangerous. (As right next to the exit is the entrance, which is a blind entrance. Nobody would know if that old man was creeping along with his walker as they came whipping in.)
This situation is echoed across countless encounters with perfect strangers. The old woman who wants to cut in line. The elderly man that doesn't understand why you're not telepathically aware of when he wants you to help him and when he wants you to stay the hell away. (Waiting tables sucks, btw.) The old couple in the restaurant, or other public arena, that is pissed beyond belief that you cannot change the entire building's temperature to suit their body warmth needs that change every 5 minutes.
But, it's even more than this. Teachers telling their students, "You cannot disrespect me like that. I'm your elder." Other kids' parents telling your child that they should be more respectful, or - going a step further - telling your kid what to do under the guise of 'respecting your elders.'
I think this is a phrase that is exceedingly overused. I agree that we should respect OUR elders. Those elders that are in our circles, or that are actual wizened elders of a particular group or society. An elder should not be simply somebody that outlived a segment of the population. Accumulating years doesn't make you any wiser than it makes someone half your age.
Though, I get the basis for this kind of philosophy. We don't like it when someone 10, 20, 30+ years younger than us tells us what to do, or is otherwise snotty to us. We have the attitude of 'Who the hell do you think YOU are?'.
I used to work for Best Buy, and one of their stores has a manager that is 19. 19 years old. Seriously. He has people working for him that are well over twice his age, but he gets the job done exceedingly well. He's someone who very well may run the company one day. So, I can respect him as a businessman. Now, do I respect him personally? Do I respect his opinion on parenting or caring for a sick loved one or how to tell your loved one you've enlisted into the armed services? In short:
He has not earned that respect. He has not done anything to merit that respect. He is not an elder in any of those groups to me. He is not a senior figure in the world of parenting or familial relationships.
I think we also need to get rid of the hang up that an elder has to be an old person. The Dalai Lama is thought to be continually and immediately reborn upon death. Once one dies, they go out seeking for a boy - a BOY - to become the new spiritual leader of Tibet. That's respecting an elder on a whole new scale. Respecting him for multiple lifetimes.
Respect, for me, is something that is earned. Now, I can like you. I can be congenial and treat you with fairness and give you the benefit of the doubt, but respect you? Take your word and run with it whether I agree? Accept your opinion and admire you deeply? That's something that shouldn't be allotted simply because someone got old. You can be old and never have done one thing worthy of respect.
Rioters, what do YOU think about respect? What do you think makes someone an elder? Leave a comment, tweet @IncitingARiot, or email IncitingARiotPodcast@gmail.com.
OH!!! One more thing: Can you find a quick second to VOTE on Podcast Alley? It's getting down to the wire, and I'd love to see this show get bumped up in the ratings!
Love and Lyte,