Why Respecting Your Elders is Pointless by Gaazal Dhungana, Henrietta Barnett School

It is a tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, if only I had a dime, for each time my age was made out to be a crime. Much like everyone else born into the technological era, I have been heavily exposed to the idea of the “good old days”. The beautiful, blissful and burden-free decades of frolicking and tomfoolery. Eons before “kids these days” had been corrupted by codes and computers.

Ever since we are young, we are told to merit points of respect for those who are older than us. We are reminded, chastised and threatened to offer extra rapturous attention for each year of someone’s life. As if by solely existing for a longer period of time, a person is guaranteed to have improved all aspects of themselves. If anything, with age comes a more robust unwillingness for change. A once clay-like and impressionable brain has been hardened with time into a tough but brittle ego. It is human nature for a person to become accustomed to their habits.

Nostalgia is a key culprit in the formation of such ideas. We are wistful of our childhood and less aware of bad things happening around us. A child growing up in the 60s may remember the wonderful evenings spent with family listening to the Beatles, rather than the tensions of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Perhaps now a grandparent, they will forever associate the tunes with happiness and fond memories, thinking that current music is subpar and can never compete. It does not necessarily mean, however, that today’s top hits are in fact awful. Malcolm Gladwell, journalist and author of Blink once wrote, “people have a tendency of mistaking the word ‘different’ for ‘bad’”.

Just this October, a new version of the Alphabet Song went viral. The one key difference being the slowing down of LMNOP, which is traditionally sung closer together. Twitter was furious and the song was branded a “sacrilege” and “life-ruining”. It was created to be easier for non-English speakers to understand and for children with learning difficulties to be able to distinguish. However, it tampered with picture-perfect memories encapsulated in the minds of millions. Rather than receiving praise for his good deed, the creator faced backlash and even death threats.

I am by no means suggesting that all rules and regulations put forth by adults around us are useless. Parents, grandparents and teachers have your best interests at heart and are doing what they feel is right, regarding your wellbeing and safeguarding. Without them, children would have no role models or sources of inspiration. Without them, the very building blocks of our society would crumble. It is, rather, when people demand respect simply for being older and supposedly having superior opinions and values. This is a backward and stifling mentality, a mentality in which young people will never be able to reach their full potential. Teenager Nerushe Utherakunaseelan says “age doesn’t measure maturity or wisdom, but experience does”.

Each generation is objectively and immeasurably better than the last. Throughout the ages, we have seen an increase in women’s rights, for people of colour and for the LGBT community. No matter how doomy and gloomy the current situation may seem, we as a human race are far better equipped to deal with it than ever before. Key, life-saving information is available to us at the touch of a button. Vital updates can be shared globally in a matter of seconds. Despite being physically distant, we are spiritually closer to each other; and with increasing ease. Now, more than ever, is a time to respect everyone; regardless of age.

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