Tuesday, July 10, 2012

is it ok to "insult" your elders ?

Confession: At the ripe old age of 19, i stood up to my father and dared the patriarch to marry me off without my consent.
Over the years, yours truly has been guilty of multiple such "insults" to "elders". but ihm's blog, over a period of time, got me thinking.

Why do we ask our children to respect age for its own sake? other than staying alive, there is little a person has done to deserve respect because of sheer age.

When we stand up for a senior citizen, a lot of it is because they need the seat more - because of their age. But respect is not in the same category as helping someone because they are physically more in need of that seat.

And somewhere, i think, we need to teach our children the difference between "help" and "respect".

When we respect age, some assumptions are implicit:
a. The person has more experience than us and is therefore "wiser".
b. The  person has , over the years, acquired qualities that deserve to be learnt. Therefore, we respect the person for having those qualities.
c. The person has, over the years, loved us, or taken care of us in a way that we should be grateful for them.
d. The person has, at some time, helped people who are important to us, and therefore, they deserve our gratitude.

Now, think hard. Look at all the random people around you. Take away the age factor. How many people would u respect if they were 10? or 12? Everything else being exactly the same, how much would u respect them?

Why is it important to stop respecting age?

Because, this respect severely hampers progress forward. "it has always been this way" is a lame defence that has been used by age ad infinitum to stop any new action. But the world is changing - not by the day, but by the minute. We have never had it change so much so fast. Patterns are being broken everyday and the only defence of these patterns is "it has always been this way."
Not all patterns merit to be changed or broken. My problem is with the universal "it has always been this way" defence.

This is really hard for one to say as they approach the age where ahem.. age starts to be respected for its own sake, but here it is :
I think we should teach old age to respect youth as much as teach the youth to respect old age. Children and grandparents are natural allies for one reason - they understand each other . They have a lot to learn from each other

What do u think?


Gentle Breeze said...


I have a different take on it... to say elders do not respect youth is a gross misnomer and that the elderly need to learn to respect the youth is incorrect... greater understanding for both sides of the coin is required.. but we do see day in and day out examples of parents or elders in family being magnanimous with youth in their family when the young un does an act that is not too glorifiable..

I liked this quote
There are two barriers that often prevent communication between the young and their elders. The first is middle-aged forgetfulness of the fact that they themselves are no longer young. The second is youthful ignorance of the fact that the middle aged are still alive....Jessamyn West

How do we know said...

Hi GB:
yes, there are examples where the young people have acted very badly. There are also instances where the older generation has consciously and savagely thwarted the younger generation - almost like the alpha male killing all its male offspring in some species.

neither is correct, and to denounce one does not automatically mean that we do not denouce the other. We do.

But this post is about splitting (if its possible to split) the point where respect starts - to see what leads to that respect, and to ask whether, if it wasnt for the grey hair, we would respect the person any more or less.

Thats the gold standard for whether we respect the person, or just provide support to their years.

i still maintain that age for its own sake should not be respected (or indulged, like in the case of some children). Helped and supported, yes. Indulged or Respected, no.

and i loved your quote. makes a lot of sense.

Himanshu Tandon said...

Can't agree with you more...I have stated this a thousand times in my life earlier that if age was a factor most of the stones and trees on road would become shrines...

Stand for what is right..
Be grateful for a helping hand and respect someone who deserves..simple :)

Manish Raj said...


I have a different view on that.

I stay with my mother, my wife and my kid.

I have always felt the need to understand each other's viewpoint. There is a lot I learn from my mother, my wife and my kid. Therefore not 'respecting' their viewpoint is incorrect, immaterial to their age.

I respect my mother and I love my child. I was trying to think does my kid respect my age or I respect age of my mother ? I don't think so. Should I respect my mother's age ? Again I don't think so.

I can 'help' anyone but 'respect' always has a mental association of love or gratitude.

I respect elders because I associate them with same love and gratitude that I have received from my parents and that I give to my kid. It is not about their age. Therefore I respect all elders with or without their age factor.

Therefore when I stand up to give a seat to an elder, it is not just about respecting their age but about collective gratitude that a generation should pay to those who have loved and taken care of us. It is not necessary that each person has to actually helped you to get that respect.

I don't use words like insult, but I believe 'not listening' to any age (much less elderly age) is incorrect.

It is only when I realize a particular person (immaterial to age) does not deserve my respect or love, I ignore such person. (So it is about respecting everyone except few than respecting only few)

If it has always been this way, their could be reason to it. Such thoughts of looking at elders 'age' as respect element will come to me only when I as an adult have done nothing for anyone younger to me or to the society.

I know you are NOT such person HDWK. Don't get confused with anyone's view please.

kj said...

i agree with your conclusion and you have me thinking.

i do find the wisdom of age to be invaluable, not to say that all older people are worthy of respect

always great to hear from you,


Peenuts said...

Cudnt hav put this in a better way. I dont think respect should come with age..and more importantly, if tomorrow if i m not respected by my kids for my wisdom or lack of it, i should hav the guts to live with it oo.

BK Chowla, said...

Perhaps, we need to understand,elders have a lot to share due to their experiences

How do we know said...

hi HT: for once, we really agree??

Guruji: "it is not just about respecting their age but about collective gratitude that a generation should pay to those who have loved and taken care of us." - generally, yes. but some ppl do not deserve that gratitude and still demand it just because they were born before us. this includes, imho, and especially, the khap panchayats, the "elders" of the well to do families who dont think twice before accepting (or even demanding) dowry, the people who go and get sex determination tests for their dils, the "Elders" who tell girls that they are responsible for getting eve teased and raped, and think its ok for boys to do these things. and such elders are aplenty.

many years ago, my father thought i was the worst daughter on the planet for not listening to his wisdom and marrying at the old age of 20. both my parents wondered how i was going to get a groom after studying so much. should i have "Respected" that "wisdom" and done as told?

How do we know said...

guruji: also, i completely agree with your idea that not listening to anyone, any age, is wrong. in fact, thats just what i m trying to say here.

hi kj: :-) God knows i had to think a lot to answer "why do we implicitly respect seniors?" glad u thought about it too :-)

hi peenuts: yes. in fact, i tell my son that he should not respect me for my widom, bcs he is smarter at that age than i was. when i was 4, i cldnt do the things he can do at 4. and when i look around and see 15 16 17 year olds, god they are so much smarter than we are at that age!!

Chowla sir: no one is contesting that elders have a lot to share. i m just saying that respect should be a privilege, not a right you get just because of your date of birth.