Young vs. Old

When dealing with someone younger — or older — many people mistakenly make age the primary factor.

For example, “You’re younger than I am. You have no idea what I’m talking about.” Why does age have to be the primary reason for this? What’s the proof that age (i.e. youth) is even a factor at all? It might be, but it does not have to be.

The answer most people will give to this is, “When you’re younger, you’re less experienced at living. Therefore, you know less.”

That’s not necessarily and absolutely true. It’s partially true. Regardless of the kind of person you are, you will have less experience at age 20 than at age 40; and less experience at age 40 than age 55; and so on.

But it oversimplifies this to make age the only or primary factor. There are many other factors.

One factor is how an individual handles knowledge. For example, is a person in the habit of integrating new facts, information and knowledge all the time? Does he match new knowledge against what he already knows, put it all together, and correct any contradictions? Does he think? Does he grow, evolve and change?

There are 20-year-olds who possess this habit. And there are 50 or 90-year-olds who do not, and who never did. There a variety of people who fall somewhere in between.

My point is: Everyone is different. It’s a function of free will, choice, one’s and personal context in a lot of different respects. There’s nothing about either youth or age that guarantees a certain way of processing one’s experiences.

Also, you can have different experiences regardless of your age. You could be twenty and have witnessed numerous horrible traumas. You could be fifty and have experienced nothing of that kind. Everybody does have their experiences and those experiences — whatever they are — will tend to accumulate over time. But the time frame of the experience has nothing to do with the its content; nor with how you process it, as I already indicated.

My conclusion from all this is that it’s not only unfair or patronizing for an older person to make false generalizations about a younger person, or vice-versa. It’s naive and ignorant as well.

In the victim lexicon of our era, it’s tempting to label such an error “ageism.” Call it what you want. I prefer to simply call it an error.

Irrational prejudices and oversimplified or hasty generalizations block us from the truth. When we’re blocked from the truth, we miss out on all kinds of experiences, knowledge, insight or emotions we might have otherwise had. If there’s anything in life that’s shameful, this is truly it.

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