There were times when older people were regarded as ‘elders’ and treated with respect. In most Westernised countries this tends to be no longer the case for what seems to be two major inter-connected reasons. Firstly we are living longer so that being old is no longer clearly defined and secondly this means that there are more of us who could be regarded as old. There are other differences. In the past people were looked up to as ‘elders’ because of their knowledge and wisdom, both of which came from their experience of being a comparatively long time on earth. Today things are different for many because ease of travel has expanded our knowledge of the world well outside our immediate neighbourhood and secondly knowledge through learning from textbooks and educational institutions has greatly increased our knowledge and improved access to it. We have more and more older people many of whom have greater knowledge and wisdom through both experience and formal learning. Since the title of ‘elders’ is no longer applied to us does that remove the obligations which went with this role? Worse still, are we deliberately abandoning this role, putting it in the too hard basket?
These thoughts have been inspired by the current situation with young people and alcohol. Should we take on the role of elders and accept our responsibility to use all our experience to view the situation objectively and try to create a better world for those who come after us?
There is concern about the current amount of alcohol based violence, a problem for both victims of abuse as well as the abusers. There should also be concern about the body damage which drinking can inflict, particularly the presently popular binge drinking. Will those who come after us be able to cope with the law and order problems, the disabilities being created, as well as organ damage today’s young people are creating, all of which are high cost problems.
Remember that today’s older people have taken the country from the ‘6 o’clock swill’ to today’s nearly open slather on drinking venue opening time? Is this progress or regression? Should those of us who remember the days where alcohol ruined lives were less common than they are today (and which will be even more of a problem tomorrow) speak out about the way our country is heading, particularly for our young people?
Currently our police often have to put their lives at risk from alcohol induced thuggery and staff in our emergency hospital wards are being sickened by what they see and have to treat. If for no other reason shouldn’t we speak out and push for less freedom to save these professionals who work on our behalf, as well as the young people who we sit back and let ruin themselves, their careers and lives, and those of their innocent victims?
Aren’t we making sure that the proud title of ‘elders’ is no longer ours through our silence? Are we abandoning our knowledge and wisdom for no apparent reason? After all, most of us do still care.