Ageism shows it’s ugly head in many ways. The one way we see a lot is the ageism against older people and the elderly, especially in jobs, media, etc. It’s been getting a bit better (especially in movies like Mad Max: Fury Road and several new TV series featuring older women), but we still live in a culture that prefers the young, built, societally sanctioned beautiful people. Some politicians are perfectly happy saying that we should cut or privatize Medicare and Social Security because, well, I’m not sure why they think that gutting the poor and elderly is a good thing. In many ways, I think the elderly are forgotten and vilified because they remind us of our own mortality. Most people don’t want to think about death ever. (Me, I’m pretty ok with death, actually.)
But I also want to talk about the other side of the coin: adultism. Every couple of months or so there seems to be a rash of articles that are basically a rant about how the younger generation are “lazy, stupid, entitled, and glued to their cell phones.” Maybe it’s because I’m one of the Gen X-ers, who, I think, were really one of the first generations to have the full on anti-Gen-X (along with anti-Gen Y) media blitz on the internet.
These articles anger me. Each time I read one, it makes me want to smack the author upside the head, because I don’t see an “entitled” generation. The current generation has a very weird world to live in at the moment. It’s a transition period where we’re moving into humanity’s future. Sure, there’s the usual barriers to mobility such as sexuality, race, and gender, but it’s also a generation that goes into the workforce with a great wall in front of them in the form of massive college debt. Nevermind trying to find a paying job once they graduate. They’re competing with us Gen X-ers and Gen Ys for these same jobs. We’re all living longer and working longer, way past retirement age. And really, right now, we’re all working hard for a whole lot less.
But I also see a lot of interesting social changes with the newer generations. Things that were taboo, or a Big Deal to older generations are seen as the new normal with Millennials: Gay? So what? Trans/Gender Variant? Well, still kinda weird, but whatevs…have you see OITNB? Religious? Nah…not interested..well, maybe a little. Racism? #blacklivesmatter #justice4trayvon
I’m very hopeful because this generation sees the futility of the older generation’s freak outs about things that, in perspective, we should’ve have dealt with by now. While I think it definitely is important for the younger generations to know their history and why people have freaked out over things, I think those of us in the older generations need to take a tip from the Millennials and let some things go into the past where they belong.
Ageism hurts in both directions, and I think we could do better than pointing fingers at each other.