Today, in the United States, the death of a young person is considered more tragic than the death of an old one.
“In this calculus,” sad Frank Bures in an article in the May 2021 Rotary magazine, “a life’s value is determined by the number of years not yet lived, rather than the amount of life experience acquired.” This places potential life more valuable than actual life and that every day we are worth less than we were the day before until, at the end, we find ourselves with no value.
Anthropologist David Lancy calls this a “neontocracy,” meaning our mentality is centered on our children. They are considered the most valued members of society.
While in Liberia he noted, “in the village I studied, you’d see for more instances of little kids running errands for those who were older, bringing food, bringing tools. Any adult in the village has the right to ask a kid to do something. In the U.S. contemporary child rearing imposes few of our needs on children.
“In our society,” he concluded, “children rule.”
After studying more than 1,000 societies, Lancy found what he saw in the Liberian village was the rule and our U.S. culture was the exception. He found in most places; children are not considered full persons until they have earned it.
This is called a “gerontocracy” – a society in which the elder are the most valued members.
“In a gerontocracy,” said Lancy, “your venerable age alone gives you status. On top of that, good work, hard work, taking care of others are things that enhance your social standing. A child does not have any of those experiences. What’s considered important is that the child contributes to other and how they contribute to the community as a whole – not what they accomplish on their own.”
According to Lancy, by the middle of the last century, American parents began putting their children on a pedestal, and that tendency ahs increased with every subsequent decade. At the same time, the birthrate was dropping, so in a sense, the value of each child increased. Children also began to consume a growing share of family resources.
Americans are on the road to the point where they worship the children and scorn the elders.
Throughout the 20th century the status of elders fell. Many look to the future as a senior citizen with fear and denial. In 2019, Americans spent $53 billion on anti – aging products.
Imagine had COVID killed 80% of infected children, there would have been a panic and outrage and more serious attempts to control the virus.
It is time that we stop considering our elders as irrelevant. Jim Poppe, who studied wisdom said, “There’s a vast resource of knowledge, experience, and wisdom that we can gain from these folks that’s been untapped. In my opinion, most of the problems we have in the world today could be solved by a good grandma.”
Today let us become more able to see the value in those with the memories and experience.
Let’s take a moment to list to one who has the wisdom.
Farmers Market is happening in Guymon every Saturday. Come visit! It opens at 8 am in front of the Texas County Courthouse.
See you on the bricks!