A new blog series, this time about human rights nonsense. For new readers: I don’t believe human rights are nonsense; quite the contrary. But as a passionate activist for human rights, I’m obliged to point to the ways in which the language of human rights is used to push nonsense. Human rights nonsense devalues the whole system of human rights, and has to be ridiculed mercilessly if we want to preserve what is good about human rights.
So here we go. The first one: ageism. I don’t pretend that there can be no age discrimination, or that there isn’t any. What I object to is that this problem is often blown up to preposterous proportions. When the BBC sacks some older talking heads it’s because they are old, and not because perhaps it’s time to give some young people a chance.
When we are excessively courteous and address old people in a loud voice and with simple language, it’s not because we want to be nice and comprehensible, but it’s because we patronize them.
When we demand that older people retake the exams for their driver’s license, it’s not because their physical health has to be checked and their knowledge updated, but because we think old people are stupid and dangerous on the road, like for example 10 year olds who also aren’t allowed to drive a car.
When aging, “in our culture”, is equated with deterioration and impairment, we’re not stating a fact but we’re stigmatizing and stereotyping old people and engaging in “an adoration of youth”.
When we worry about the fiscal and healthcare consequences of a growing population of pensioners, we’re not discussing a real problem but looking for a scapegoat.
It seems that the concept of “ageism”, with its echoes of racism and sexism, puts old people on the same footing as African-Americans in 19th century America, or women in Islam. That’s not fair to slaves and women in burqas. We forget that most ”senior citizens” (a euphemism to protect us against accusations of ageism) benefit from a relatively early and generous retirement, grew up in the Golden Sixties, will have young people working for their pensions long past the age at which they retired, and don’t have financial burdens linked to mortgages, student loans and the education of children.