As if life wasn't confusing and complex enough we're constantly barraged with unwritten rules that we are expected to know. Some of these are societal rules, some are familial rules, and some are just plain made up rules. So, how is a person supposed to figure out Well, it's not easy. I'm going to examine a few of these rules in upcoming blogs and see if we can't make sense of some of them
One of the first rules I can remember my parent's instilling in me was "respect your elders". On the surface this seems like a simple rule and easy enough to follow. Be polite and deferential to old people. Done. However, on closer examination, who are "my" elders? I mean, are they elderly folks I'm related to? Every elderly person in my circle of life? And does it have to be someone elderly? Is someone 1 year older then me my elder? What if I know for a fact a certain person older then me was scum of the earth...do I respect them? How about the concept of respect is earned, not given. I think the concept has been twisted and generalized as time as passed and we've lumped it all together as all older people are "our elders". Me, I'm not buying it (even if I do pretty much live by this rule)
I believe the expression started when "your elders" were actually YOUR elders. In many earlier societies the family unit didn't stray far and the family (or village, or tribe, or clan...) elders were revered for their experience and knowledge and often sought after for advice. Often times a major move wouldn't be made without first checking with the elders. In some society these elders are stilled revered for who they were as much as who they are. Today our family elders, while in many cases still rife with experience and knowledge, seem to have taken more of a symbolic role of the kindly grandparent a kid can go to get to yes when your parent says no (ok, a sweeping generalization). I think for most of us the elder as the oldest, wisest, most powerful member of our clan is from a time long past.
My question is this; Am I obligated to respect every person walking God's green Earth that's older then me? Does this include murderers, rapists, pedophiles, muggers, buggerers (sorry, slipped into Blazing Saddles mode) and the like? How about someone who's just plain miserable and mean spirited? If that's the case then I'm breaking this rule pretty much every day. Someone I spoke to about this likely put it best. I will give someone, despite their age, the benefit of the doubt in the respect department...until such a time as they lose my respect. From there on, again, despite their age, they will have to earn back my respect (and that's not an easy thing to do)
OK, so, I get it! I understand and live by the standards of this unwritten rule and am definitely poking fun at it's wide sweeping generality. Generally speaking we should be nice and polite to older folks. We should have a little thicker skin for their blunt, unedited opinions of us. We should bend over backward to be kind to them because, God willing, we will be them someday. Having said that, I don't care if you're 8 or 80 if you not only don't deserve my respect but have spurned my wrath, you best watch your ass pal!