Politics, economics and diplomacy accomplish little if they do not constantly evolve in order to meet the specific needs of the day. Whilst politics necessarily shapes the world, the political environment is also widely shaped by trends which are out of the control of political leaders or indeed any specific group of people. The collective evolution (or regression) of any given nation, society, region or even continent therefore demands the attention of those who seek to harness current trends in order for these trends to result in a positive outcome for the greatest number of people.
And yet whilst the importance of keeping up to date with the trajectory of the perpetually blowing winds of change is vital for those who rule, as well as for those who scrutinise the ruling class – progress must never be the excuse invoked to perpetuate a barbaric lack of respect for society’s elders and the profound traditions which they represent.
Confucius defined that which separates the civilised from the bestial in the following way:
“Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts?”
Nowhere is the importance of respect more necessary than when it comes to a society respecting its elders. This takes many forms from the simple and kind, to the contemplative and profound. A society that looks after its elders is one that demonstrates a stoic and thoughtful pride in its own past. Just as great monuments should be preserved rather than demolished and just as old books should be housed in great libraries rather than be thrown on a fire to create warmth in the winter, so too should a society’s greatest resource, its people, be looked after, cherished and honoured in their old age.
Because of this, a society that remains stuck in its ways is equally unhealthy as one which disregards tradition and those who have sacrificed their lives in order to uphold and consolidate these traditions. The reality is that whilst not all age brings wisdom, unbridled youth tends to be powerful in its propensity towards extremes, while at the very least, age tends to bring a measure of circumspection.
Beyond this, as older people have seen more of the world change throughout their lives, their opinions on issues ranging from politics to culture carry a clear weight because as Bob Marley said “If you know your history, Then you would know where you coming from“. Thus, not only does a culture that values its elderly indicates a commitment to social evolution rather than social extremism, but it likewise helps the young and even the middle aged to gain a more rounded perspective on why they arrived at the place where they are today.
It is the older generation whose sacrifices raised, nourished and provided for the young and for this if for no other reason, society’s elders should be forever treasured by future generations, rather than be treated like a mechanical devise whose purpose no longer serves society. This indeed is the difference between the reflexive tendencies of the beast and the civilisational drive of humans.
It is against the background that one cannot help but find the American media’s fixation with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez deeply worrying. Whilst being young is no more a crime than being old, there is something about Ocasio-Cortez’s politics which exudes a lack of respect for those who have built the society that for better or worse, she and her peers stand to inherit. Ocasio-Cortez exhibits an unabashed hostility towards the past and as such, she represents a whirlwind of vulgarity aimed at those who value life experience over reflexive tenacity coupled with a sadistic ideology.
Although Ocasio-Cortez appears to revel in her youthful presentation, she is alas, not a cause but a symptom of a wider social malaise that has infected the United States and many similar nations.
The pan-western obsession with youth has had the negative effect of making the young and middle aged reticent to acknowledge, let alone honour the elders of society. If old age and death are to be a subject of fear and if fear is to be shunned in the same way that one would run from a slithering serpent, then one can see a clear linkage between an obsession with youth and attitudes of disgust directed towards old age.
A healthy individual is able to treat life and death with equal circumspection and indeed as circumspection is a virtue of the old, it would behove the middle aged of society not to shield the young from this particular virtue that is generally common among the old.
One thing that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has injected into every element of his public life is reason and rationality. Whether discussing how to handle his hysterical opponents or how to handle constitutional reforms, Duterte is often a voice of reason in a sea of hostility. Duterte spoke of death in the following way,
“We’re getting old. Me, they said I am dying, of course I will die someday. There’s no problem with that. Death should not worry anybody. It’s inevitable and it can happen any day so what is there to talk about”.
This is a statement that every person in the world should hear. From young children scared of the dark to an old person scared of the darkness of one’s final years, one should not romanticise death, fear it, nor artificially hasten its arrival. One ought to live a life of personal moderation guided by ethical pragmatism rather than the polar extremes of greed and narcissism or on the other hand the extremes of self-harm and overwrought nihilism. And yet this message of wisdom has been totally lost on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her idolaters.
Ocasio-Cortez’s brand of politics is symptomatic of a Faustian society teaming with neurosis in which people have forgotten to cherish age whilst madly wasting time and money on a quest to find the illusive fountain of youth. Rather than encourage someone like Ocasio-Cortez to become more analytical and less reactive, instead, the youth obsessed media environment in the United States does little other than encourage Ocasio-Cortez to project hostility against those who are older and in most cases wiser than she is.
It is a sad state of affairs when rather than looking for new and appropriate political solutions to existing problems, one instead sees the public veneration of a political character whose entire philosophy revolves around an iconoclastic drive to destroy all that existed prior to the present age. It is as though society’s elders and their traditions are little more than animals being led to the slaughter by some adolescent butcher and in this case, the butcher is the politics of a youth obsessed broken society which shows no regard and no respect for elders. It is only in such a perverse environment where someone like Ocasio-Cortez could possibly be taken seriously.
In this sense, there is a supreme malignancy behind Ocasio-Cortez’s position vis-a-vis her elders. The fact that this is praised rather than scrutinised by an avaricious media which itself seeks to exploit the present as a means of attacking the past, makes one fear for the very future of the United States and the world that it attempts to dominate.
In 1964, US Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater said:
“Our people have followed false prophets. We must, and we shall, return to proven ways– not because they are old, but because they are true”.
In this sense, it is true that often times the best solutions to present problems are found not among those seeking to reinvent the wheel, but are instead apprehended by those looking at what worked in the past. Once one sees what worked in the past, these tried and true solutions can be modified to meet contemporary needs, thus resulting in a harmonious consistency linking tomorrow’s progress with yesterday’s virtues. Such holistic thinking appears all too absent from both the proposals and rhetoric of Ocasio-Cortez and those besotted with her politics.
The fate which likely awaits Ocasio-Cortez and those who share her socially and politically destructive zeal, is that which awaits all self-professed agitators and provocateurs who are willing to sacrifice tradition on the altar of expediency . One day, Ocasio-Cortez will wake up and she too will be considered old, she too will have experienced more life than she has thus far done and hopefully she will have learned something from it. And when she does wake up older and hopefully wiser, there will be a young generation of politicians who may well exhibit the same destructive and anti-traditional traits which she currently exhibits. If at such a point, an older and wiser Ocasio-Cortez begs for circumspection and calm, she should not be surprised if she gets a dose of the bad medicine she is currently ramming down the throats of those who today are older and wiser than she is.
What then happens when a young zealot becomes old? The answer is that the ageing zealot becomes the target of the same destructive forces which he or she once agitated for. This is the fate of all who are young and zealous. The only way in which one can build a career on attacking tradition and the elderly is if one is perpetually young. In this sense, perhaps Ocasio-Cortez also needs an education in natural history as well as political history. She also is desperately in need of a lesson in humility, respect and circumspection.
If Ocasio-Cortez thinks that the next generations will somehow accept that “history ended” with her maiden election in 2018, she is very mistaken. Zealotry begets zealotry, and this is especially true of a society in which older and wiser voices are ignored by those who run the media-industrial complex.
Truly, there is no fool like an old fool and that is exactly what Ocasio-Cortez is setting herself up to one day be.