In our formative years ‘Always Respect Your Elders’ is taught to us as a way of life. Growing up with an extended family around, it has been like an instruction, to do what elders asked us, without a question. Sure, it’s important for children to listen to and respect their parents, teachers and other authorities, but ‘Respect Your Elders’ doesn’t specify anything. It demands we respect all adults. I have to admit that I have a serious problem with it, though it is not because I’m a kid who just likes to disobey authority. It’s a tad bit different than that.
Respect is something that is earned. It’s a lot like trust. I will always try to respect and trust you no matter what until you’ve done me wrong or until you have insulted me or something/someone I care about. I’m not saying you shouldn’t respect your elders, however you shouldn’t only respect them because they are your elders. You should respect them because they are human beings.
In order for me to be able to respect someone, they must in turn respect me. I don’t think anyone, old or young, deserves respect if they can’t give respect. We get it, you’re 82 and you’ve lived a full and rich life, you know more than me and all my friends put together about living but that doesn’t mean you get to act in an obnoxious way and I just have to take it.
The fundamental issue here is that being old seems to equate to being allowed to say and do what you like and everyone just has to put up with it, but the “Youth of today are so rude and don’t respect their elders!”
Today, “Respect Your Elders” is practically an artifact that generation after generation has passed down without much deliberation and discussion. I believe that people should not be respected for an arbitrary quality such as age. Doing so is equivalent to discrimination against younger people who may be deserving the respect that they possibly do not get.
In earlier times, before the Internet and widespread access to education and knowledge, we had to rely on our elders’ knowledge and experiences to learn essential life skills. But, for the first time in history, the younger generation is now more educated than the older. While that doesn’t mean we know everything the moment we graduate from school or college, we now rely less on our elders to learn what we need to know in life.
In addition to the countless examples of our elders promoting poor behaviour and irrationality, age (like many things) is uncontrollable. Would “Respect your TALLERS” make any sense? Hey, we’re taller than you! We demand respect on this completely arbitrary physical quality (just like age)! Of course, some like to point out that older people have experienced more in life, therefore they hold some sort of wisdom I don’t. That’s true in some cases. In other cases, though, people have grown old while believing lies (All our Uncles and Aunties that believe all the things they read on WhatsApp), killing massive amounts of people (Hitler, Stalin and Every President of USA Ever), or simply sitting at home and not experiencing much in life (Not giving examples here).
What about those people? It’s also a given that there is a huge number of people in this world that just do not deserve the respect of others. Paedophiles, child kidnappers and abusers are also children’s elders, and it’s this conflicting belief that you must ‘Respect Your Elders’ that causes children to ignore “Don’t Talk To Strangers” and do as they’re told, no matter who instructs them.
The phrase ‘Always Respect Your Elders’ gives people with bad intentions the excuse and illusion of power and authority to have things their way at others’ expense. The problems this sentiment is capable of causing too heavily outweighs its positive value. So, instead we should give more weight to a different phrase:Respect Those People Who Actually Deserve It.