23 September 2006

Age is nothing but a number - except if you are old.

During the past weeks there has been several speeches given that have been worth making a note. United Nations met in New York and in UK the Liberal Democrats were having their conference. I was following both of the events a bit and something that really got me thinking was the leader of Liberal Democrats Ming Campbell’s speech. Or rather its outcome and reception. As for the content, I believe he was making more sense than any British political leader at the moment although it is obvious that it is easier to make sense in the opposition especially if you are not even the main opposition party, but I still do not believe that any of that is away from him. But the reception to a talk about welfare state was “he is such an old and boring man!”.

Ming Campbell is older than many political leaders in the country, born 1941, but since when has an older person been more stupid than a younger one? There have been some really mean comments made out of him this week by some people who would seem like sensible individuals but who have completely ignored the message and concentrated on the appearance of the speaker. This age racism has been quite sickening really.

One of the most celebrated world leaders ever, and my personal favourite, Nelson Mandela was 75 years old when he become a President of South Africa. He is still, fourteen years later and older, looked up to as a person whose opinions are valued and globally respected (with the exception of maybe some old rule Afrikaners and Bush administration) so what is this prejudice about then?

I am not comparing Campbell and Mandela as leaders or actually on any other level either. That is not even important at this point. The way I see it, is that age is life experience, life experience is knowledge and knowledge is power. It does not always work out in this straight forward way but I keep that as a general rule in my life.


I am not saying that leader should be old but maybe, just maybe, the glorification of youth has gone few steps too far in this country. UK has got an aging population, 16 % of all Britons are 65 years or older. That is almost ten million people in the country who can take all these jokes very personally.

Sad part of this whole thing is that Campbell and his advisors had taken it as their duty to try to make his image younger and cooler. He was talking about pop music, namely Arctic Monkeys, and other things along that line. That must have been the silliest thing in the whole conference. If there is something to be learned from the present administration of United States, it is ignoring and as they call it not validating things by commenting them. In Campbell’s case this would have been easy because unlike the things American government ignores, this whole debate has been completely pointless.

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