A Time for Elders to Speak Up: 12 Insights on Recent Events

By Dr. Denise R. Ames

02.3 defund the policeThis is a momentous time that we are experiencing: events happen rapidly, opinions morph daily, actions occur impulsively, mobs act randomly, and politicians squabble bitterly. Everything seems to be spiraling out of control. The vast majority of people seem to be perplexed and frozen into inaction, while those with the energy and righteousness of their convictions take control to wield anarchy and chaos in their wake.  Who can be trusted for wise council?

Where are the elders? In traditional and indigenous societies, the elders were the trusted advisors to the community. They had learned valuable lessons over the years from their society’s previous disagreements, divisions, and petty squabbles that unfortunately occur in every human community. Developing wisdom over the years was a time-honored tradition for the elders, since they knew that when the time came they would have to step up to lend their accumulated insights for the greater-good of the community. It was a duty and contribution that all in the community were grateful for and relied upon.

17 Kung woman, Africa, photo Izla

!Kung elder, Botswana, Africa

The tradition of drawing on elder wisdom has faded with modern society. Just like traditions, rituals, and stories from the past, elders—their ideas and leadership—are considered hopelessly outdated relics to be discarded like a cardboard cereal box.

American society has been socialized to admire youthfulness, especially since the end of World War II. To pad their bottom-line, the advertising industry has led the way in shaping American culture to worship the proverbial fountain of youth. This glorification of youth culture has spilled over into our current idea that young people are now ready and able to take over the governance of society.

The “woke” Millennials and Gen Z are rushing around making demands on anyone who will listen. The older generations need to get out of the way, since the young have the virtues and skills to remake society into their idea of an utopian vision. Many of them fervently believe that they have the moral high-ground to impose dramatic changes on what they perceive as a hopelessly racist and corrupt society.

2.1 EmpathyBut I would like to say, wait a moment. We still have a democracy that values input from many voices who have a right to be heard. Many of us have listened as the youth have demanded that we consider those who have been marginalized in American society through the years and are now asking to be heard. But listening is a two-way street, also time for elder voices to be considered. Young people have blamed elders for every negative thing that has happened in the last 70 years, but we have not been thanked for positive things that have happened.

I disagree with those who say that it is time for elders to move over and let the younger generation run affairs. Although I am certainly in favor of having youth involvement, as an educator for many years, I have found that young people have a lot to learn. Youth may think that they have all the knowledge necessary to run affairs, but there are still many new experiences to reflect upon or lessons to be learned from study, research, and careful observations.

7.3 Tutu with Obama

Desmund Tutu and Barack Obama

Elders have something to add to the conversation about what is going on today. We have a wealth of experience, a first-class education, and learned a lot about human nature to help guide the next generations. Before there is an uprising that threatens to overturn everything we have built over the decades and centuries, let’s take a pause and listen to thoughts from elders who are speaking out.

I am one elder who feels I have something to say. Although I don’t portend to speak for all elders, I would like to share with you my 12 insights about the recent events in the following series of blogs. These insights are drawn from my varied personal experiences, scholarly research, academic training, and looking at issues from multiple perspectives. I have tried to walk in other people’s shoes as much as possible and see their perspectives.

Follow my blog series over the next several weeks to see what I have learned.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

01.2 DeniseDr. Ames’ varied life experiences— teaching, scholarly research, personal reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, and teaching units for the non-profit and its clients.

Dr. Ames has now turned her attention to encouraging life-long learners to see things with new eyes, learn from the past, and understand the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about her five programs: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five colliding worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

DivCover-dsDivided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!

Divided addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books  

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