Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Young Seniors' Rights Association

Analogies are never perfect. That said, I'd like you to consider the following analogy:

Suppose that people between the ages of 21 and 64 wake up one day and realize that people aged 65 and older have lots and lots of benefits. Some of them come from the government, such as Medicare; some of them come in the form of tax cuts, such as senior property tax exemptions; and some of them are simply extended as a courtesy from businesses, and include discounts on things like hotels and travel, special menu offerings in restaurants, and the like.

So a savvy young person decides to create a group called the Young Seniors' Rights Association. The group takes the position that any legal adult, anybody over age 21, should be considered a senior and get free medical care, tax breaks, and business discounts. The very word "senior," says the group, must be redefined in such a way that removes the whole notion of age from the word; it should simply refer to those who feel themselves to be wise and experienced, since everyone knows that seniors are wise and experienced. Age, the group insists, has nothing whatsoever to do with the concept of "senior," and denying younger people Medicare and other freebies based solely on the number of calendar years they have been alive is discriminatory and bigoted.

Soon a culture war battle is raging, with one side insisting on the the traditional definition of the word "senior" which includes age and further saying that seniors don't actually get "freebies," they get benefits from having paid into the system for a certain time period, etc. But the YSRA gets the media on its side and successfully tags the traditionalists with an "anti-youth" label, such that saying that you think that the word "senior" refers to a person over the age of 65 or so automatically makes you (in the eyes of popular culture) a hateful anti-youth bigot who just wants young people to fail. "Youth Pride Parades" are held in which signs are carried demanding "Equal Rights for Young Seniors!" and proclaiming slogans like "We're here, we're young, get used to it!"

After a while a few states decide to expand senior citizen benefits downward to younger people. These "pro-youth" states don't have any idea how they're going to pay for the benefits that consider anybody over 21 to be a senior citizen, but they're proud of their activism and of being on the right side of history in these debates. While there's an initial rush of young people to these states to claim the benefits, the truth is that not all that many young people even want to be legally labeled "seniors" anyway. Still, empowered by the new laws, the state mounts an aggressive education campaign, much of it aimed at schools, in which young people are portrayed as the wise and experienced "seniors" while old people are portrayed negatively as mere drains on the economy.

The "pro-youth" movement to redefine what it is to be a senior stalls at the federal level, though, not least because there's actually no way the federal government can afford to put everybody over age 21 on Medicare. And the traditional side manages to get Congress to pass a "Defense of Actual Seniors Act" or DOASA; but as the "pro-youth" movement heats up, the current president declares that he's in favor of young people being legally recognized as seniors and he orders the Justice Department not to defend DOASA anymore.

Now the "pro-youth" movement gets even more aggressive about labeling anybody who equates senior citizenship with age as a hater, a pariah, and an "anti-youth" bigot. Religious groups which insist that the young owe a certain amount of charity and respect to older people are especially targeted and punished for their politically incorrect beliefs...

...and anybody who says, "Oh, I favor the ancient, historical, and traditional idea that seniors are actually those people who are the older members of society, say over 65 or so..." is automatically called an anti-youth bigot who just hates young people and wants to attack them.

It's funny, isn't it, how easy it is to see the lunacy of what's happening to our country when we look at the situation just a little bit differently?

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