#11. To Honor the Old and the Wise.
One of the more deviant ideas of Western society is to revere the young. Granted, giving too much respect to youth is probably a worldwide phenomenon, but I wish to focus upon the problems I can see and know.
Let’s begin with a basic question: Who shall run my society?
By this, I mean the United States of America. Up until 1971, no one under the age of 21 was able to vote in a federal election in the USA. Has this been beneficial to society? We can argue all day whether before 1971 the United States was better or worse than it is today, or whether the adage “old enough for the military, old enough for the voting booth” is valid logic. But are we better off for the 26th Amendment? Fairness be damned, revolution be squelched, I don’t think we are better off for it. The number of immature minds between the ages of 18 and 20 which are indoctrinated in universities, or otherwise influenced by their hormones, has caused, in my opinion, great harm to society through their mindless votes. This is especially true since the Internet age began, circa 1996. Do I think age 21 is that much better? Yes I do. For one thing, practically speaking, whatever university propaganda there is cannot at age 21 be leveraged by professors who blackmail or threaten students for their differing ideology. Which is to say, if the average college student seeking a BA or BS cannot vote, the activist professor cannot influence that vote. And yes, this is a major problem in our universities.
Another problem in society is the focus on the economic value of youth. Advertising geared towards youth is in many ways propaganda against prevailing society. What’s wrong with that, you may ask. To which I counter, the very society which is attacked by such advertising is the same society which supports that freedom of speech. So why would advertising subvert its own foundation? Well, this may shock you, but some people are revolutionary communists, and their method is to cause unrest among those who feel oppressed. Never mind that when Marx wrote his papers the oppressed were the industrialized West, which today are the leisure class en masse which depends on the oppressed of China and other nations to produce their goods.
What did I just say? I said that the so-called revolutionary youth of Western society are living the “life of Riley” but seem hell-bent to destroy their own good fortune. Isn't it mind-boggling that the goals of Marx, for the lower classes to enjoy a better lifestyle, have been achieved in Europe and America, yet youth and others are continually being prodded to, and falling for, Marxism. It’s quite amazing to watch youth flush their wonderful futures down the drain. And for what? The ungrateful hordes of Middle-Eastern “refugees” which flood their countries and attack their culture and people? Or invaders from other countries who say they migrate for economic reasons but then form enclaves to change society to their own worse ways? It’s hard to give these invaders credit for victory when the people they invade are not even fighting back! And why aren’t they fighting back? Youth has been brainwashed to feel guilt towards, rather than honor for, what they have, and those who gave, and defended, those things they have.
Seeing these factual truths, we can more readily understand why Torah commands honor for the old and wise. The old and wise have lived through many crises and learned how to preserve society for the better, and to defend themselves from enemies. The old and wise are not given to fanciful notions of utopia and overreaching altruism which are proven by experience and logic to be destructive to all people. The old and wise are cautious to implement new ideas which upend the security of the nation.
Of course, the battle-cry and zest of youth is to constantly seek the new thing, to overturn the conventions. Basically, to rebel is natural for the teenager. But natural or hormonal rebellion is not good cause to willy-nilly change society “just to see” how it works out. Such changes are generally not good and are rarely easily-reversible.
The old and wise are the keepers of the flames of logic, security, and opportunity. You can argue against this one or that one, this ancient thing or that ancient thing, but “don’t fix what ain’t broken” is a good rule of thumb. Furthermore, where things are broken, youth in general is still too impetuous and inexperienced for solutions.
For a Torah society, which we promote, how do we integrate youth?
What does it mean to honor the old? Simply, the younger defers to the elder. That's a heart-pounding start, isn't it? But is it merely age-driven, this commandment. No, for one must also be "wise" to earn this respect. What is "wise"? No arguments are necessary here, Torah always refers “wisdom” to itself. That is, whoever follows Torah is wise. But also, whoever follows Torah with an eye to mercy rather than to blood is wiser still. This does not mean mercy overrides Torah. Tolerance of sin in the name of mercy is the cause of almost all our ills, and youth, sad to say, is the leader of such anti-Torah tolerance. In fact, they tolerate almost everything EXCEPT Torah, because they are impetuous, inexperienced, and willing to experiment on society without understanding irreversible consequences.
The commandment tells us to “honor” the old and wise. What is “honor”? The minimum standard appears to be that one stand up when an old and wise person enters the room. But not every old person is wise, and not every wise person is older, so how do we know? Supposing an unfamiliar old person enters the room, is the younger person commanded to stand up “just in case” that older person is wise? Obviously, this can get quite out-of-hand very quickly and cause a rebellion against standing up, that is, against honoring the old and wise, that is, against Torah. Some moderation or clarification is necessary so that our days are not taken up with simply standing up every time an older person enters the room. This is a case for sages, and such things are open to debate, but at least we are talking about preservation of society and respect for wisdom. The opposite is that we do not honor anyone unless we want to honor, and thereby we disrespect and ignore wisdom and experience!
Such "honor" is also not likely to cause any major rebellion. More often, society fails due to disrespect against law, not unity for law. Society fails due to mindless arrogance, not mindful respect.
In modern times, we have seen a tectonic struggle between young and old, the "generation gap" as it were gone mad. Marxism teaches youth to disrespect the family unit, and therefore to disrespect parental control. Marxism teaches youth to hate wealth, and therefore to spit upon the work of those who came before, the elder. Marxism teaches youth to reject religion, and therefore to reject Torah. In every way, Marxism teaches against honoring the old and the wise, both literally and figuratively. Naturally, Marxism is hypocritical, for it expects youth to respect, in place of the old and wise, a different old and wise! That is, Marx.
What does Marx offer? An outlet for hormonal and emotional rebellion, the vague promise of a "dictatorship of the proletariat" that is made to sound like an ice-cream paradise, and a redistribution of all goods and services which cannot occur without theft nor be maintained without slavery. For the old and wise, this is madness, and nothing new. For impetuous and inexperienced youth, the disembowelment of society is strangely appealing. It is no wonder then that Torah commands honor for the old and wise, and not for youth, who are most prone to destroy Torah and stable society.
The commandment to honor the old and wise, even at its minimum to stand up in their presence, thus forces youth to acknowledge past wisdom and present success, to honor and respect it, even if, and while, unwise youth cannot stop thinking about some utopian future.
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