Age and political philosophy

21 Feb

Today while driving into work I was trying to find an anarchism podcast to listen to. I wouldn’t exactly call myself an anarchist, but it is a political philosophy I’m interested in.  (I also have a soft spot for much maligned, often misrepresented philosophies, hence my attraction to atheism)

I clicked on one podcast link from a liberal news group I had found the day before, expecting to hear a podcast about what anarchism is as a political philosophy. Instead it was a 3 minute long clip of the host dismissing anarchism because of an incident he witnessed in a coffee shop.

Two people sitting at a table near him were having an argument about anarchism. The person arguing for anarchism was in his early 20’s and the person arguing against anarchism was significantly older. These people caught the podcast host’s eye when the younger of the two became very loud and rude, interrupting everyone else in the coffee shop by screaming how anarchism was the only way to true freedom.

The host then made some snide remark about how the youth had learned this through his extensive life experience.

That really upset me. Yes the youth was being an asshole, and was probably not representing his philosophy very well by conducting himself the way he did, but it was out of line for the host to dismiss a philosophy someone has simply based on age.

There is a famous quote wrongly attributed to Winston Churchill that has always irked me for the same reason:

“If you’re not Liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not Conservative when you’re 35, you have no brain.”

The mentality goes something like this: I’m older (and therefore automatically wiser and smarter) and so any philosophy I ascribe to must be correct. Any philosophy a younger person subscribes to that conflicts with mine is obviously wrong due to their lack of life experience. 

I’m sorry, but that’s ridiculous. It would be just as fallacious for me to dismiss all elderly conservatives based on the notion that they’re conservative simply because they’re old and thus set in their ways, afraid of change, and are uncomfortable that the world doesn’t resemble some idyllic utopia of their imagined past.

People of all age groups ascribe to any number of philosophies. To Flatly say “all anarchists/liberals/whatever are young misguided kids and therefore wrong” is simply unfair and false.

Ideas should be judged on their merits, not on the age of the person espousing them.

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