Friday, December 09, 2011

A New Need for Older People

In some cultures, the concept of village elders never went away.

The concept of the village elder may make a comeback- if we are lucky.  They served as repositories of knowledge in areas where knowledge was in short supply.   Village elders mostly went away in Western societies once the great bulk of people learned to read.   People did not need the elder as a depository of knowledge, they used books for that purpose.  In fact books often gave better advice that the village elder, because they were the words of the wisest elder in the nation on that given subject.

Information continues to explode.  Now we have TV, cable, radio, internet.  But while our culture has gained the means to distribute information, it has lost a coherent world view and to a large extent respect for truth.  The variety of voices has turned into a cacophony of noise.   But an information overload can produce some of the same problems that a dearth of information produces, especially when the information is contradictory.

In this post-modern age we know that people lie, corporations lie, governments lie, and the mass media which is run by the previous three can't be trusted any more than they can.  Young people are swept up in a flood of conflicting information.  Since this deception and confusion has been going on for many years, many young people have parents who are not a reliable source for wisdom.

How can they sort it all out?  I think the answer lies in a somewhat of a comeback for the idea of a village elder.    For most of us, if we think about it, there will be a person in our community who has lived a long time in a manner we can respect.   There will be someone who has successfully navigated through the lies and mis-information of the post modern age.   Like the village elders of old, they are a repository of knowledge, and many would be wise to seek out their council.


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