Are older people always right?

The 2022 Global Citizen Festivals were held in NYC and Accra just last month – for the first time, I tuned in to watch as one of the locations was in my native Ghana. It was a well organised event that I enjoyed and quite an eye opener to many causes being championed by change makers globally. As well as the many performances, there were videos and talks by celebrities and change makers to highlight some of the projects they were working on. In NYC, Nancy Pelosi was booed by the crowd when she made a surprise appearance to talk about a climate legislation that had recently been enacted. I could understand the section of the crowd that booed to some extent, they had come to a festival and did not want to listen to a politician. On the other hand, I could also imagine it being quite embarrassing for the US house speaker, however, apart from the various media outlets reporting about this, not much fuss was made about it after the event. Meanwhile, in Accra, the president of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo also made an appearance and he like Nancy Pelossi was also booed. I am sure there were several reasons why some sections of the crowd decided to heckle and ask for him to leave the stage. But I am sure at the core of the boos was a need to have the concert continue without having to listen to a politician. The difference between the two booing events is what happened after the booing of these political figures.

In most African societies, anyone in a position of power or an elderly person is beyond reproach. So when the president was booed at the Black Star Square, the very ground where independence was declared and the nation Ghana was born just over 65 years ago, most people over the age of 50 thought it very disrespectful for the mostly under 30 crowd to behave as such. The discussions have been ongoing for days now with some politicians and members of parliament coming out to rebuke the youth and some even descending to insults. This then started conversations on various media platforms about the entitlement of older people in some African societies, especially in the Ghanaian one I come from. Without being too political, there have been for some time now dissatisfaction mainly from the youth about how the current government had been ruling the country. Several attempts had been made by the youth to engage the leaders and they had simply ignored them – so the festival was a perfect occasion for some to make their grievances known. However, because the culture does not encourage young people to criticise or question older people and those in leadership, this incident has shocked many while making others re-think this culture of silence.

Not too long ago, I wrote about overbearing people and shared a personal story of an older person I knew – it was this same culture of older people being right always that made this person treat me the way they did. For me, it was the way this person behaved when I finally questioned how they treated me – they were older and what they said or thought was the gospel; and I was not buying it. As I read many posts on social media after the booing incident in Accra, I could see that many people under the age of 50 were tired of this practice and even more so when someone in parliament stated that young people were not intelligent enough to be in position of governance or relevance – it was this statement that antargonised many people and made them rethink this notion. People realised that the older generation had no respect for the younger generation and that, these people only engaged the younger generation when they needed something from them. This then got people thinking about all the younger people that had done impressive things world wide including young people who started and led big businesses. What was so different about these younger people in other societies?

This practice is so ingrained in most African societies that most parliamentarians do not visit their constituents except when election is approaching. The people on the other hand have been programmed to not question their leaders from when they were children, however, this is changing. Recently, there have been instances where parliamentarians had visited constituencies and the people had chased them out for their non performance. When I think about this practice, it is easy to look at politics but the problem is in every facet of society. It is in schools where children are most imes afraid to question teachers because they are adults and cannot be challenged. These children become timid and grow up to behave the same as the adults that taught them, because it is all they know – a vicious cycle I am hoping breaks soon. This very same issue was raised by Ghana’s education minister recently and while I was happy that he had raised this issue, he did not really provide any solution to this issue. Then there is religion – people cannot question their religious leaders and I have seen so many being abused and not being able to express how they feel or question certain practices. The issue is, when you question these leaders, you get ostracised and people are afraid of being on their own.

The final one is when this happens at home – for me this is the most dangerous. Children in most Ghanaian homes are not allowed to question their parents, especially their fathers. Some go as far to label children who are raised differently or raised outside the country as problematic because they are ‘rebellious’ for talking back. The result is a dysfunctional family system where the word of one parent is the gospel and no one can question it. This has stripped many children of their creativity and individuality – something that I know too well. I could go on and on about how this practice is destroying our societies – many young people with innovative ideas are unable to get the support and mentorship they require because the people with the experience do not trust the younger people to bring their ideas out and be a guide for them. The older people in these societies, simply think that they should not mentor anyone or work alongside them but rather suppress these young people who then get extremely frustrated with their only outlet being demonstrations or heckling their leaders in order to get heard. Unfortunately, their leaders feel entitled to the praise and admiration of these young people and feel offended when they are criticised or heckled. But I am hopeful, that change is on the horizon and that these societies will do away with these archaic practices and engage the youth to help build a future that respects everyone, regardless of their age.

Thank you for taking time to read, comment and share your experiences – continue to share your experiences so we can effect the change we need.


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