Monday, 25 July 2016

I am NOT your ‘ELDER’

I am not your elder.
That is not my culture, that is a term from another culture and it has absolutely no relevance to mine.
So please do not call me that.
I am a white Canadian guy and I have very little knowledge of Aboriginal culture; and as much as I may have learn about it, I cannot claim to ever fully understand it, as I am not in it.
From my admittedly limited understanding, Canadian Aboriginal culture treats the older members of their community with great respect — younger people are interested in what ‘elders’ have to say, and give them a pride of place, based on the notion that they may have gathered wisdom in their many years upon this earth.
This may be true of Canadian aboriginal culture; however in modern day Canada the situation is quite different.
I know what it is to be old in Canada today. My disabilities are treated with irritation and fear. (When I walk slowly on the street I am told in no uncertain terms to get a move on!) I live in a culture that only values youth — and the kind of unwrinkled, slender beauty that is associated with it. Before I open my mouth it is assumed that I probably won’t have anything important to say; I can see people bracing themselves for the interminable tirade of an old bore. I have yet to encounter a young person who values my experience. In my work I am constantly told that I have ‘had my day’ and that it is time for me to move aside for a contemporary point of view.
If I go to the movies or go online I am overwhelmed with youth culture — pretty people talking about and doing things I did and talked about years ago — all as if it was something new, and without history.
But listen. I’m not complaining.
No, really. 
You don’t believe me?
Well it’s my culture. I have lived with the advantages of being young in a youth-obsessed culture for many years, so now I must reap the disadvantages of being old in it. 
That’s just the way it goes.
I fully accept it.
What I’m complaining about are white people who appropriate an Aboriginal Canadian term and call me their ‘elder.’
I think it’s an unfortunate trend that accompanies the earnest and positive efforts to rectify some of the wrongs committed by the Canadian government against Aboriginal Canadians in the past.
All well and good.
 But people are throwing around terms like ‘two spirited’ and ‘elder’ as if they were the same as ‘queer’ and ‘old’ —- and as if it were all just a big game of Pokemon Go.
Well it’s not.
I know that for most people in Canada, age is not a matter of respect. They are in fact quite uncomfortable as they watch me stumble, — on my unlit way — to ‘dusky death.’
Respectfully — you just don’t know what you’re talking about.

So please don’t call me ‘elder.’