Respecting your elders

The new school year was foreign territory, characterized by an abundance of alcohol and the common first week “screw the train, I’m just going to drive to school” mentality. Three stops at Shell, a car full of green P10 park tabs with $2.25 in bold print and an empty wallet later, I determined it was time to train it.

Prior to September, I was last seen on the C-Train back when cowboy hats, beer gardens and dirt-bag carnies dominated the scene. Yes, that’s right, the Calgary Stampede.

That night the train provided not only a heated spot to sit and taunt the local drunks (read: my friends) but also a safe ride home. It was not until my less-than-satisfactory experience on Calgary Transit last week that my positive notion about the train, and society in general, was forever altered.

Usually my observation of train folk keeps me very interested, but on this day I was utterly disgusted with what I witnessed. Lingering in the air was the aroma of half-eaten lunches and body odour as the train slid into Centre Street station. I witnessed five elderly individuals board the train. The moment I saw an elderly women standing with two bags, I immediately sprang up and insisted she sit. Much to my dismay, I cannot say the rest of the students on the train also rose to the occasion.

There were at least 15 seated adolescents who did not even attempt to move. Instead, they remained seated, blasting whatever pop-punk garbage I could make out through their headphones.

I am in no way trying to make myself look like a hero here, but is it not common decency to stand for the elderly, disabled or pregnant? When did society lose all its respect? And more importantly why?

If the guy sitting beside me had simply turned his head, he would have seen a blatant sign directly in front of him reading "priority seating for senior citizens and the disabled." But is a sign even necessary to realize that we, as young and for the most part healthy individuals, should be letting the elderly take a seat?

The answer is no.

Perhaps it is due to a modern-day society losing touch with family values. Children, and especially teenagers, are frequently spending less time at home with their parents. Due to this, they are missing out on a very important message, the very substructure of an affluent society–the message of respect.

Industrialization also plays a role. The gains of a highly evolved technological society simultaneously erode the power, prestige and respect the elderly are entitled to.

Modern living disconnects generations, and, over time, the term "elders," a designation with a positive undertone, has become "elderly," commanding far less prominence.

I would love to take any one of the youths on that train to Eastern Europe or Japan, and see each and every one of them get their asses kicked because, in those cultures, the prestige of older people is elevated, as it should be.

I will fully admit I fall into the category of those relentlessly bitching about how anyone over 65 should have their license revoked, because driving your land yacht in the middle lane going 40 in an 80 zone is rather bothersome.

However, if you’re going to protest seniors driving, then at least have enough decency to stand for them on the train and present them the respect they deserve. God knows it’s not going to kill you, and the regard you show may rub off on someone else.

Only then will it be possible to resurrect the dying virtue of respect in our communities.

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