You’ll Agree With Me When You’re Older
Recently (and by recently I mean a month ago) I was in an online argument with someone when they decided to use, as an argument, that I was young and that when I got to be older I would change my mind and come around to my opponent’s point of view. Needless to say, I nope’d out of that conversation too quickly to sum up all the reasons “You’ll agree with me in twenty years” is a terrible argument. But this is what blogs are for, so here:
First, it’s extremely condescending. So condescending, in fact, that it displays a prominent position on the Condescending Internet Argument Bingo card, right there at the top. It’s condescending because of the implications it makes about the younger person’s knowledge and experience. By assuming that my point of view would change as I aged, my opponent was basically saying, “You can’t possibly be right, because you’re younger than me!” Not only did my opponent completely ignore all of the actual points I was making, they essentially took the position that, in an argument between any two people, the older person always wins.
I could choose to be extremely charitable and note that most of the evidence brought up in that argument was anecdotal. In reality, my opponent was likely saying “I have more life experiences than you, so when the debate is between my life experiences and your life experiences, I win because I have more of them.” But this argument still fails. The underlying assumption my opponent was making was that as I got older, my life experiences would turn into their life experiences. It’s one thing to say “I have these experiences that show that your argument is not universal” and quite another to say “You will all become me in twenty years!”
Further, it often turns out that young people are very likely to get it right, while the older generations aren’t. For instance, statistics show that young people are overwhelmingly supportive of same-sex marriage, while seniors are still very much opposed. Similarly, young people approve of interracial marriage almost unanimously, while nearly a third of seniors are still against it. I sincerely hope my future opinions don’t end up reflecting my elders’.
And this raises a broader point about how intrinsically worthwhile the viewpoints of older generations are. Ideas have lifetimes, and an idea that was extremely valuable (or even popular) twenty, thirty, or forty years ago might not be as valuable or popular today. Times change, and experiences that were relevant a generation ago might not be relevant anymore. I’m going to go ahead and argue that the life experiences and ideas of younger people are actually more valuable because of their relevance to the issues and events that concern us now.
In short, playing the “age card” is not only insulting, but inaccurate. Being older doesn’t make your opinions and life experiences more valuable, nor does it give them any extra weight. If anything, it’s the opposite.
And if you disagree, I guess you’re just too old to understand.