Debate of the Week-Does age matter?
IN THE NEWS: South Koreans have become years younger overnight after an antiquated Korean law was brought to international standards. Some say there is cause for celebration, whilst others think it might be time for a complete overhaul.
They may just be the most enviable people in human history. Since the beginning of time, humans have been trying to get younger. Now, the people of South Korea have achieved it.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, one of our oldest recorded pieces of literature, details the journey of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, as he seeks the secret to eternal life. In the 5th Century BC, Herodotus wrote of a much-desired Fountain of Youth. And the famed conqueror Alexander the Great is said to have sought a river that would “heal” age.
But who knew it could be as simple as just changing the calendar? Just recently, South Koreans woke up to find themselves a year or two younger after a new law took effect to align South Korea’s traditional age-counting system with international standards.
In the traditional system, when babies are born they become one year old. Then, they gain a year on 1 January — meaning that a baby born on 31 December would become two years old the next day.
Many of us are paralysed by the fear of ageing. Shakespeare called it a “hideous winter”. Maya Angelou described being old as being “like a sack left on the shelf”. But is it really that important?
To a certain degree, age has to count for something. A toddler cannot use a forklift. Few 90-year-olds could climb Mount Kilimanjaro. And we have laws in place that dictate what age adolescents should be allowed to drink or vote.
But in other ways, the meaning and importance of age has never been fixed. The concept of teenagerhood did not even exist until the 1940s. And up until recently there was also little writing about old age due to its stigma.
Now, we have more structured ideas about what it means to be what age. But some people think that these ideas have no substance at all.
Does age matter?
Just as there is a huge difference between someone aged five and someone aged 10, there are differences too between people at different stages of their adult lives. Age helps us to understand other’s maturity and life experiences.
There are genius prodigies just 10 years old, and there are plenty of immature adults. The important things are personality, maturity and life experience, none of which can be accurately measured by how many years you have lived.
Age matters to the extent that we need to protect people at vulnerable stages in their lives, such as children and the elderly. But respect is owed to everyone, regardless of their age.
Enviable-Worthy of jealousy or envy. Uruk-One of the most important cities in ancient Mesopotamia. Herodotus-An ancient Greek historian and geographer. Alexander the Great-A king of ancient Macedon who is renowned as one of the greatest military leaders in history. Maya Angelou-An iconic 20th century American writer and civil rights activist. Stigma-A mark of shame or disgrace that sets a person apart from others.