Ageism in the USA: The paradox of prejudice against the elderly

ASHTON APPLEWHITE: All prejudice is rooted in seeing a group as other than ourselves. Ageism is unique and uniquely weird in that that other is us, our own future older selves. It's rooted in this crazy idea that somehow if we eat enough kale, or don't think about it, we're not going to become old, when, of course, actually, no one wants to die young, and we all aspire to getting old.

And if we can become an old person in training, which is simply to form, like just a little leap of the imagination and acknowledge, someday I'm going to get old. That older you can be as far off on the horizon as you need it to be. But if you acknowledge that you, of course, are someday going to get old, and PS, it might not even all be so terrible, then you never get stuck on that hamster wheel of age denial. You are more likely to look at and listen to the older people around you, and make friends of all ages, which is so important, for people everywhere on the age spectrum.

America is a deeply consumer driven society and deeply influenced by popular culture. And neither of those are friends to aging. If you look at pop culture, if you look at advertising, if you look at billboards, younger people are doing and selling all the fun stuff. Older people never seem to do anything, but a few rich ones with great hair get to go on cruises. And everyone else just stays home and takes drugs, and not the fun drugs either. If a group is missing from the popular conversation, then we don't notice its concerns and we're not awake to it.

Over 50% of workers over 50 leave their jobs involuntarily. They are either fired or forced out. There is this massive growing body of workers. And we're talking 50 and up, we're talking people with 20 or 30 more years in which to support themselves. Most of them no longer have traditional pensions to support themselves. So they're thrown on their own ways they have to draw on Social Security earlier, which means that they get less out of the bucket. And if any younger people are thinking, well, too bad, you had a really good run of it, two things to think about. Social Security can very easily be fixed with very small changes, like, hello, taxing businesses at a higher rate, unlike Medicare, which really is a huge snake pit and very complicated to fix. But I hope there will be ton of Social Security left for my children and grandchildren. And I think it's very easy to make that happen.

But also, if older people can't support themselves, who is going to support us? You know you can't take us out and shoot us, even if you want to. And the world is full of grandparents who help their kids with tuition, with childcare. More resources have always flowed from older people to younger people, which seems entirely appropriate to me. So we really, really need to be careful about old versus young framing in economic arenas or anywhere else.

Another place you hear old versus young logic applied is the workforce. If only those old people would retire or get the heck out of dodge so we could have their jobs. When jobs are really few, if the only job in town is a barista at Starbucks, and a bunch of people are competing for them, that's true in the narrowest sense. You might have a 19-year-old and a 59-year-old who both really need that job. But in general, older and younger workers do not compete for the same jobs. And more tellingly, the amount and nature of labor is not fixed. Economists call this the fallacy of the lump of labor. And it has been debunked countless times. Otherwise, when women flooded into the workforce, all these guys would have been put out of work. And that's not the way it works. Or the time-honored example for Marxism, about Polish work factory workers and Irish factory workers competing, instead of organizing and striking to have their employer pay them all a decent wage.

Prejudice does that. It pits us against each other in order to maintain the status quo. We are facing an unparalleled set of challenges. I'm thinking in particular the health of the planet. Older people and younger people are going to have to collaborate to solve these problems. So when you hear old versus young rhetoric, question it.

  • Prejudice is typically perpetrated against 'the other', i.e. a group outside our own.
  • But ageism is prejudice against ourselves — at least, the people we will (hopefully!) become.
  • Different generations needs to cooperate now more than ever to solve global problems.


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Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

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BepiColombo

Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

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