Intellectual decay

Published February 27, 2024

ONE of the most prominent features of the subcontinent’s culture is respect for the elderly. Age, among other factors like wealth and social status, is a key determinant of a person’s worthiness. The amount of respect you deserve is proportional to the number of years you have lived.

To top it off, the notion of respect materialises itself in the form of direct obedience, which means that the more respect you have, the more authority you will command in matters of common interests. Such a practice exists because of a perception that with age comes experience, and experience brings wisdom.

But, experience is almost always passive. The act of experience alone, therefore, does not suffice the conditions of being wise. The ‘reaction to’ and ‘interpretation of’ different stimuli of experiences can unveil the layers of wisdom before oneself.

This act of reacting to and interpreting experiences is what we refer to as know- ledge. Now this is something which demands a conscious effort and an active approach. Individuals having been through the same set of experiences will interpret them according to their own understanding and, hence, end up acquiring different levels of wisdom.

Knowledge brings wisdom. And since knowledge is not age-bound, the idea of respect being age-dependent should be debunked. Respect, being a higher virtue, transcends beyond the limits of age.

Furthermore, another important question is that of the relation between respect and obedience. Should respect, as is the norm, be equated with obedience? Given the rapidly changing dynamics of the present world, it should not.

The last few decades have transformed the world at an unprecedented rate, and the generation gap has been rather sharply amplified by technological advances.

With evolving technology, cultural ideals also evolve, necessitating an inclusive culture where the youth also enjoy a say in the decision-making process. Depriving them of a voice and imposing obsolete ideas upon them carries the seeds of societal decay. Conformity, blind obedience and discouraging dissent cause intellectual stagnation.

It is high time we adopted an open-minded approach and admitted that respect and dissent could go together. Actions prompted by independent, critical and informed analysis of facts should be valued.

Sardar Saifullah
Abbottabad

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2024

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