Thursday, 7 July 2011


While in Africa the issue of age is sacred; in most developed countries it is considered “just a number”, if we may paraphrase a common Mzungu expression. To demonstrate a growing cultural trend many celebrities are nowadays applying anti aging substances such as Botox treatment and creams to look younger.
Botulinum Toxin is a potent neuro toxin which may affect and even poison nerve cells. In past twenty years Botox or Dysport, (its commercial name) has been used cosmetically.  When you look at the faces of some celebrities who have taken these very expensive treatments you sense their smile is no longer natural; their facial muscles have been altered.

In December 2009, former Miss Argentina, Solange Magnano died due to a “gluteoplasty” procedure to change her buttocks. Early this year a 20 year old black British student died after receiving silicone injections to enlarge her buttocks.
The whole Botox phenomenon is connected to age psychology.
Presenter, Miriam O'Reilly who won £150,000 against age discrimination, pic by Roland Hoskins.
In January 2011, former BBC presenter Miriam O’Reilly, won a case against age discrimination after she was dropped from her program, Country File.  The 53 year old fought and won her case after her and fellow female presenters in their 40’s and 50’s were unfairly dismissed from presenting.
While older people in poorer countries are far more respected and sometimes consulted for their wisdom, in the rich world the more numbers you get the less value you have.
Recent news headlines have been discussing how badly Wazee (the elderly) are treated when sick or dying in care homes across the UK.
One of the most common jobs taken by immigrant people is caring for them. Most part time carers hail from in Asia, Latin America and Africa where tolerance for older people is part of the culture. The other day such an employee who is an East African born media graduate told me: “I carry out a service that is usually done by the extended family back home. But here no one wants it. These societies have lost those values.”
Press reports highlight elderly people being robbed, beaten even raped, on a street level. In care homes nurses have been said to verbally and even slap older people.
Many Western languages (including the English language) do not have a greeting like Shikamoo whereby age differences are acknowledged. These basic tenets can be seen in the way some parents allow their children to call them by their first names.
Such behaviour is so deeply steeped in many facets of life that it has affected the behaviour of younger people. It is common to hear teenagers, fearlessly “demanding respect” from older people; claiming it is their right. It is also a result of parental values. How do you expect a younger person to respect her elders when her parents call her a friend?
Young people respond to such values accordingly.
News of knife stabbings in London has become regular media material. Early this week a 16 year old Zimbabwean boy, Yemurai Kanyangarara, was stabbed to death. Teachers of the boy explained how polite the deceased had been. Like most African children who come to London he was raised to respect older people and be polite. In 2000 a ten year old Nigerian boy, Damilola Taylor, equally said to be polite and who loved studying was also knifed by other kids.  Politeness and good manners are not what teenagers raised in such a city find attractive. Certain parents are sending their children to Africa and the Caribbean to be disciplined.  
Lately, World Strictest Parents, a reality programme has beamed extremely badly behaved teenagers being shipped to live for a week with rigorous overseas families in USA, Kenya, Holland, Australia, and Barbados. The young people are usually between 15 to 18 years old.
I am not arguing that caning of children is the way out. Nor am I saying that any older person however stupid and reactionary should be listened to. However, it is imperative to remind ourselves that values taken for granted in our African culture are still useful.  They have has been lost in wealthier countries. When we aspire for modern technology, science and the internet we are certainly looking for a better life. In this quest for progress, nevertheless, let us not forget that we, too, possess very, very rich values.
Published in Citizen, Friday 8th July,2011.
It has even affected employment and a new policy called Ageism was introduced recently to fight discrimination at the working place. Highly regarded television stations have been said to engage younger, prettier looking female presenters in place of older, experienced ones.

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