Paul Theroux has announced that he is moving to Mexico. He feels the elderly in the US are “in superfluity”. They are slighted, ignored, and treated as deck cargo, not worth a thought, and occupying nice houses that could be occupied by the deserving young.
“I think of myself in the Mexican way”, commentedTheroux, “not as an old man but as most Mexicans regard a senior, an hombre de juicio, a man of judgment; not ruco, worn out, beneath notice, someone to be patronised, but owed the respect traditionally accorded to an elder, someone (in the Mexican euphemism) of La Tercera Edad, the Third Age, who might be called Don Pablo or tío (uncle) in deference.”
“Mexican youths are required by custom to surrender their seat to anyone older. They know the saying: Más sabe el diablo por viejo, que por diablo – The devil is wise because he’s old, not because he’s the devil. But “Stand aside, old man, and make way for the young” is the American way.”
The curious thing is that, until recently, many young British people ignored the old people standing on a Tube train. On the contrary, American servicemen in London were always scrupulously polite, leaping up to give my wife a seat. Now we are both a certain age we are offered seats almost every time we use the Tube; so young people have not lost their manners (or we look older!).
But on the general point, I don’t find that young people in America treat me as a piece of second hand furniture at all. Make them laugh and the years melt away. Epicureans should be attentive and respectful to people of all ages. It’s usually, although not always, reciprocated.