Po­lit­i­cally In­cor­rect Se­niors

The pi­o­neer gen­er­a­tion has no time for sen­si­tiv­ity

Augustman - - Minority Report -

AT A RE­CENT SUN­DAY LUNCH with my girl­friend’s folks, the con­ver­sa­tion turned to travel mis­for­tunes and her dad re­counted the story of how his back­pack got stolen while he was check­ing in at a ho­tel in Paris. Nat­u­rally ques­tions prob­ing de­tails came from all around the ta­ble but the one that si­lenced the room came from my girl­friend’s grand­mother. Hear­ing that the ho­tel staff re­viewed the CCTV footage to iden­tify the cul­prit, the tiny el­derly wo­man shot from the hip, “Was he black?”

My girl­friend and I looked at each other, then burst out in laugh­ter, more from em­bar­rass­ment than amuse­ment.

Im­pa­tient at the lack of a re­ply, she asked the same ques­tion again, louder.

Most of us have en­coun­tered sit­u­a­tions where se­niors show no con­cern about being po­lit­i­cally cor­rect. Some sit­u­a­tions are fairly harm­less, but there are those that can be down­right mor­ti­fy­ing.

Like the time I was on the bus... I had my eyes glued on my Poké­mon Go app, ready to swipe at ev­ery Pokéstop.

When I looked up, I no­ticed a young man sit­ting nearby who was twitch­ing in­vol­un­tar­ily ev­ery few sec­onds ‒ Tourette’s, I pre­sumed. I felt a pang of pity for him when an old lady boarded the bus and sat next to him. As his spasms con­tin­ued, her eyes widened and she be­came un­easy. She stared point­edly at him and tried to get his at­ten­tion, but he just con­tin­ued to stare out of the win­dow, prob­a­bly to avoid ques­tions about his con­di­tion.

As the min­utes ticked by, the se­nior be­came vis­i­bly irate, shak­ing her head and tut­ting loudly. She then asked another pas­sen­ger what was wrong with the man, but the young lady, em­bar­rassed at the ques­tion, just said, “I think he’s not feel­ing well”, and looked away quickly. De­cid­ing she’d had enough, the old lady called for the driver to wait at a bus stop while she shuf­fled to another seat.

Sit­u­a­tions like th­ese lead one to won­der if older peo­ple re­alise that times have changed and for the most part, peo­ple now try to be more sen­si­tive to­wards one another ‒ whether out of their own will or merely ob­serv­ing so­cial norms.

When I had the chance to ask my grand­mother about her own in­ap­pro­pri­ate com­ments, she merely shrugged and said, “I’m just being hon­est.” She fully be­lieves she hasn’t said any­thing in­ap­pro­pri­ate and it’s dif­fi­cult to fault her be­cause that’s just the way she was raised and ac­cul­tur­ated into so­ci­ety. Eth­nic, phys­i­cal and so­cial dif­fer­ences were not tol­er­ated in her day. They were too busy try­ing to sur­vive the war to worry about being im­politic.

I for one am glad that we’ve made progress in that depart­ment. With re­gard to in­ap­pro­pri­ate com­ments made by se­niors, all we can do for now, with­out in­cit­ing too much out­rage, is shake our heads and tut dis­ap­prov­ingly at them.

Ter­ence’s grand­mother on her own in­ap­pro­pri­ate com­ments: I’m just being hon­est

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