Ditch The Binary

"Everybody's talkin' about Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism, This-ism, That-ism, ism, ism, ism."

Dear Mr. Jagger

It has come to out attention that the drummer of your band - The Rolling Stones - has just turned 78, but continues to perform with your band. In fact, we further note that you yourself will be 75 later this month. Both of you, along with your other band members are long past retirement age, but you continue to perform.

Please be advised that with immediate effect, the current Rolling Stones lineup is being retired to make way for younger people that are more in tune with the music market place and the needs of the audience.

… said no letter ever.

This came to mind last week as I was reading this post from Dave Winer.

I'm legally unemployable starting next year. Most companies and governments require their employees to retire at 65. 

‘Legally unemployable’ … I had never thought about it this way before. But through one lens, Dave is absolutely right. Once you hit retirement age there is no legal obligation for any company to hire you. No need to beat about the bush, it is perfectly legal to say; “sorry - you are too old to work here”.

Yes there are laws (that vary from country to country) that prevent this kind of bias - if you are already employed - but even then, you aren’t exactly ‘safe’. It is common knowledge that these laws are continually being pushed. And it is getting worse.

“For 50 years, it has been illegal under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or ADEA, for employers to treat older workers differently than younger ones … but in recent years, employers’ pleas for greater freedom to remake their workforces to meet global competition have won an increasingly sympathetic hearing. Federal appeals courts and the U.S. Supreme Court have reacted by widening the reach of the ADEA’s exceptions and restricting the law’s protections.”

This from a ProPublica report in December last year ... where they also write;

“Through 2016, our analysis found that between the time older workers enter the study and when they leave paid employment, 56% are laid off at least once or leave jobs under such financially damaging circumstances that it’s likely they were pushed out rather than choosing to go voluntarily.”

I have had a few exchanges this past week on this topic and at one point was introduced to Ashton Applewhite (Thank you Jean). There’s a lot to take in and in all honesty I haven’t - yet. But this talk is inspiring.

“Look at gender. We used to think of it as a binary, male or female, and now we understand it's a spectrum. It is high time to ditch the old-young binary, too.”

Her book is already part of the People First Reading List and I have no doubt that I will be circling back to some of her ideas at a later time, for example, when she says;

“Ageism cuts both ways. All ‘-isms’, racism, sexism, homophobia are socially constructed ideas and that means we made them up, and they can change over time.”

I was reminded of this People First tenet.

More to come on this very important topic, because like so much in the People First lexicon, it is all connected. For example, next week, I will argue why ‘Work-Life Balance’ solves the wrong problem really well and will introduce you to the spectrum I use, that obfuscates the need for any work-life balance.

The linking theme through all of this is to stop thinking ‘binary’ and start thinking ‘spectrum’. When you do that, a lot of things fall into place. Age is just the start.

To conclude, we opened with an imaginary musical scenario, let’s end with a real one.

“I hope I die before I get old.”

The Who’s Pete Towensend was 20 years old when he wrote that line and Roger Daltrey’s approach to how he sang the song was inspired by John Lee Hooker (who would have been 48 years old at the time … just 17 years younger than the lady that inspired the lyric.

Townsend never quantified ‘old’ at the time, though later in life he went on record saying that “old meant very rich” (sic). He turned 74 earlier this year and has a net worth north of $100 million. He’s definitely at the ‘old’ end of the age spectrum, but still not as rich as that inspirational lady - which I guess is one explanation how he and Roger’ can still perform the song 54 years later without a trace of irony.

Irony? It’s only ironic if you assume that it is a young person singing about an older generation. The irony is lens dependent. Watch this performance of that song by ‘The Zimmers’, whose lead vocalist was 90 at the time - and as they sing (without irony)

Why don't you all f-fade away (talkin' 'bout my generation)
And don't try to d-dig what we all s-s-say (talkin' 'bout my generation)
I'm not trying to 'cause a b-big s-s-sensation (talkin' 'bout my generation)
I'm just talkin' 'bout my g-g-generation (talkin' 'bout my generation)

ask yourself - who are they singing about?

Post Script - if you got this far maybe you were trying to find out where John and Yoko’s bagism chant fitted in. Other than the very obvious music themed aspect to this week’s newsletter, important to note that bagism was inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s words;

"One sees rightly only with the heart, the essential is invisible to the eyes.”

Now if only employment worked that way. You get the job not because of your gender, your race, your religion, your color, your age … but your knowledge, your skill, your passion, your wisdom, your talent … i.e. whether you can do the job at hand and deliver more value than anyone else that is prepared to do that job.

Many Thanks For Your Attention and please do forward the email to colleagues, friends and family that want to join us on this journey. It takes more than a village!