These years, the media widely notice even the smallest behavior or speech of Elon Musk, the American super billionaire, whose ambitions go beyond conventional methods. He is known for having controversial opinions and specific views. A fragment of one of his interviews has once again been noticed in cyberspace. This piece of the interview is thought-provoking in every way prompting each of us to think about it in our way.
The journalist asked the CEO of Tesla Elon Musk whether he has a plan to increase human lifespan or whether he wants to live longer than usual or not. After a few seconds of excruciating silence, Musk responded by saying that if humans were to delay their deaths, human progress would also be delayed. He said that we should not try to prolong human life, arguing that people living long will cause society to stagnate. He stated that people do not change their mentalities, and if people do not die or die late, the world will remain captive to old and outdated ideas and there will be no room for new ideas. He criticized that many of the world’s leaders are old, causing democracy to suffer and create a generation gap, and the old leaders cannot establish a relationship with the youth and the new generation.
Certainly, these statements of Musk hold validity in any society, and gerontocracy exists as a universal disease and problem. However, fewer countries in the world have set a record of being trapped in old and outdated mentalities like Afghanistan. To provide a general answer to the question of what is the root cause of the problems and chaos in Afghanistan, it can clearly be said that retrospect and pathological attachment to old ideas and fear of encountering new ideas are the root causes of these problems. The Afghan society is one of the most traditional societies in the world which can hardly renew its ideas, understand the needs of the day, and adapt itself accordingly.
Respecting the elderly signifies a good tradition and should be adhered to. However, if this issue is utilized as a cover for denying new methods and ideas and tightening the sphere for the younger generations, it will result in an organization or society lagging behind the changes of the time. It will also make the young generation unable to seek a solution to the ever-increasing challenges that every society is facing today. Undoubtedly, such an event yields dire consequences in the long run.
Karl Popper, an Austrian-British analytical philosopher, stated that in the definition of democracy, above all, it should be considered that people or institutions can remove someone as effortlessly as they can elect someone when they change their mind. In other words, democracy in a country demonstrates its true value and main power when it can depose leaders if needed. This is the reason why, in prevailing democracies in the world, a specific term has been set for the presidents or prime ministers, after which they have to hand over power to someone else or participate in the elections again so that if they win, they can only stay in power for one more term.
In Afghanistan, even those who strongly claim to support democracy and modernity, in practice, try to monopolize all the power and wealth, silencing the voices of the opposition and only allowing their blind, deaf, and safe disciples and followers to operate. The parties or institutions that are created in this country share no similarity with the modern parties or institutions in today’s world. These parties or institutions do not have modern organizations, nor do they have an accountability system. The leader in such parties and institutions is selected arbitrarily, and no one reserves the right to hold them accountable in any field, as daring to do it will lead to the destruction of their future.
Naturally, when parties and groups lack the spirit of democracy, they will consequently promote nauseating individualism and heroism instead of encouraging people to build institutions and collectivism. Meanwhile, the creation of a new order requires overcoming individualism, emphasizing figures, and turning to collectivist and competent organizing institutions. Any society, especially the Afghan society, which is in poverty and bankruptcy in terms of political culture, needs organizations and fronts that are committed to democratic values and adhere to pluralism and respect for citizens’ rights, more than it needs figures and personalities. Now is the era for renowned or anonymous citizens who, with their activities and actions, turn to creating new values marginalizing the old value system.
The vast majority of Afghanistan’s population is made up of young people. Afghan society stands as one of the youngest societies in the world. In this sense, our society possesses a huge capital that if the leaders handle it wisely, they can overcome the challenges by taking advantage of their facilities. Therefore, underestimating the role of young people under the pretext of experience and young age, preferring the elderly, and considering their words as a criterion for action, is a manifestation of self-destruction perpetuating the prevalence of unfair norms in society. Considering this issue, criticism of the gerontocratic culture, whose effects extend to all aspects of the lives of the residents of this country and are not limited only to politics, is an urgent necessity for the growth and development of society.
Fighting the exclusivity of the old people in the field of politics and elsewhere is conditioned to the youth’s entrance to the field and gaining political experience. Several decades of warfare and politics in Afghanistan reveal that the old men of war, politics, and economy are never willing to share competencies and only use the youth as a tool. The youth must understand the fact that in the atmosphere of gerontocratic culture, the youth will hold little significance. In this sense, the youth must use all their power to criticize and question this culture and expose its disadvantages. Gerontocratic culture is conservative and against new ideas and methods of thinking and living.
Our criticism is that the Taliban do not pay attention to people’s opinions and do not take public opinion into serious consideration and their work is based on blind obedience to the leader, who issues orders demanding the soldiers to act. If we do not deceive ourselves and be exposed to the facts, we must ask ourselves what is the situation of non-Taliban groups and congregations? Are they distinct from the Taliban in this regard? Which of the parties and groups that consider themselves to be against the Taliban are committed to the democratic distribution of power within their party and group and do not encourage unquestioning obedience to the Peshwa and leader? Which of these groups has been willing to adapt the democratic process within their party and institution over several decades and allow “deserving less experienced” to emerge?
Everything is clear in backward societies. Even in democratic societies, elders and elderly leaders are not willing to readily hand over the opportunity to others. The United States currently serves as one of the clear examples. At one time, Westerners criticized the camp of communism that its leaders had become old and stupid and the fate of tens of millions of people was in the hands of people who lacked intelligence and wisdom, but now western societies have also faced this problem to some extent. One of the ways to challenge gerontocracy is the coherent, scientific, and frank criticism of the elders and the old leaders. Seniors should be forced to hand over the reins of affairs to others, or at least involve the younger ones in decision-making.
In the society of Afghanistan, which is heavily enslaved by traditions, the elimination of gerontocracy is not feasibly possible and requires profound cultural and educational changes. Until the importance of the new generation and the youth in building the future of the country is recognized, there will be no news of dismantling the old leaders-oriented system. This is why working towards cultural and educational transformation is very important.
Contrary to conservatives’ claim that the elderly possess more experience and knowledge, thanks to technological developments, transformations in every field occur so effortlessly and rapidly that much of that past knowledge and experiences are invalidated becoming ineffective. Although ignoring the traditions and experiences of the past is not a rational thing, consecrating those traditions and experiences and not testing them by today’s intellect is also not a right and logical thing. In this field, one should stay away from extremes and take the middle way.