From the October 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard
In primitive society one of the greatest sources of human survival was the knowledge of the elderly. If you lived in a gathering/ hunting society the knowledge of where plants occurred, where animals existed and at what times of the year was essential for human society. Knowledge was power. So much was this the case for human survival that one of the first forms of religion was Ancestor Worship.
We no longer live in a gathering/hunting society, we live in a modern capitalist society. This is a society where the majority work for a wage or a salary and a tiny minority live off the surplus value that they produce. Inside this society attitudes towards the elderly are completely different. If they are poor they are looked upon as a burden by the capitalist class and some sort of creature, that had they any decency would just disappear.
Away back in 1908 when state pensions were first paid in the UK there was the view that this piece of reform would end old-age poverty. People like David Lloyd George and Charles Booth hailed the legislation as a mayor breakthrough on the abolition of old-age poverty.
"Yet 100 years on, 2.5 million pensioners – more than a fifth of all those aged over 65 – still struggle to pay their bills and keep their home warm" (London Times, 31 July). Such is the nature of capitalism and the lick-spittles that operate it that they have come up with a great new idea that will save the owning class millions.
"People will be forced to work until they are aged 70 if the basic state pension is to survive into the next century, according to the Government' s pension supremo. Lord Turner of Ecchinswell, the architect of radical reform in which the retirement age will rise to 68 by 2046, said that with no limit in sight for life expectancy, people are going to have to work even longer than he proposed" (London Times, 31 July).
When I was very young an elderly man taught me about capitalism. One of the lessons he taught me was – the owning class need young men and women to provide for them, but we don't need them. As in primitive society we must heed the elderly – knowledge is power.