“Don’t get me wrong, ma’am; I generally have great respect for my elders. They grew up in a world that was in many ways tougher than mine is. They’ve been around longer than me, and as a result are usually more experienced than me in many ways.
“But what I absolutely cannot stand, ma’am, is when my elders – yes, ma’am, that’s you – simply assume
this to be true. Your knowledge is not inherently more valuable or more valid than mine simply because you’re pushing fifty and I’m seventeen
. Your age is not a trump card that can be played in any disagreement over facts, and with respect, ma’am, in this case you’re wrong.
“And, ma’am, I’m afraid this applies to your point of view too. It’s a myth, ma’am, that we’re all entitled to our opinions
. Or at least, it’s a myth that we’re entitled to announce our opinions and expect that to be the end of it. If you exercise your right to offer an opinion, ma’am, then you accept the responsibility to defend that opinion should someone else differ in perspective. Both
sides have to agree to disagree for that to work, ma’am. You cannot instruct
me to do it.
“No ma’am; that’s not allowed. You’re not allowed to say that perhaps I’ll understand when I’m older and more mature. That’s a cop-out, I’m afraid, ma’am. If I am to respect my elders it is at least partly because they are mines of information, but what good is that if they won’t share? And when I’m an elder myself, what will I have to earn respect with if my
elders didn’t let me in on the secret?
“Absolutely, ma’am. I have no reason to doubt it. But the fact that you were radical in your youth does not by any standards of inductive reasoning mean that I am radical in mine. “Radical” cannot legitimately be used to describe exclusively that set of opinions that differs from your own.
I’m sorry ma’am, but I’m going to have to be quite firm on that one.
“Well, yes ma’am, from a certain perspective I am being disrespectful. But you are being demeaning, and if we’re deciding culpability then at least I have not dismissed any of your opinions out of hand. I have simply disagreed. That is, I presume, still allowed.
“I apologise, ma’am. I did not mean to be sarcastic. Still, I believe the point is valid.
“If that’s what you’ld like, ma’am. I’m very sorry you feel that way, but I’ve enjoyed our conversation greatly. Good day.”