(And its surroundings)
NICOLA PALMARINI, Director, of the UK National Innovation Centre for Ageing Director
Just a month ago, a headline in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica read: ‘Vanessa Ferrari beyond time
and history: silver medal in the floor exercises at thirty years old.’ Thirty years old, that is – let’s be
clear – old.
At the same time, in the same newspaper, in the article ‘Do you hear the scream of youth?’ Riccardo Luna celebrated the youth of Tamberi (29) and Jacobs (26), symbols of the generation (which one?) of ‘let’s change everything’. From the pages of the Corriere, Antonio Polito echoed him: ‘Sport has all 3 of the key factors for success in today’s world: it is young, it is inclusive and it is meritocratic.’
Let’s try to understand: Hend Zaza or Kokona Hiraki were in Tokyo aged 12, so what does that make them? Because if they were the ‘young’ ones, all the others would be hopelessly ‘old.’
Without mentioning other Olympians like Kevin Durant (32), April Ross (39) and Mary Hanna (64). Can we therefore say that sport is ‘young’ (and therefore according to Polito’s syllogism ‘successful’)? The question is, once again: what is ‘young,’ what is ‘old’? And, more importantly, what does age add to a narrative? Are those medals worth more or less?
I’m asking Luna and Polito (who also happens to be the author of a fine essay on ageing) because I’d like them to explain how they see it: where is the line that separates youth and old age in sports and, therefore, according to their analogy, in life?
Their articles exploit youth with that somewhat superficial haste that has brought us this far, to celebrate what is young as good, what is old as bad, powerless or socially and economically useless.
That somewhat facetious haste that I found again during ‘Next Gen It’ a winking (can we say it was an attempt to cover one’s ass?) event organised at the beginning of the summer that encapsulated that collection of stereotypes that framed the error of perspective triggered by the Next Generation Fund and resulted in a misunderstanding of ‘who’ would be the future, ‘who’ the future would belong to, ‘who’ should build the future and ‘who’ should benefit from this future.
The event, organised by Repubblica, was demagogic and a bit anachronistic because it tried to celebrate ‘this scream’ of rebellion of the young (Gianmarco Tamberi?) against the old (Vanessa Ferrari?), instead of trying, finally, to go beyond the easy consensus and suggest a narrative based on the observation of the demographic reality of the planet, move a step beyond this sterile generational conflict and launch the only meaningful message to
design the future we have in front of us: do it together.
In my opinion, it is not true, as Polito claims, that ‘we will not create another “economic miracle” without young people.’ I believe that we won’t do it if we don’t systematically involve ‘young people’ and ‘old people’ in a strategic project.
Especially in Italy, the second oldest country in the world!
Nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary. If they had organised a festival of meetings and exchanges between generations, instead of the celebration of an unspecified young age, perhaps they would have given an implicit but strategic piece of advice to this (and many other) governments, suggesting that the future is no longer designed by stirring up the umpteenth social conflict or a war between generations (according to Stan Druckenmiller: there already has been and the kids have lost it), but by creating an intergenerational platform capable of ‘putting the arrow in,’ bringing together a country of bellwethers (including demographics) and showing the rest of the world that the ‘Next Generation fund’ capable of shaping the shape of innovation for the next 50 years is made by the All Generations Party.
While Orietta Berti, Ornella Vanoni and Gianni Morandi duet with pseudo-young or real young people to sanction the sacrosanct truth that at the end of the day, life is all a remix, just a remix, nothing but a remix, Luna relaunched a sort of ‘youth, springtime of beauty.’ It’s a lyric that has always had a certain pull, no matter what music accompanies it: whether it’s by Led Zeppelin or their Euro-celebrated remix called Måneskin. In his piece on the youth values of sport, Polito commented: ‘Our Constitution, which is the most beautiful in the world, does not contain the word “sport” even once.’
Not realising that the word ‘age’ does not appear in Article 3 of this beautiful Constitution either, where it talks about discrimination. And yet this discrimination also exists, it is called ageism. It is as widespread as it is unconscious, to the point that no one takes the trouble to fight it. On the contrary.