serene ambition™

transforming the culture of aging

Victory over OJ Day

Posted by Jim Selman on 11/21/06

Today they announced that the OJ confession book won’t be published and he won’t get the limelight on Fox Television. This is a great example of the kind of change that can come about when enough people ‘take on’ the system or the culture and take a stand. It is to Rupert Murdoch’s credit that he was listening.

I think it is important, however, to take note that this doesn’t have to be a one-time, one-event happening. I have been suggesting that if enough of us take a stand for a positive context of aging, we can transform the culture for everyone. Moreover, I have suggested that if we don’t transform the culture of aging from one of decline to one of possibility, then the same ‘critical mass’ phenomena that can produce positive breakthroughs can become a collective voice of resignation and massive amounts of human suffering.

OJ was a product of a sensationalistic media machine, a spectator society, the seductive force of a bandwagon, and, perhaps, a shared lack of responsibility on the part of all of us for the consequences of our choices as consumers of media and how we participate in day-to-day conversations. Just as the ‘hallway’ conversations in any organization create the reality as much as or more than the official decisions made behind closed doors and in meetings, so too do the conversations we have in the coffeehouse shape the practical reality of our society.

As we learned in the 1960s and 1970s, when people stop being observers and begin to ‘walk their talk’, big changes happen—whether it be a civil rights movement, an end to a war in Viet Nam or the dethroning of a President after Watergate. The point is that people do create the culture—the ‘way it is’—through conversations every day. When we are cynical, resigned or take on the role of ‘devil’s advocates’, we participate in perpetuating the status quo. When we communicate with those that are accountable, when we make our commitments clear, when we speak with our wallets and carry our passion into everyday conversations, then reality becomes malleable and previously unreasonable and even impossible-to-imagine changes can and do happen.

In his recent best-selling book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell pointed to examples of sudden shifts happening in society when an idea, product or movement reaches a critical mass of individuals. Ideas that are marginal or on the fringe one day can become mainstream and ‘of course’ almost over night. We forget that ‘women’s rights’ were a strange idea and very unlikely to come about less than a century ago. Leaders in the women’s movement worked for several decades until suddenly, within less than a 10-year period beginning with the modern Feminists, this all changed so that few remember a time when women were not to be considered ‘equal’. While it may take longer for particular practices and circumstances to change (such as membership in exclusive clubs or equal pay for equal work), there is no longer a question of it happening. It is only a matter of time.

I propose the same opportunity and challenge exists with us today related to how we view and relate to older persons and how we ourselves are relating to and experiencing the aging process. I am calling for a world in which we can enthusiastically look forward to aging, where who we are is more important than how old we are, and where the end of life is experienced as having as much or more possibility as any other time in life. With 70 million of us entering into the last third of our lives, we have more than enough human consciousness and energy to transform the culture in which we are aging—to clean up the messes around us before we die!!!

If we can stop OJ and stop a huge money-making opportunity in its tracks on principle, then it is not too much to imagine we can change the paradigm of aging. I can think of no other legacy that would be more empowering and enlivening to those who follow than to know that getting older is ‘good news’, a positive experience and not something to be feared or denied.

© 2006 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.

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One Response to “Victory over OJ Day”

  1. Rhea said

    I, too, believe that social change is possible. “The Tipping Point” illustrates that idea wonderfully. I think that more and more baby boomers are seen as ‘younger’ and ‘cooler’ than previous generations of 50-year-olds. The social change is already occurring as prominent boomers/elders like Bill Clinton, Cher, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, etc. are aging. The media is reflecting this perception, as well as creating it.

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