The final frontier of self-determination

Published in Insights, The New Zealand Initiative’s newsletter, 7 December 2018

Life is unfair, especially as you get older. That is what Dutchman Emile Ratelband must have thought when the court of Arnhem rejected his request to lower his age by 20 years.

Arguing that being 69 was a disadvantage on online dating site Tinder, he wanted to reduce his official age to his ‘felt’ age.

To no avail. The judge ruled that the grey-haired TV personality, motivational coach and former politician could feel as old as he likes. Yet that does not change the date of birth in his passport. And admittedly, Ratelband looks every single of his 69 years.

Still, this is a crying injustice. In our enlightened society, it should be a human right to determine one’s age.

Age is the final frontier of self-determination. Everything else is already acceptable. We can change one’s name, appearance and nationality (but maybe not one’s accent). We can choose from scores of sexual orientations and genders. Even Santa doesn’t have to sport a white beard at the parade.

So now age. Age is more than a number. Just like gender, it is a fluid concept. That is because it is radically subjective, and it can change daily.

It is time for train conductors to accept my 4-year-old self and hand me a free ticket. People should not give me strange looks when I order a Happy Meal at McDonald’s. My GP has no right to charge me for visiting him on days I feel 13. Yet the bottle shop will sell me all the beer and spirits I want, and I will get to watch R-rated movies.

My driving licence will never expire since I refuse to feel like 75. For the purposes of New Zealand super and the SuperGold card, consider me at least 65. But for my health, trauma and income protection insurance, I will always be well under 40.

So many injustices are purely ageist. Once we have dealt with them, life will be more rewarding.

Why not choose the wrong career or partner only to erase those wasted years later and start over? Or make the right decisions straight away thanks to the wisdom that comes with age? Or let time heal all wounds by just turning forward life’s clock?

Ratelband was onto something when he went to Arnhem court. Let’s wish him well for the unavoidable appeal. Or for his next time travels.

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