I’ve looked at the 2015 World Report on ageing and health. Or rather I’ve looked at the web page about the launch of the World report on ageing and health and peeked at the report itself. One day soon I’ll read the whole report, which I’m sure is important and interesting and valuable.
But I’ve parked any closer analysis until I get over my latest hissy fit. This has nothing to do with the report and everything to do with pronouns — and my sense of identity as a 75-year-old.
Here’s how the summary begins.
OK, fair enough, in fact how very true, but I wonder who you mean by we. Does that include me? Or is that just public health people? (The latter: this is a WHO report, doh!)
When I was a child I thought as a child
When I was a child, people wrote reports about children, and I didn’t care what they wrote. They wrote about me, but I didn’t read the reports.
I am a woman now, and people also write reports about women’s problems. Actually women write reports about women’s problems. I have helped to write such reports. That made all the difference: I was one of we, and we were also them, the object of the reports.
Now that I am theoretically an old person I’m all confused, because the final sentence of the summary paragraph implies that old people are only the subject of the report, not participants — not researchers, thinkers, doers, writers.
At this point I’m thinking spitefully, ‘So I am not one of you. I am one of them. And you will allow me to continue participate in society? How very kind.’
‘We have to talk about Kevin.’ For Kevin, read the old people. And now, how alarming, that’s me.
Well, suck it up, self!
They are devising solutions for us. We are the problem, they are the problem-solvers. Who are the problem solvers? WHO are.
Suddenly I feel excluded from the decision-making world. Goodbye dignity, goodbye self-respect, goodbye autonomy.
Gate-crashing the first person plural
On the other hand, sometimes I audaciously claim membership of a group by saying we when I should say they.
Yesterday the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup quarter final with an astounding, rip-snorting, exhilarating performance —a rugby game to dazzle and convert every disbeliever.
Who won? Who played brilliantly? Who played the match of their lives?
Photo of the first New Zealand team to tour overseas — Te Ara Encyclopaedia of New Zealand