Jean-Jacques Cornish

Don’t find excuses for ageism

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I greet Joe Biden’s election win with an overwhelming sense of relief.

Yes, his becoming the 46th President is probably the salvation of US democracy.

More importantly the departure of the most divisive president in American history allows us to return to what we prefer to be.  Donald Trump’s hate-filled, nasty four years left us with a quotidian search for spiteful things to say about him.

I did not like what being in such a toxic relationship did to me.

Growing up under apartheid, we were driven to attaching expletives to every characterisation of institutionalised racism.

It seemed to be the most effective way of expressing our outrage.

The late Nelson Mandela explained it for me.

In one of our conversations during filming his retirement film, he recalled how former US President George W Bush asked what he would like to drink.

“I told him, Cuban rum,” said Madiba.

“Sometimes you have to say things people don’t want to hear.”

No danger of this happening with Donald Trump. He doesn’t listen to anybody else.

Nevertheless it would have been a delight to see the former South African President put him in his place.

So now we have Joe Biden leading a crusade to return decency and normality to the nation leading the free world.

No more tolerance of official hate-speech, racism, sexism, religious bigotry or homophobia.

I don’t mean to add to the President-elect’s burden, but shouldn’t ageism become equally taboo.

I venture to say, this won’t happen until the grey panthers become as militant as the group’s fighting the aforementioned evils.

I was speaking to a recently-retired friend last week who told me how being pensioned off left her deeply depressed.

“But we have to make room for the next group,” said this woman who is still physically and professionally in the pink.

It brought to mind a Saudi Arabian professional woman some years ago trying to justify the ban on female drivers and other chauvinistic behaviours as an attempt by authorities to ensure the security of woman.

I am sure she would be mortified if I reminded her of this.

I have been around long enough to remember the apartheid regime sending articulate black collaborators abroad to explain why South Africa was not ready for majority rule.

Offensive? Intolerable? Certainly.

Why then accept references to Joe Biden as the oldest American President in history as though it were something bad?

Do I need to use an expletive to make my point?

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.