Seriously. If we want it to, can everything be changed?
Are our feelings enough?
Meet Emile Ratelband. Ratelband is a 69 year old, seemingly charismatic, Dutch television personality. Self-described as an “entrepreneur in personal development,” Ratelband is an author and motivational speaker.
Last month Ratelband told a Netherlandish court that he identifies with being 20 years younger. His age made him “uncomfortable.” He argued that being locked into his 69 year old age — consistent with his actual date of birth — was causing him to struggle to find both work and love. He claimed to suffer from “age discrimination.” He therefore asked the court to legally change his age.
Said Ratelband, “We live in a time when you can change your name and change your gender. Why can’t I decide my own age?”
So help me here… always, with all due respect, let’s ask some questions…
Can reality be changed?
Can truth be changed?
Can a fact — which by definition, means “a thing that is indisputably the case” — actually be disputed?
Note that even though Ratelband came into this world and out of a woman’s womb on March 11th, 1949, he argued that his birthdate was a mistake. He feels younger than he is; he thus wants to change the facts.
So how do we wrestle with that? The bottom line is the profound question: are feelings enough to change the facts?
And if the answer is affirmative, what precedent are we setting by declaring that the feelings of an individual are enough to change what’s true?
Perhaps some would argue that the change affects no one else. But just as the Dutch court questioned, how do we simply erase 20 years of existence on this planet? What about his family? What about his relationships and interactions during that time? Does that mean how his parents cared for him did not matter or somehow did not even happen?
A preposterous supposition, it would seem.
What if another individual declared that they identify as 20 years older? And what if at the time they felt such discomfort with their age, they were only 15?
Do their feelings then give them the right to drive? … to vote? … and all other legalities where age has proven to be a wise boundary?
Are these persons actually being discriminated against?
After the ruling earlier this week against Emile Ratelband, the court said in a press statement, “Mr. Ratelband is at liberty to feel 20 years younger than his real age and to act accordingly. But amending his date of birth would cause 20 years of records to vanish from the register of births, deaths, marriages and registered partnerships. This would have a variety of undesirable legal and societal implications.”
In other words, we are at liberty to feel however we wish. We are free to feel younger or feel older and even to act in accordance with the way we feel.
But we are not at liberty of changing the facts.
We’re not capable either.