I think I’m starting to develop Pensionism. That is, I begin to fear those elderly people who have a particular type of pension from the government.

To explain it a little. There are three primary kinds of pension in Australia – the standard aged pension, disability support pension and veterans pension.  I meet nice and rotten examples of all three, so that certainly isn’t my criteria for discrimination. Many feel that they deserve more special treatment than everyone else.

The ones who get me are the veteran pensions. Not because I disagree with war, but because frequently the obnoxious members of that particular group wave their pension as the reason why they should get special treatment.

As a result of this classical conditioning, I begin to wince when I see someone come in with a veterans pension even before they demonstrate that they are reasonable, or that they are obnoxious and not using their pension as an excuse. (Classical conditioning – consider Pavlov’s thought experiment where he fed a dog and rang a bell. The dog would salivate for the food, but when he rang the bell on its own, the dog would salivate without food. Here the veterans pension is becoming the bell.)

I think this is sad.

Those who wave their pension status around as an excuse for special treatment are no better or worse than any of the others who want special treatment, they have just linked their behaviour to a specific discernible difference – the bell here is the veterans pension – and thus I react even if the obnoxious behaviour is not present.

I wonder if other forms of discrimination are formed this way. While my reaction is to cringe, the action I choose is to wait until I meet the person before cringing.