Elders play an important role in most communities in the Fifth World. In an oral culture, elders serve as living repositories of knowledge and memory. In the egalitarian system of influence and consensus that governs most Fifth World communities, this accumulated knowledge and wisdom gives elders a great deal of influence. That said, elders’ influence ultimately comes down to their ability to provide sound advice, and ultimately, though it might not happen as often, sound advice from a toddler can carry more weight than bad advice from a revered elder. Elders have no means of enforcing their will or coercing anyone to abide by it. It might make you look foolish to ignore sage advice from a wise elder, but no one can stop you from doing it.

Rather than an entrenched ruling class, elders usually relate to the rest of the community as grandparents and trusted family members. Moreover, most individuals can expect to become elders themselves one day. Elders often focus much of their attention on precisely this transition, ensuring that the generation that follows them possesses the knowledge and wisdom necessary to follow in their footsteps.

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