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China's New Law for the Eldelry | News Grab Articles
China's New Law for the Eldelry PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 05 January 2013 11:54

    Our obligation to love and serve the elderly has garnered much attention in recent years.  Here in the US, there has been a big push to enable families to care for their elder parents at home.  Nursing homes have made great efforts to enable family visits and create an environment that feels and lives more like home.  China has taken this communitarian concern to a new level with a recent law.  From the New York Daily News:

Visit your parents. That's an order. So says China, whose national legislature on Friday amended its law on the elderly to require that adult children visit their aged parents "often" — or risk being sued by them.  The amendment does not specify how frequently such visits should occur.  State media say the new clause will allow elderly parents who feel neglected by their children to take them to court. The move comes as reports abound of elderly parents being abandoned or ignored by their children.

Research into the development that lead to this new law would make for an interesting study.  As I understand it, China has a tradition, as many native cultures do, of families caring for their elderly.  However, that culture is changing.  The Daily News points out that recent industrialization has helped to create this problem "Three decades of market reforms have accelerated the breakup of the traditional extended family in China, and there are few affordable alternatives, such as retirement or care homes, for the elderly or others unable to live on their own."  There's no doubt that the modern form of industrialization, which is more global than local, and the busier lifestyles associated with it tend to make caring for our elderly parents more difficult.  But this is also a government created problem; the one-child policy has built a culture without the resources to care for the elderly.  When a couple marries there are only two adults to tend to four parents and if the two sets of parents live a great distance apart, due to a modern economy, then the task of caring is that much more difficult.

In China you'll find two very defining aspects of the culture of death.  The population control mindset of the one-child policy, which by its very nature is a radical form of social engineering, does not recognize the inherent dignity of human life.  Its developed a culture built on utilitarianism where aborting the unborn is a mere means to a desired end.  Couple this with a consumer culture that puts production above family and the problem that China faces is not surprising. 

Its upsetting to think about how much the market economy and communist philosophy has broken up the traditional extended family.  This situation has reminded me of the reasons I went into the field of caring for the elderly.  Back in the 90s, the words of Pope John Paul II made a life long impression on me.  In Evangelium Vitae, he diagnosed the problem we are seeing in China very well:

The eclipse of the sense of God and of man inevitably leads to a practical materialism, which breeds individualism, utilitarianism and hedonism. Here too we see the permanent validity of the words of the Apostle: "And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct" (Rom 1:28). The values of being are replaced by those of having. The only goal which counts is the pursuit of one's own material well-being. The so-called "quality of life" is interpreted primarily or exclusively as economic efficiency, inordinate consumerism, physical beauty and pleasure, to the neglect of the more profound dimensions-interpersonal, spiritual and religious-of existence.

What does he mean when we claims we have placed the value of having over being?  Well, in light of the China law there's the problem of consumerism where having material goods is more important than just being, living a "fulfilled" life full of material goods and individual pursuits is more important than living and loving in Church and family.  China's law provides an answer to a misdiagnosed problem, that allowing parents to sue their children thus obtaining some much needed material support will solve their only need, which is a material need.  So, the materialist answer to the problem is "love me or I'll sue you,"  brilliant.  For the beginning to an answer we should turn to the man who was a real prophet with such issues and my insppiration, John Paul II:


(Par 94) Special attention must be given to the elderly. While in some cultures older people remain a part of the family with an important and active role, in others the elderly are regarded as a useless burden and are left to themselves. Here the temptation to resort to euthanasia can more easily arise.

Neglect of the elderly or their outright rejection are intolerable. Their presence in the family, or at least their closeness to the family in cases where limited living space or other reasons make this impossible, is of fundamental importance in creating a climate of mutual interaction and enriching communication between the different age-groups. It is therefore important to preserve, or to re-establish where it has been lost, a sort of "covenant" between generations. In this way parents, in their later years, can receive from their children the acceptance and solidarity which they themselves gave to their children when they brought them into the world. This is required by obedience to the divine commandment to honour one's father and mother (cf. Ex 20:12; Lev 19:3). But there is more. The elderly are not only to be considered the object of our concern, closeness and service. They themselves have a valuable contribution to make to the Gospel of life. Thanks to the rich treasury of experiences they have acquired through the years, the elderly can and must be sources of wisdom and witnesses of hope and love.

Although it is true that "the future of humanity passes by way of the family",122 it must be admitted that modern social, economic and cultural conditions make the family's task of serving life more difficult and demanding. In order to fulfil its vocation as the "sanctuary of life", as the cell of a society which loves and welcomes life, the family urgently needs to be helped and supported. Communities and States must guarantee all the support, including economic support, which families need in order to meet their problems in a truly human way. For her part, the Church must untiringly promote a plan of pastoral care for families, capable of making every family rediscover and live with joy and courage its mission to further the Gospel of life....

(Par 26)There are still many married couples who, with a generous sense of responsibility, are ready to accept children as "the supreme gift of marriage".21 Nor is there a lack of families which, over and above their everyday service to life, are willing to accept abandoned children, boys and girls and teenagers in difficulty, handicapped persons, elderly men and women who have been left alone. Many centres in support of life, or similar institutions, are sponsored by individuals and groups which, with admirable dedication and sacrifice, offer moral and material support to mothers who are in difficulty and are tempted to have recourse to abortion. Increasingly, there are appearing in many places groups of volunteers prepared to offer hospitality to persons without a family, who find themselves in conditions of particular distress or who need a supportive environment to help them to overcome destructive habits and discover anew the meaning of life.

In these cases the role of families is indispensable; yet families can receive much help from social welfare agencies and, if necessary, from recourse to palliative care, taking advantage of suitable medical and social services available in public institutions or in the home.

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