Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Ripeness is all

My experience of China tells me that respect for the aged is not exclusively a religious imperative. In China the responsibility of caring for the elderly exists in almost every family and most families in China do not believe in God or any transcendent diety. What they have is immense respect for someone who has preceeded them. Some say that those who are older are not necessaily better educated but that is besides the point. It is the experience of life that is at least as important as any other factor in accumalating wisdom - traditionally thought to be the preserve of the older man or woman.

In Britain we live in a society where youth culture is seen as somehow better and a government which was only recently voted out of office ie New Labour who cared so little that their Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, stole pensions for his own policy wealth re-distribution. Britain, unlike China, offers a welfare state and this has changed the role of the family in caring for the elderly. This is no bad thing in itself. But the State can rarely provide love or everyday conversation. Some speak of Rights and that they will take no lessons from other countries. An unfortunate attitude, I think.

Each society is different and there are many things to learn about the world and our place in it. This does not mean that I am a cultural relativist. I happen to think that some cultures and societies are more advanced than others but I would not wish to live there and then tell them how they should live. Those that seek a new life ought to accept that must be some things that attract them to their new host country. Otherwise, why leave? If I live in another country I am there on their terms.

Today, many young people, especially those from inner city backgrounds demand respect. A political party has recently emerged with this name but much good it has done them. The elderly seldom demand respect but since everyone will one day grow old it would make sense to value those who are older than ourselves. Grandparents are often a loving source of connexion for children who are born into a world which increasingly celebrates youth culture. We do not need to imitate the East because British culture has its own evolvement and progress.

In broken Britain crabbed age and youth cannot live together. But this need not mean the end of respect for those have already contributed a lifetime to society. There will be examples where this is not the case, of course, but by and large there is much to honour especially since many octogenarians and older fought for the freedom that the youth of Britain often takes for granted.

Scientific research reveals that the human brain does not reach maturity until about thirty years of age. This sounds very optimistic. Perhaps wisdom is ageless.

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