Treat with respect the elders in my family and then extend that respect to include the elders in other families, treat with tenderness the young in my own family and then extend that tenderness to include the young in other families
Most Rev. Shen Bin
The aging of the population has become a unavoidable issue in contemporary world. According to a statistics of the United Nations, the aging population is growing at a rate of 2.5% per year on average. The population proportion of the aged will increase from 6.6% in 1995 to 9.3% in 2020 worldwide. With a population of 1.3 billion, China is facing the same problem, and it is much more serious. It is predicted that China will have 1.67 hundred million people over the age of 65 in 2020. I.e., by year 2020, the aged population in the world will be up to 0.698 billion of which China will occupy a proportion of 24%.
The rapid growth of the aged population creates an unavoidable problem: that is, how can the aged people and the younger generation live together in harmony in a way which could promote social development and human civilization.
Some ancient philosophers of China have offered us some thoughts and wisdom on how to solve the problem we are facing nowadays. Mencius in his work Mencius lays down the fundamental principle to solve the problem, that is: “treat with respect the elders in my family and then extend that respect to include the elders in other families; treat with tenderness the young in my own family and then extend that tenderness to include the young in other families.” Such an idea extends the filial piety and care of the young which used to be tied up with blood relationship to unrelated people in society. This is also the core ethical idea of Confucianism: the benevolent loves others. Today, as members of the global village, we need to cultivate the same awareness of a community of a shared future for mankind. In facing the growth of an aging population in the world, in facing the problem of uniting the young and aged to create a mutually respectful and caring world, we do need a practical principle and foundation not only from a religious point of view, but also from a social and ethical point of view. Mencius’ idea is certainly worthy of our consideration.
One’s life consists of 5 different stages: childhood, early youth, youth, mature stage, and old age. This is an objective law, none can escape it. At the stages of childhood and early youth, we do need the care of others and not only of our parents. For example, for education, we need teachers. So, our growth depends not just on our own family, but also on other people. Similarly, everyone will also need care both from one’s family and other people at one’s old age. Therefore, if one wants to live a decent life, certain conditions must be fulfilled. Mencius’ principle as mentioned above must be one of the most important to be put into practice. Respect the elders is in line with nature's justice and human feelings. The formation of a culture of respecting of the elders is the guarantee of family harmony and social stability. Thus a more beautiful life can be achieved.
One of the reasons for respecting and loving of the elderly in society is that our life today is based on their contribution to the society. They are our predecessors. Without their hard work, we would not have a happy life today. Even though they have lost the ability to work at a old age, they still deserve the love and respect from the young generation. To say the least, although they are old and feeble physically, their rich life experiences and wisdom are a valuable wealth which the young generation can learn from and use for references. The fortune of the aged people today will become ours in the future. Everyone needs to learn to feel for others. Each person should love and respect the elders and set up a model for others. Only then, will one be respected, loved,and will enjoy a happy life at his old age.
The young should show respect and love to the aged. At the same time, it is also important that the aged should give attention, care, and love to the young people in society. Do not forget, “treat with tenderness the young in my own family and then extend that tenderness to include the young in other families” is the second part of Mencius’ principle. It is also a law that goes beyond family, race, nation, ideology. It accords with the universal value and fundamental interests of human beings.
For the older generation, the young are the continuation of their life. They are the inheritors of human civilization and the fresh troops to take on the burden of the aged people on their own shoulders to develop a bright life for people in the world. With their richness of life experiences and wisdom, the elder people in the society should actively take the responsibility to educate, care, and unite the young. They can be the helpful people for the young. They can be the warm-hearted labourers in the work place, close friends for the young in difficult times, caring people for the young entrepreneurs, and the matchmakers for the single young adults.
The aged people should take the initiative to ally themselves with young people. They should relate themselves to the young in a way that the young can feel the selfless love given by them. They help the young in solving problems in life, help them to relieve burdens of life and the weight of thoughts so that they can exert their talents to make contributions in building a better life and society.
“Treat with respect the elders in my family and then extend that respect to include the elders in other families, treat with tenderness the young in my own family and then extend that tenderness to include the young in other families” is the wisdom offered by the ancient Chinese philosopher for promoting harmony among people and developing a better society in the world. Such wisdom is also the fundamental principle of uniting the young and aged together. In facing the contemporary problem of an aging population in the world, it is critical to find a principle and a way to solve it. Fortunately, the idea of Mencius can meet this need. Unless such a principle is put into practice, a stable and harmonious family, society, nation, even the world could not be achieved.
These are just some of my points, I welcome your opinions and comments on this thesis.
Thank you very much!