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The main requirements of the social virtue of filial piety are regard, obedience, and concern for one's parents, elderly relatives, and ancestors. Filial piety promotes a number of social norms, such as respecting and adoring one's parents as well as being courteous, loyal, helpful, responsible, and obedient. While self-interest is devalued in Confucian ethics, family members' self-interested acts in traditional China are what drive the dynamics of family relationships.
The Chinese and the majority of Asian societies are familiar with and have long practiced the idea of filial piety. Confucius regarded filial devotion as an essential moral virtue. To the Chinese, it is the central ideology, and moreover, provides the foundation for all other attitudes. The Chinese believe that if one does not have love and value for his parents and elders in his family then such a person is incapable of being loyal to their friend or country (Huang 2010).
Individualism on the other hand is the aspect of putting one’s personal interest before others. An action can be understood to be self-interested when it arises through a person’s own assessment of what is appropriate for their own purposes and well-being. Although filial piety is dominant among Asian communities, the case is different in America. With globalization and constitutional freedoms, American children are mostly individualistic, intractable, pretentious and rebellious against their parents. Their attitudes can be traced to the hippies of the Woodstock generation, relentlessly devoted to the freedom of expression. Since independence, Americans have been great supporters of individualism and independence. Fortunately, organizations such as the Great Tao Foundation have set base in the United States to help preach and advocate filial piety.
Children in the modern world are at a high risk of being exposed to moral decay and societal vices due to peer pressure and little inspection from parents and the perceived conquest for their rights as seen among American children. According to Marchant et al. (2), a supportive parent–child relationship will facilitate children’s internalization process of parents’ values; that is, students will make interpretations of parents’ values and internalize those values as their own. Parents’ educational values are internalized and influence students’ own motivation and attitudes to school, ultimately creating a lasting positive impact on children’s academic success. Due to globalization, parents are slowly drifting away from being present in their children’s lives, they leave their children to nannies most of the time while they work two jobs to keep up with the rising costs of living. In the long run, filial piety lacks among the children as they do not value or respect their children. When Simin leaves Nader to go stay with her parents after the court denied her divorce, Nader hires Razier to be his father’s nurse. Nader’s father holds Simin’s hand tight implying of how much he valued his daughter-in-law’s hospitality and Nader wouldn’t match her kindness. This shows how much children value and take care of their parents and elders when they age (Farhadi “A separation”).
Due to globalization, competition and economic rivalry has taken root in most societies. This has led to an insurgence of individualism among people as everyone wants a life in the first lane. Therefore, people have taken up the ideology of personal development hence killing filial piety which was a binding virtue that kept our traditional societies together. Simin wants to leave the country with her daughter, Termeh and Simin’s husband, Nader, insists on staying at home in Tehran to care for his frail and elderly father, who suffers from dementia and needs constant attention. Due to individualism and globalization, Simin has learnt that she could give her daughter a better life abroad than she is in her country. When her husband refuses to leave, she gets exasperated and files for divorce. She is willing to leave everybody behind including her ailing father in law to go lead a better life with her daughter. On the other hand, Nader is steadfast on filial piety and refuses to leave his ailing father behind to suffer (Scott Np.).
Class and social status are seeing the light of day in most modern societies replacing the traditional spirit of togetherness and equality. According to Chow ko (16) Traditional agriculture in China was practiced communally. All members of the community co-owned the land and enjoyed fruits of the land jointly, sharing with the poor and outcasts around them. With globalization and migration, people around the world have traveled and interacted with people of diverse origins. America and Europe which are super powers achieved economic revolution before other nations. As people were traveling to learn and work in their industries, they ended up adopting their policies and perceived virtues of individualism. Class and social status were highly preached by the elite of the time. When Nader throws Razieh down a staircase for neglecting her father, he is taken to court by Hodjat, Razieh’s husband. Hodjat is an unemployed shoemaker who is laden with debt and seething with resentment. He views Nader and Simin as part of a corrupt and entitled elite, arrogant and irreligious and full of contempt for an ordinary working man like him. This shows how much classes and social status have defined modern societies, fueling resentment and people alienating themselves from others who are not of their status (Scott Np.).
Traditional societies which were keen on protecting their cultural heritage and cultural practices stand to face an erosion of culture. Human migration has led many people to give up on their culture when they go to new lands with new cultures. They are forced to do away with their culture and adapt to the new society’s culture. When Razieh accepted the job to nurse Nader’s father, she was afraid as she did not ask for her husband’s consent, which is vital according to their culture. Later, when Simin opted to pay Razieh blood money for her miscarriage in order to settle the ongoing case in court, Nader asked asks Razieh to swear on the Quran that he is the cause of her miscarriage. Since she has doubts about the actual cause of her miscarriage, she refuses to swear by the Quran, though Hodjat tries to force her to avoid dishonor in front of his creditors. Hodjad is willing to go against his religion and culture due to his economic situation (Brody Np.).
Due to increased family planning and one-child policies in countries like China, and an increase in the number of elderly people, there has been a decrease in the number of adult children available for parental care. It has been estimated that the dependency ratio for older people in China is going to increase from 11.6 per 100 working population in 2010 to 39.5 per 100 in 2050 It is a cultural expectation in such countries that adult children will provide for direct care to their parents in old age as it was perceived that institutions for the aged were for the less privileged or parents who did not bear children or those who did not have a loving family. Although many, if not most, adult children may wish to follow the tradition of filial piety and provide for the direct personal care of their parents, work and family demands may force them to place their parents in a care institution. Such economic pressures and cultural dilemmas are what most people face before making the tough decision of turning away from filial piety and opting to secure a better future for themselves and their future generations (Zhan et al. 122).
Filial piety is a society virtue whose main duty is respect, obedience, and caring for one’s parents and elder people in the family. It is a virtue that has been practiced widely in China, Japan, and Asian countries where it is part of their culture that children must look after their elder parents and family members. Filial piety is eroding from poor societies, spearheaded by economic revolution, globalization, and human migration. Countries like America, which are economic heads, advocate for capitalism, individualism, and independence which are the main causes of the erosion of Filial piety. In such societies, parents have little contact with their children as they grow, therefore, children grow without valuing the parent-child bond, which is a cultivating factor for filial piety. This leads to children neglecting their parents when they age as most put their aged parents into institutionalized care as they try to better their lives at better places around the world.
A separation. Dir. Asghar Farhadi. Perf. Leila Hatami, Peyman Moaadi, Shahab Hosseini, Sareh Bayat, Sarina Farhadi, Merila Zarei. Filmiran, 2011. DVD
Brody, Richard. “A Separation:Parting Shots.” The New Yorker 2 Jan. 2012. Web. 21 June, 2017.
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Scott, A. O. “A House Divided by Exasperation.” The New York Times 29 Dec. 2011. Movies. Web. 21 June, 2017.
Wing, Clement Chow Ko. "Love Thy Parents and Care for Thy Children: Filial Piety and Intergenerational Cooperation In.." Journal of Socio-Economics, vol. 24, no. 2, Summer95, p. 391. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=9511166353&site=ehost-live.
Zhan, Heying Jenny, et al. "The Role of the Family in Institutional Long-Term Care: Cultural Management of Filial Piety in China." International Journal of Social Welfare, vol. 20, no. S1, 02 July 2011, pp. S121-S134. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/j.1468-2397.2011.00808.x.
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