Posts Tagged ‘relationship-defined obligations’

Traditional Chinese Culture is Liberating and Empowering – 3

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

In the relationship between parents and offspring, again traditional Chinese culture is liberating and empowering.

True, true, I know that a lot of people nowadays mistakenly think that traditional Chinese culture is oppressive, despotic, and downright abusive when it comes to parents and offspring, and almost all the modern Chinese novelists and playwrights portray it thus – why, just turn on the TV and watch a Chinese soap opera and you’ll see how horrible “feudalism” is – but that’s all nonsense and distortion. Since the 1900’s many Chinese intellectuals have seized upon aberrations and deviants in traditional Chinese society – now which society doesn’t have aberrations and deviants – and portray them as being representative. Some of these intellectuals even wildly distort and misrepresent Chinese culture. The sad thing is that, being weak, backward and poor, Chinese civilization hasn’t been able to speak up for itself. Today, with the Chinese Cultural Renaissance beginning, that’s going to change…

At any rate, the reason that traditional Chinese culture liberates and empowers in the parent-offspring relationship is that with the always-reciprocal relationship-defined obligations being supreme instead of some subjective feeling called love, one doesn’t have to worry about the fickleness of emotions. As in marriage, one doesn’t have to panic over what to do, or whether one is doing the right thing. The obligations are clear and well defined both on the parents’ end and on the offspring’s end. The parents’ obligations are to raise and educate the offspring to the best extent possible. The offspring’s obligations are to cooperate with this raising and educating, to strive to do his or her best in conduct and career, to help the parents, and to support and care for the parents when they are old and infirm.

The criteria for whether obligations are carried out or not are objective and verifiable, and are not some subjective “feeling” inside people’s head called “love”. With objective relationship-defined obligations, it isn’t hard to substantiate whether a parent is, say, raising and educating the offspring, while with love, it is hard to get inside someone’s head and confirm that there is or there is not love there. Sometimes even the person himself or herself is confused: hence the perennial question: do I love him, or do I love him not? And if we go according to the modern Western paradigm of “love” being supreme, one comes to this question: if I don’t love my parents, should I have anything to do with them? With traditional Chinese culture, one is liberated from the groundless insecurities over the existence of “love,” and the horribly mistaken conclusions to which these insecurities lead.

Actually, those positive feelings of deep attachment to and profound willingness to do things for someone, feelings that are generally considered to constitute love, arise anyways, naturally, in both parties, in the course of their fulfilling the always-reciprocal relationship-defined obligations day in, day out. It is not necessary to “cultivate love” and curry favor with one’s offspring or one’s parents; it is only necessary to carry out one’s obligations, faithfully, every day.

Feng Xin-ming


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Private Endeavors will popularize the Supremacy of the Relationship-Defined Cardinal Obligations

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

Now who will make the Cardinal Obligations supreme? Will it be decreed by government authority and foisted on us from above? No, no, absolutely not. Only individuals, one by one, family by family, can adopt the supremacy of the Cardinal Obligations. And that can only be done voluntarily, by each individual, each family and each extended family, when they see and come to understand the advantages of making the Cardinal Obligations supreme in their own lives. This people come to see not because of any act of government, but because of the persistent and tireless preachings by enlightened good hearted, kind people, who understand that the more people who adopt the Cardinal Obligations, the better for society and for the enlightened people themselves, and because of the good examples of happiness and moral conduct set by such enlightened people.

That is why in Imperial China, the Confucian ideal has always been that when government rules well, there should be nothing for it to do, as the people are harmonious, happy, prosperous, and of good conduct, without the authorities having to interfere.

Feng Xin-ming


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Why the Supremacy of the Relationship-Defined Cardinal Obligations is Good for Freedom

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

The reason the supremacy of the Cardinal Obligations is good for freedom is because, except for the relationship between the government and its citizens, the obligations are voluntary and government authority and legal coercion is unnecessary.

The obligations are based on mutual benefit; one violates them at one’s own peril. One gets punished by natural means; if one violates one’s obligations one then loses the reciprocal obligations the other party owes oneself.

Thus, if a son is not xiao he risks his parents becoming unkind, as the reciprocal of the offspring’s xiao is the parents’ kindness; and if a husband is not respectful and cooperative he risks his wife becoming disrespectful and uncooperative, as spouses’ respect foir and cooperation with each other are reciprocal.

Furthermore, other people who have a relationship with him, seeing that he does not carry out his Cardinal Obligations, may also cease carrying out their obligations to him. Thus the son who is not xiao risks having his own son being not xiao to him, and the seller who cheats his buyers risks having people who sell to him cheating him.

Not only that, but also other people who do not now have a relationship with the obligation violator/reneger will cease to come forward to have relationships with him. Since relationships mean mutual help, this means the violator will get very little help and therefore will not succeed in life or find happiness. Thus, a seller who violates his obligations will find fewer and fewer customers, a husband who violates his obligations to his wife will lose friends and few will become his friends, and so forth.

The supremacy of the Cardinal Obligations is the supremacy of mutual help, nothing more. It is the honor code for mutual help. It codifies honorable conduct for relations of mutual help in human society, relations that can be life long, relations that no human can live without. Adopting this honor code is entirely voluntary, but extremely beneficial. It is most conducive to success and happiness. Having such weighty incentives, once people understand the idea, they will conduct themselves according to this honor code, and there is no need for external coercion in the form of legal authority and government.

People are free to adhere to the honor code or not. If they do, they get rewarded, automatically, without getting the authorities involved. If people don’t adhere to the honor code, they get punished, again automatically, without getting the authorities involved.

Government can be as minimal as possible, intrude into the lives of citizens as little as possible, and yet society runs harmoniously and justly, with everyone looked after. The weak, the aged and the disabled will be cared for by those who know them and are close to them, rather than by some anonymous big brother government agency.

As more and more people adopt the idea of the supremacy of the Cardinal Obligations, it will usher in a new era of free societies.

Feng Xin-ming


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Marriage & the Supremacy of Relationship-Defined Obligations vs. the Supremacy of Love

Monday, April 16th, 2007

(Please also see my paper on my website “The Traditional Chinese Supremacy of Relationship-Defined Obligations vs. The West’s Supremacy of Love”)

This inconstancy in the subjective feeling called love is especially problematic in the relationship between spouses. In the Western tradition, the love that is supposed to exist between spouses is a romantic love. One is supposed to be “in love with,” that is, feel a deep romantic love for, one’s spouse. After all, that is supposed to be why one has married one’s spouse in the first place. When a Westerner or a Westernized person, which is most of the planet these days, no longer feels romantic love for his or her spouse, he or she feels extremely tormented. He or she is not supposed to not feel romantic love for the spouse, and in fact, if he or she “no longer loves” the spouse, he or she is supposed to either somehow make himself or herself “fall in love again” with the spouse, or quit the relationship. Otherwise, according to Western thinking, it is “dishonest” and “not honorable” to stay in a marriage “devoid of love.”

Thus in the Western or Westernized marriage, people are always trying to keep and cultivate the other party’s love. People are fearful that they might lose the other party’s love. There is insecurity, and whether the relationship lasts is not within one’s control. “What if he/she meets someone else and falls in love?” When someone of the opposite sex comes around one’s spouse, one gets all flustered and anxious - anyone could be a predator. One must always try to “show love,” to “keep the love going,” to “stay in love with each other.” All this anxiety and striving to please and “hang onto” one’s spouse invariably results in resentment.

In the Chinese tradition, however, one can be secure that the relationship holds as long as one stays in the relationship. There is no need to be fearful about losing the other party to some “wilting of love.” As long as one is the other’s spouse, the other person owes one obligations. Of course, one owes the other person reciprocal obligations. As long as the spousal obligations are carried out, that is, as long as they cooperate to build a life together and respect each other, there should be harmony and love. And unlike whether one can keep one’s spouse “in love with” oneself, which is not entirely within one’s control, whether one carries out one’s obligations is entirely within one’s control.

True, adverse conditions can make it difficult, but it is still within one’s control to try to carry out one’s obligations despite such conditions. In fact, in traditional Chinese literature the recurring theme is how heroes and heroines, movingly, carry out or try to carry out Cardinal Obligations despite impossible circumstances.

Therefore, in the Chinese tradition, there is a lot more security and a lot more relaxed enjoyment in marriage.

Feng Xin-ming


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The Chinese Supremacy of Relationship-Defined Obligations vs. the West’s Supremacy of Love

Friday, April 13th, 2007

(Please also see my paper on my website “The Traditional Chinese Supremacy of Relationship-Defined Obligations vs. the West’s Supremacy of Love”)

Traditional Chinese morality calls for obligations and duties to be rendered to persons not because of any feelings of love toward them, though feelings are important, but because of their relation to us, such as parents, spouses, offspring, siblings, relatives, and so forth. This is regardless of how much or how little love we may feel toward them. In the (traditional) Chinese tradition, relationship-defined obligations, like the Cardinal Obligations, are supreme. Not love. This sounds harsh, but it’s not. In fact, this is far better for the growth and development of true love, and we’ll see why.

In the Western tradition, love is supreme. Love is the supreme value that is put above all else. The problem with love being supreme is that love is a subjective feeling, and can change from time to time, especially when the going gets tough. In life, there will always be times when the going gets tough. Outside circumstances can turn adverse, people make mistakes, and life is full of misunderstandings. For long term relationships, such as family or spouse, there will always be a time when all looks black, when there seems to be no hope, or when anger takes precedence over all else. During those times one might not be able to feel a positive feeling, let alone love, towards the other party. Of course, eventually the hard times will be over, so if in the interim the parties have persisted and carried on fulfilling their obligations towards each other, feelings will change again and love will return. In the Western world, however, long before that stage is reached, one will say, “I don’t love this person any more; why am I still with him/her?” And then one picks up and leaves one’s spouse, or, if it’s a parent or sibling, one cuts off all contact.

In the (traditional) Chinese tradition, however, the relationship-defined Cardinal Obligations are supreme. Relationships exist objectively and are not subject to subjective feelings. Whether someone is one’s parent, or sibling, or spouse is objectively determined, and doesn’t change no matter what one’s feelings are towards that person. Therefore, during the hard times, each party in the relationship continues to carry out the obligations toward the other party, regardless of feeling.

The wonderful thing in this is that when the two parties in a relationship carry out their obligations toward each other, positive feelings will appear and grow. It is something that is independent of subjective will. And then after the hard times are over, love returns and this love is stronger and deeper than ever. It now is a love that has been tested and is rooted in overcoming common adversity and misunderstanding. It is a love that has been nurtured by self-sacrifice, magnanimity, faith and humility on the part of both parties. It is a truer, more mature love. Happy indeed are those who can enjoy this far deeper, far truer love! And it will be thanks to the Chinese tradition of putting the relationship-defined obligations, instead of love, above all else.

Paradoxical, but life is like that. If one wants something, by pursuing that something as a supreme priority above all else one may not get that thing, especially if it shouldn’t be a supreme priority in the first place. Instead, by pursuing the proper things in their proper priorities one will not only get that something, but also get it better.

Feng Xin-ming


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