Honour thy mother and thy father
“Honour thy mother and thy father so that your days may be long upon the Earth”
That biblical verse is a principle that has been upheld in varying degrees by many societies and traditions. Its observation was long estblished on empirical evidence of its practicality and in some cultures is immutably enshrined.
I could only guess that today, when persons are questioned or challenged to consider their views on the subject of honouring their parents, the responses will vary generationally, with the older generations paying more regard, then followed with a steep decline with each succeeding generation.
For example, when my father went 75, I noticed his back began to arch. Immediately, I gave him a job of sifting sand and general clean-up to help with his posture. As time moved on and as his own ability became less, I took on a greater role; in fact, roles reversed — like the song lyrics “No burden was he, cause he ain’t heavy, he's my brother". So on we went and, when needed, I had to carry him, but I could not forget there were many, many years when he carried me.
I don't know but I imagine that it provides a sense of comfort to the elderly when they are not viewed as a burden. The demands of work and need for young families to have sustainable incomes to take care of their own offspring is such that any other role or responsibility is seen and felt as a distraction to the principle objective of raising their own family.
The notion that a family are a continuum that includes babies and seniors is lost. Today, seniors’ homes and care facilities are more than an essential; it is now the way of life. The alternative usually taken by older men, in particular, is to live on the street or any cubbyhole they can find that provides a sense of self-sufficiency where they are not reliant on family or society.
It is a sad situation that leads invariably to premature death and totally avoidable sickness. Unfortunately, this is not class-based or even economic predesignation; it is pervasive. There are families full of well-heeled individuals whose parents have become, as it were, lost souls and abandoned. Parents who have in their past funded their children’s education and rearing are wondering what have they done to deserve being abandoned.
Never mind that in biblical days disrespect of parents was punishable by death; thus, indeed, your days would be shortened if you breached the law. I’m sure also, as a lingering vestige of that old law, many seniors can remember hearing stern comments like “I brought you in this world and I will take you out”.
In some ways, perhaps, the wisdom behind the biblical adage is that society itself dies and its days become predictably short when respect for seniors ceases. We build a culture of euthanasia and intolerance towards age and disability, where age and disability are seen as a societal burden and thus isolated from normal life, and where the sooner one dies, the less costly. Ultimately, this attitude affects everyone.
Transmission of culture or lessons learnt ends when there is no conduit between the young and the old. There is a difference between wisdom and knowledge, even lots of knowledge. Wisdom usually comes after much experience and often dies with the recipient when there is no avenue of transmission. Hence the maxim “when a man dies, his knowledge goes with him”.
There are cultures where the young gather at the feet of the old to gain wisdom. Unfortunately, now in Bermuda, the old if not careful, are more likely be knocked off their feet and robbed of their meagre possessions.
We are here now, this is 2021. The society we have will be nourished by the ingredients we put in it. The old saying “don't pee in the river that you drink from” is worth remembering. Life is short, age sneaks up on us all, and we become surrounded by the world we created.