Wednesday, 27 February 2008

family values

the families commission is often seen as one of those parts of the "bureaucracy" - the "pencil-pushers" that mr english is so keen to get rid of - that apparently provide little of value. both the families commission and the commissioner for children received a lot of flak for their support of the repeal of section 59 of the crimes act. advocating for children was somehow portrayed an attack on family values, and indeed on the new zealand family.

today the families commission released their report on elder abuse and neglect. from the reaction so far (which has been pretty muted), advocating for older people seems to be more acceptable. this is an issue that has only recently been getting coverage in the media, though the abuse is nothing new. our elderly, as the report details, are often the subject of greed, impatience, anger or just plain neglect.

one of the things that frustrates me about many right-wing groups and their attitude towards (coloured) immigrants is that such immigrants are often told they should respect new zealand values. when asked what those values might be, "family values" is often near the top of the list. this is problematic, first because claiming this as a new zealand value implies that those from other nations do not have strong family values; second because the evidence doesn't tend to support the notion that all kiwis are strong on family values.

i spoke at the SPRE conference last year about the fact that asians consider themselves to have extremely strong family values. they find quite shocking the notion of elderly people living in resthomes rather than with their own children. it's seen as a form of neglect, particularly when some residents don't have visitors for weeks.

respect for elders is ingrained in the asian psyche, as it is across the middle east and africa. which is not to say that elder abuse doesn't happen in those countries as well - i've heard of some terrible cases. but on the whole, elderly parents will be cared for at home, and they tend to have considerable status and power within the family structure.

strong family values would seem to imply a respect for all members of the family. the research is showing that "between 15,000 and 50,000" elderly people are not getting the respect, nor indeed the caring, they deserve. so good on the families commission for carrying out the research. and here's to our senior citizens, who contribute so much and enrich our society.

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