Another China Syndrome

      According to an article in The Times, the Chinese have proposed a law that would require adult children to regularly visit their aged parents. This could be the best thing to come out of China since Egg Foo Young.  Although there’s a lot to disparage about some of their social policies, in this case the Chinese have hit upon a pretty innovative idea.  Is it any wonder that they have such a huge trade surplus?

     Under the proposal parents would be able to sue their children for not visiting. If Chinese law is anything like America’s, a successful lawsuit would provide for either monetary damages or specific performance, meaning that the children could be forcibly made to visit.  Since the Chinese currency, the reninbi, is all but unpronounceable, I’d expect most court decisions in favor of the parents would require family visits rather than a payment of money.  It’s not hard to foresee a scene unfolding that includes an elderly Chinese couple sitting across a dinner table from their newly bourgeois son or daughter with a couple of policemen standing by.  I can only imagine what kind of lively conversation might ensue.

    This policy could be a great import for the United States. There’s already an implied contract in place between parents and their children—it just hasn’t been tested in court. The unwritten agreement is:  We’ll raise you, attend to all of your needs, chauffeur you around to all manner of extracurricular activities, enroll you in as many preparatory test courses as are available, send you to the best schools (even if we have to go into hock) and in return, you’ll visit us as we age and take care of us in a thoughtful, sincere and caring manner.  What the contract doesn’t imply is that we’ll do all that and in return you’ll put us in a distant nursing home which more than likely will show up on a Geraldo Rivera expose showing the residents sharing their rooms and meals with an assortment of rodents.  That’s definitely not the deal.

      Although I’m far from the age that would require visits from my children, I’m fully aware of the direction in which I’m heading.  With this in mind, I’m following the events in China closely…very closely.

    It seems to me that the rationale behind this proposed law could also be extended to non-familial situations as a way to encourage other decent, mensch-like behavior.  For example, there are countless situations where I’ve felt overlooked and unattended to:  many invites that have excluded me (and those are just the ones that I know of); the lack of acknowledgement for favors done or niceties performed; all kinds and varieties of slights. So why not add some language to the new law that allows one (me) to bring a lawsuit to address these transgressions?  Using the court system to rectify the failings of my friends, relatives and acquaintances would be so much easier on me than having to confront them directly.  And since “dollar” is so much easier to say than reninbi, awards of monetary compensation would seem to be the easiest expression of measuring the (emotional) damages incurred.

     It’s not that I’m a litigious person.  But if these kinds of laws are adopted, that could change dramatically. Given my natural inclination of over-sensitivity and self-righteousness, I probably ought to have a slew of attorneys on retainer.  Toward that end, I’ve begun negotiations with the law firm of Tortz, Klaim and Kounterklaim (firm motto: “No Lawsuit Too Frivolous”).  I have a feeling that they and I may be a perfect fit.

     Of course, since my parents are no longer alive, it might be seen as totally self-serving to embrace the propriety of the law that’s been proposed in China.  After all, there’s no way for them to require anything from me at this point.  Then again, I suppose it’s always possible that a new law could have a provision whereby an estate could sue children who don’t visit their parents’ graves.  This is worrisome. I wonder if Tortz et al. has much experience representing the defense.

Looks like they'll be having company for dinner


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