I have a fascination with Confucianism. That shows in my writing, though you wouldn’t notice if you aren’t familiar with it yourself. And most people aren’t.
I should clarify that Confucianism is non-theistic. Just so you know, I’m not peddling religion here. It’s an ethical system, primarily concerned with correct behavior, and even more primarily with behavior toward other people. This where that relationships thing comes in. According to Confucianism, there are five basic relationships, which I will list without strict regard for political correctness:
- Ruler to subject
- Parent to child
- Husband to wife
- Elder sibling to younger sibling
- Friend to friend
Within these relationships, the person in seniority has a moral obligation to behave with benevolence toward their juniors. That means looking out for their well being and generally taking care of them. The person in the junior position should treat their seniors with respect. As any given person could be in multiple of these relationships at the same time, they would adjust their behavior and expectations toward others depending on those relationships.
A great example of how this thought process works is two brothers with two apples, one large and one small. The elder brother offers the younger brother the large apple because he is still growing. But the younger brother offers the elder brother the larger apple because he is bigger. Aw!
That’s a lovely philosophy, isn’t it? Just a couple of problems, though. While Confucianism is fairly clear that one should know one’s place and stick to it (and that’s a pretty huge problem on its own), it’s a lot less clear about what to do when the other person in the relationship isn’t following the philosophy. But in general I think we can agree that a lot of us really suck at following these general guidelines, at least on a regular basis (certainly the Tea Party doesn’t ascribe to the concept of caring for others). It’s still a good goal, and a good way to think of how we should be acting toward others who depend on us.
Circling back to my writing (you knew I’d do that, didn’t you), all of those relationships are represented in my books. I actually didn’t consciously plan it that way, it just made sense because I deal with a lot of family issues and relationships. Just like in real life, my characters don’t always behave as they should. Yet even the most selfish of my fictional family still see their obligation to look out for their people. They would never deny food or shelter to those who depend on them. If I did write them that way, my story would be foolishly unbelievable.
Funny how real life can be more twisted and absurd than fiction.