Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Greediness shows its ugly face

I had dinner with an old friend the other week, a Chinese girl surnamed Wang that I haven’t caught up with for ages.

After the usual chit chat (“your hair is longer/you are not fatter than before –haha!! Note that it has changed!-/do you still not cook any food at home?/how high is your rent?”) we got down to some serious business when my friend told me about her worsening family situation.

Wang’s mother has got three siblings. When Wang’s mother’s mother (so Wang’s grandmother) passed away some months ago, one of the sisters was living together with the mother, taking care of her and the house chores.

Wang’s grandma left her family an apartment but no will, obviously hoping that her children would split the assets evenly between all four of them.

However, since the aunt lived with the grandma, and had been pulling the heavy load by herself for a long time, she decided to simply declare that the apartment should be hers and hers only.

In fact, do you know what she used as her main argument? That she has a son. The other ones all have daughters. She claimed that she needs the money for the apartment to give to her son, so that her son eventually can buy his wife-to-be a new apartment. Otherwise no one will want to marry him. Or so she said.

(But who wants to marry someone who only says yes if you own property?! Jesus, what happened to “I want someone intellectual with a great sense of humour?!” Well, actually, maybe those were never the usual requirements on the Chinese meat market anyway.)

And what happend then?

Well, obviously. Some serious family dramas evolved.

The siblings started fighting.

Their children stopped talking to each other.

The siblings husbands/wives tried to meddle.

Everything escalated and nothing was going to get solved easily with a real estate market that
is so overheated that house prices are rocketing in the sky.

-Now my father tells my mother to simply forget about the apartment and that we should not fight anymore. But it’s hard for my mother. She thinks it’s so unfair. And all that money could be such a great help…

-Do Chinese people not have wills?!
I wondered, astonished of everything I’d just heard.

-Not really. This is a very common problem in today’s modern society. Many families have problems like ours.

Then we looked up the word "will" on my Chinese dictionary and nodded in union.

-Maybe this is something that Chinese people should consider... Wang said.

I don’t know what I find the saddest: the broken family bonds? The greediness? The fact that the aunt feels that she has to do this in order for her son to ever get married? Or, the fact that everybody in Wang's family have been so busy fighting over the apartment that they forgot to mourn the grandma?


Kate said...

This is a universal problem. There are so many people all around the world who refuse to acknowledge their mortality and arrange their financial affairs to make things as easy as possible for their loved ones when they are gone. It took a long time to convince my husband that we needed life insurance because he hated contemplating his own death.

It is too bad that the family couldn't rise to the occasion.

yan said...

Over here in the USA, people just go to court and fight about what was written in the will. I don't think having wills will solve the issue for the Chinese.

Unfortunately, my family is about to be in the same situation. My grandmother has an apartment in Beijing, and when she passes away, it'll go to her son, not her daughter. This is in the deed, which acts like a will in regards to the apartment. So, I expect that my family will split when that happens. *sigh*

葫芦 said...

Life is hard for ordinary people who lives in China. It's bacause of not only all kinds of burdens on the surface, but the rapid changing social environment in recent decades. Traditional ways of life does not work anymore, and people do not know how to deal with the unstable situations. So we have to struggle for the material benefits to get a bit more consolation, too busy to care about anything else. However, those valuable thoughts will exist forever. They are just imperceptible sometimes, especially in situations with which your friend have to be faced. I think her father is wise.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Kate -Of course, but I think this society is so messed up in the way they look at men and women. Why should the man have to provide the woman he wants to marry with a whole apartment?! We don't live during the stone age anymore where people could just build their tree houses or find a cave. Buying property in this country costs a fortune, and obviously pushes people into desperate manners. It's just so sad! And unfair.

Yan -very sad indeed. I hope that your family can somehow overcome this.

葫芦 -I often think to myself that the change has been too rapid in China. We experienced the same kind of development in Sweden back in the days, but it took some 40-50 years, and not 20 like over here. People are not ready to deal with these new situations, they are not mentally prepared.

葫芦 said...

I'm sorry I don't know very well about the history of Sweden, but besides the period which you mentioned before, I think maybe something else is different between these two societies. As a country with well-known reputation, Sweden must has a set of robust and effective infrastructure, such as essential social security, which is absent in China. Nowadays, China is more like a huge and speeding corporation instead of a country. People worry about that if they cannot keep up with the country's steps, they will be fired and will be eliminated out of the advancement of the society. Then they maybe have to say bye-bye to modern life and back into the cave (just joking). Although it is not the end of the world, life always goes on even in the worst situation; Chinese people are still living in fear of falling into lower social class. And the only way to avoid that is to get in the upper one, such as getting married with a man who owns an apartment which cost a handsome amount of money.

To some extent, I would like to regard this kind of thought as anxiety rather than greediness.