Screw the elderly, I’m keeping my bus seat


Yangtse Evening Post
October 8, 2008

The Chinese people usually take deep pride, sometimes unduly so, in the so-called “traditional Chinese virtues” (中华民族传统美德). One thing that these virtues dictate is that one must think first of the needs of children and the elderly (尊老爱幼) because they require more care than you do. But not every Chinese person is happy to follow that old commandment.

A front page headline in today’s Yangtse Evening Post heralds an article reporting that a young woman in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, refused to give up her bus seat to senior and insisted that she had the right to do so. Here’s a translation of an excerpt:

Yesterday 11 o’clock am, your correspondent boarded the Line 4 bus which was full of passengers who didn’t have seats. About half of the passengers were elderly, most of whom were going to the Fuzimiao [a tourist spot in Nanjing]. Despite a loudspeaker notice that reminded passengers every so often, “Please give seats to the elderly, pregnant women, and people holding babies,” few people budged from their seats. Most of them just turned their faces to the window with indifference, except for a couple of students in school uniforms.

One old woman, apparently in her seventies, had been standing beside a 30-something woman for over ten minutes. Every time the bus braked suddenly, she had difficulty keeping her footing.

One passenger asked the younger woman to give her seat to the older one. Unexpectedly, the young woman retorted with something really preposterous: “I would never give up my seat to anyone in a bus.” To your correspondent, who tried to talk with her, she said, “Please give me a reason why I should give up my seat. I am a member of ‘never give up your seat group.’ Go and check it out on the Internet if you like.” She said nothing else but sat there like a rock.

The “never give up your seat group” turns out to be a online discussion group registered on Douban, a SNS website. The group, which shared a belief that it’s unfair for the young to give away their seats to the old, has launched a campaign calling for more people to join the movement to “never give up your seat.” Complaints and reasoning that can be found on their pages include:

  • Some of the old people, despite their advanced age, are actually stronger and healthier than younger people;
  • Some old people take the privilege for granted and have no gratitude to seat-givers;
  • Young people are shouldering the burden of the entire society, and deserve a few minutes’ rest during their commutes.

They also have a manifesto for their cause:

Please give me a reason why should I give up my seat.

When you saw grannies and granddaddies full of energy lining up to wait for the Olympic bank notes (many of those who waited overnight were grannies and granddaddies) adopt an old and weak appearance once they got on a bus, taking for granted whatever they think they deserve simply because they are old, how did you feel? As a matter of course, in this vast country, every time people queue for something, ranging from a supermarket selling extra-cheap eggs to the a discount at a department store which, old people are always the in the majority in the queues. Based on this fact, we believe that standing in a bus for few minutes is not such a big deal.

We know that many younger people are unwilling to give up their seats, but finally they relent because of a sense of guilt if they do not, especially with all those other grannies and granddaddies around you.

We must fight the unscientific and unfounded theory that the old should always take the seats. Every time you contest the idea, you contribute a bit to the final destruction of the absurd theory.

Our slogan is “Never give away your bus seat.”

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