Faith, hope, charity and the road to ubasute

Though subsequent versions vary, the King James version of the Bible, quotes 1 Corinthians, verse 13 as:

‘And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity’.

As we digest the combined efforts of Oxfordshire County Councillors at Full Council on 16 February to save Oxfordshire from further budget cuts, which resulted in deferment and delay, we know that, like a fall in slow motion, we will hit the ground eventually and it will hurt.

Faith, Hope and Charity will not be enough to save many vulnerable and elderly people from the loss of essential services.

In ancient Japanese folklore, sons were said to carry an elderly, or frail, relative to the top of the mountain to die.

The practice, known as ubasute or obasute, and sometimes oyasute (親捨て) – abandoning a parent – refers to the custom allegedly performed in Japan in the distant past. An infirm or elderly relative, was carried to a mountain, or some other remote, desolate place, and left there to die, either by dehydration, starvation, or exposure, as a form of euthanasia.

The motivation behind this was if there were fewer people eating the limited reserves of food, there would be more to go around and it would last longer. The practice was allegedly most common during times of drought and famine, and was sometimes mandated by feudal officials. On the way, the frail person, often a mother, would ensure her son found his way back safely.

In the depths of the mountains,
Who was it for the aged mother snapped
One twig after another?
Heedless of herself
She did so
For the sake of her son

We don’t have mountains in Oxfordshire, and precious few desolate places, but with social care and voluntary sector budget cuts still in the wind, adding to year on year downward pressure on registered care contract prices, will we consider piggy-backing frail relatives up White Horse Hill and Wittenham Clumps?

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the pressure on vulnerable people, carers (many of them under 18), families and communities may become unbearable.

Her wizened face shone!
A frail old woman weeping,
the moon her companion.