English translation of an article on the Al Jazeera Arabic website.
Arabic vowelized text coming soon.
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Cat cafes…a Chinese recipe (for cure) for the One-Child Generation
Shen Zi Wei is a first year university student at the Faculty of Media 1 in one of the universities of the Chinese capital Beijing and has just turned twenty 2. She had grown up alone like the rest of her generation 3, having no brother sharing her joys and griefs and no sister to disclose her secrets to as the “Law of One-Child”, which the Chinese government has been imposing for three decades, forbids having more than one child per family.
Shen renounced reality for the virtual world of the internet spending hours of her time in front of the computer screen. We found her doing just this when we visited her at her university hall of residence. However, her imagination led her, through an online games’ website, to the south pole whence she returns with a penguin whom she brings up and takes care of. She uses her money in her credit card balance to buy food and bath soap for him and also exchanges love and affection with him till he has with time become her bosom buddy 4.
Shen tells us that she prefers penguins over many of her friends as all of them have their concerns and things that keep them busy. They are unable to visit her nor can she visit them whenever [any of them would like]; whereas she can call her preferred penguin 5, whenever she wants, with just one mouse click.
Breaking out of Isolation
However, Shen has come considerably out (of loneliness) and has decided to break the barrier of her isolation, to bid farewell to her virtual world and respond to the call of reality, as she has realised that she is in need of a living being that she can touch and feel; [a being] that she can play with, call, and talk softly and tenderly to who would respond or whom she can chide and would (promptly) obey.
Shen found the object of her quest at one of the (several) cafes that have started to spread in Chinese cities and are hugely popular 6 with the “one-child generation” segment of the youth that are suffering from boredom and loneliness, as they go to those places to play with the pets, to have them for company and to remove their loneliness.
In this regard, a recently published study has revealed that 60% of Chinese youth have grown up without brothers or sisters due to the one-child law and are considered the “young playboys” or the “sun of the family” as the Chinese say, that is, the entire family revolves around them. In spite of all this pampering they continue to feel lonely about their childhood. Moreover, around seven million of them suffer from loneliness 7.
Yuan Kong, the owner of one such cafe, says to Al Jazeera Arabic’s website: “Everyone who frequents the cafe here is from among the youth 8. The young women 9 usually spend more time playing with the cats whereas the young men spend more time chatting or trying to find a girlfriend and having some cups of coffee or tea. (All in all,) they all feel happy and at (their) ease 10.”
One girl, playing with a cat that was leaping in front of her, comments: “Some of my male and female friends go to volunteer at centres that take care of pets 11 like stray cats and dogs or pets 12 that have been abandoned by their owners; these are gathered in dedicated centres.” She adds: “However, I believe that the cats here are cleaner and free of disease. Moreover, I can’t stand dogs as their barking is annoying.”
That is the story of Shen Zi Wei, or rather the story of an entire generation that is the product of the one-child policy, as this generation grew up without brothers or sisters and suffers from boredom and loneliness. It is natural, therefore, that cafes like this (one) have become the best place for it and that their best companion to sit together with and close friend is a cat.
Didn’t one of the Abbasid poets, who used to suffer 13 from boredom and loneliness, say centuries ago:
When the chest gets packed with its worries, we say: perhaps one day they will have relief;
my drinking mate is my cat, the friend intimately close to me is my notebooks and my beloved is the lamp.
في الليلة الماضية كنت جالسا بجانب النار أقرأ رواية، إذ طرق شخص على الباب. نظرت أمي إلى الساعة وقالت لي: “أتعجب من يمكن أن يكون – إنه ليس والدك؛ فهو لا يرجع إلى البيت إلا في الساعة السادسة. والساعة الآن الرابعة والنصف. اذهب وانظر من هو؛ أنا مشغولة وأنت لا تفعل شيئا. “
– “ولكن يا أمي، أقرأ فصلا ممتعا من روايتي وتستطيعين أن تذهبي أنت كذلك.”
– “يا ولدي، عندما أطلب منك أن تفعل شيئا لي أريدك أن تفعله مباشرة.”
وعندما أنهت جملتها كانت هناك طرقة ثانية. فقمت وجريت لأفتح الباب. ويا للعجب! كانت زينب! فقلت لها: “أنا آسف جدا، جعلتك تنتظرين. لو عرفت أنك بالباب لفتحته مباشرة. كنت أقرأ رواية ولم أرد أن أتركها.”
1) Establishing different types of joint-projects. 2) The existence of a tariff preferences system among countries of the Islamic world. 3) Sharing the available technology developed by these countries. 4) Forming unions for producers of commodities and raw materials in Muslim countries. 5) Unifying stances with regard to international issues raised such as the issue of foreign indebtedness, the international monetary system and the stance with regard to transnational corporations. Finally, we come to say that the Islamic methodology is [suitably] placed to operate from stages of conditions of a single human person and is [also likewise] placed for this human being that lives on this earth. [Moreover] it takes into consideration human disposition, their energy, readiness, strength, weakness and their changing conditions that they encounter. Development in the Islamic methodology is not based on fanciful desires that clash with human disposition, their reality and circumstances of their life; it is a process that guards human creation and society’s cleanliness. So it does not allow the construction of a materialistic reality whose concern is partly to dissolve creation and pollute society under the judgement of necessity that clashes with that reality. Rather, it always intends to contruct a reality that helps to preserve creation and society’s cleanliness with the slightest effort that an individual and society put in. As for positivistic ideologies, they make the entire matter arbitrary in [the span of] one generation. In the rugged and perilous road that adherents of these ideologies follow, battles and wars [spread] around, massacres take place, [streams of] blood flow, values become crushed, matters become unsettled, they then become crushed at the end and their contrived ideologies become crushed under the judgement of nature which oppressive ideologies do not withstand.
The ruler is deemed responsible for the realisation of social stability by lawful methods. Islam has certainly guaranteed the plentiful availability of revenues through two principal means: a) Imposing secure financial obligations that are to be taken continuously, such as obligatory alms. b) The creation of public sectors and directing the state to invest those sectors. Islam prescribes fair regulations that prevent wealth from accumulating with a group and that lead to the fragmentation of ownership, including inheritance, wills and Islam’s combating of the amassment of money, the abolition of interest on the capital and the abolition of capital investment for natural resources. Communal self-reliance One thing certain now is that the Islamic state, with the tremendous and various natural resources that it has, strives through common work to achieve its economic liberation and negate its subordination to foreign [countries] by virtue of adopting an independent developmental policy. Under the increasing commercial patronage by industrial countries and the aggravation of the external debts problem for an increasing number of Muslim states, the concept of self-reliance has come to have a communal dimension, meaning that it extends to comprise the establishing of [one] type of the aspects of co-operation and relations, that have mutual interest, with a group of Muslim states that suffer similar problems and concerns, there exists a variety of profitable co-operation among them. The co-operation may comprise the following vital matters: