Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Everyday life

It is strange how different cultures have developed differing ways of looking at life and the world about them. This difference also affects behaviour and emotions. For instance it is well known that someone from the “West” or brought up in the “West” will have a more individualistic approach – “me, I am the important one.” By “West” I mean the more industrialised countries that have been influenced by European standards. On the other hand someone from the “East” or brought up in the “East” is more likely to have a collectivist approach – “us; the group is the important one.” By “East” I mean those countries in the Middle East, Asia and South East Asia; in other words those not having had a historically long European influence.

This “division” between Individualistic and Collective cultures would appear to be a remnant from the older less industrialised days when peoples were grouped by tribal or village affiliation. This affiliation and the small numbers of people concerned encouraged a “one for all and all for one” attitude. This was as defence or survival mechanism that developed to keep the village or tribe as a viable unit. Once industry and a “cash” economy developed then the situation changed and it became more of a individualistic “free-for-all” wherein people sought to get as much of the cash and what the cash would buy as possible. Thus there was no longer a pressing, defence or survival, need for the support of the group, village or tribe. People could go it alone and support themselves.

This means that when someone in the “West” is discomforted by, say a Wikileaks disclosure, they tend (and in using this word I am cautious as I am against categorising people) to take it personally – unless of course they speak for a government in which case the government and the political party concerned would be exceedingly discomforted. This discomfort would not necessarily flow on to the entire country – if people felt strongly enough about the matter they would, most probably, vote the government out at the next election and be done with it.
In an “Eastern” collectivist culture, on the other hand there is a tendency (again I use this word with caution) to take any discomforting disclosure not only as a personal affront – loss of face or a feeling of shame – but this feeling often flows on to the entire country which now “feels” the shame and considers itself diminished thereby.

While this division between “East” and “West” is (thankfully) no longer what it was because of the rapid industrialisation of the “East”, this “collectivist” attitude may still give rise to expressions of outrage and accusations that the international community is interfering in the internal affairs of their country, be it China, Serbia, Israel, Iran, Turkey or Burma or whatever.

What is affected may not be the image of the country so much as the ego of the country’s leader – this is what gives rise to international tensions and aggression.

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