Houston recently posted What the Feminist Movement can learn from Islam, about an article written by an Islamic woman that criticizes Western attempts at social development in other countries aimed at ‘raising’ the status of women according to the ethnocentric assumptions of Western feminism. Not the kind of thing you hear every day in Western media, I imagine. Richard Nisbett offers another such critique from the outside in The Geography of Thought.
Consider this a warm-up to the personal identity post. Nisbett ties the following back to the basic differences of perception regarding objects and their contexts, but I won’t attempt that here.
We tolerate an awful lot of poop in the public sphere, to put it mildly, because we value individual “rights” so highly. We buy Voltaire’s “I disagree with what you have to say but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” I’m not saying we’re wrong, necessarily, but it sure is interesting when you can start to understand why many people disagree – or don’t hold that value as highly as we do. Parts of the West have recently spent billions of dollars and thousands of lives on the assumption that everyone will value our brand of “freedom” if given the chance. The truth is: everyone won’t. And it’s long past the time we started trying to understand why.
Can you imagine how our insistence on freedom of expression could be considered by some to be a morally objectionable violation of human rights?
It is also important to recognize that East Asians and other interdependent peoples have their own moral objections to Western behaviour. When East Asian students become comfortable enough to speak out in Western classrooms, they will often express bewilderment at how much disorder, crime, and exposure to violent and sexually explicit images in the media Westerners are willing to tolerate in the name of freedom. They perceive these issues as entailing human rights because rights are perceived as inhering to the collectivity rather than the individual (199).
Some people value social stability and the elimination of harmful content from the public sphere more than they value a Western degree of freedom of expression. Some don’t assume that in a “free market of ideas,” the “right” ideas will always win out over the harmful ones in the long run. And their view of our society is great support for their opinion.
Something I find so interesting – and I’ll have to talk and read some more before really putting any ideas together – is our supervisor’s take on why democracy and rule of law (courts, etc.) aren’t really fitting that well in Taiwan. The cultural factors he’s brought up are fascinating, but more on that after I read and ask some more questions.