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A Big Difference Between Western & Eastern Cultures

Often it is said that Western culture is superior because of its art, music, freedoms etc. It is also often claimed that eastern culture is superior because of its antiquity and wisdom. I say that both have their strong points but also their downfalls, neither one is better than the other in a holistic way but both can learn from the other.

However, I see one big difference.

One of the biggest differences I see in western and eastern cultures is that western culture focuses on the individual and eastern culture focuses on the group.

In the west we hold freedom of the individual to be a good thing but when that freedom detracts from the quality of others’ lives it is not so great. In the east individual freedom is less important than the overall good, that is great too until the overall good marginalizes some parts of society.

In US the aggressive preacher, Terry Jones, had the freedom to burn the Koran. Great, he is free to express his views, but it wasn’t so great that this sparked riots that killed many people in Afghanistan, particularly as he knew this was the likely outcome. This freedom was abused to the detriment of other people.

In a number of Asian countries, certain types of things are not allowed to be said, the concept of this is to prevent the bigger problems that may result. This freedom is curtailed to the benefit of other people.

Both cultures leave something to be desired.

What is true is that western culture has been in the ascendancy for some time and that there has been a certain amount of westernization of eastern nations, but there has been very little easternization of western nations. This perhaps leaves eastern cultures at an advantage as they are able to understand the west better than the west can understand the east and this will be to their advantage as Asian nations rapidly educate and industrialize themselves.

Whilst many in the west may frown at eastern cultures, it is also true that many people in the east are tired of the patronizing attitude of the west towards them. If one looks at the way western news agencies report protests around the world it is easy to see why. When there is a protest in an eastern country (China, Thailand, Syria, Bahrain etc.) the western media immediately adopts the attitude of protestors = good, government = bad and the governments of these countries are criticized for using force to break up the protest, often after many weeks of protesting. Conversely, protests against G8 in US, Canada, UK and Europe have been violently broken up on day 1; here the protestors are portrayed as anarchists because they don’t agree with the political system! Reporting like this makes people in eastern cultures look down upon the west just as much as people in western cultures look down upon the east.

I am not trying to say that any one of the above situations is wrong or right, or that east is better than west, just that both cultures need to be aware that each is different; there are different ways of reaching the same goal.

I have lived in both cultures and both are great in their own way, and both are equally dreadful in their own way.

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