Saturday, March 15, 2008


No Utopia on Earth

I've been thinking about a comment that an intelligent Japanese writer wrote on Japundit. I had rather cheekily posted two television advertisements which I thought demonstrated contrasting views toward the individual and community in the US and Japan.

His response:

I assume Westerners are just more individualistic. It’s commonly believed that the Western way of thinking is more based on categorical syllogism. You could call it ” more self-focused.” Surely Japanese tend to focus more on community when it comes to the judgment.

But that doesn’t mean Asian people excel morally at all. I’m not the only one to be the opinion that local community in Japan has quite collapsed. It’s really regrettable that old good Japan isn’t anymore as you’d like to believe. (Or should I say there is no utopia on earth ? )

And this, of course, is the relevant point for a humanist. The differences between cultures are fascinating and all, but are either people morally better and more humane? At some point it seems that how ethical or kind you are comes from your sincerity and ability to feel for others--and this is an individual struggle. I would still like to believe that social pressure matters in determining how much we value human rights, otherwise, what is the point in living in one country over another?

I am always tempted to believe that a culture can excel morally. It's a tempting attitude to take because it provides hope that there is a "way." I'm more jaded about actual religions as holding some kind of moral key--I'd rather struggle with morality all on my own outside of a religious school of thought. And I will probably never be entirely comfortable existing inside a group (dance class being the exception).

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