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March 07, 2013


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Well written, Leanne! In the past, I have characterized the "unacknowledged presuppositions" underlying traditional Asian values is the ideal of "dynamic stability" (an essentially stable society, with just enough dynamism added to resist entropy); modern Western values have the ideal of a "stabilized dynamo" (an essentially dynamic society with just enough stability added to resist chaos). When the right balance is achieved, the 180-degree difference in ideal starting points becomes an interesting subject for academic debate. The old "East is East and West is West" cultural distinction is really blurring now that "ICU" (Industrial-Commercial-Urban) societies are becoming, for better or for worse, a global phenomenon.

But don't let ideas like mine dampen your enthusiasm for dealing with complex comparisons and contrasts. I love the way you wrap your mind around so many beautiful details, aesthetic and political, both East and West. Keep up the good work/play....... Jan

Hi Jan,

Thank you so much! Although I used Persia and China as my illustrations, this was really about Japan, which is Industrial, commercial and urban and yet retains its own economic model and culturally-specific prioritizing of certain values over others. But specifically I was really thinking of the very historically situated manner in which the media presents such differences in priorities--whether that be variations on capitalist models and economic openness or whether than be in the concept of harmony or continuity. Japan is a global society but it in many interesting areas does not take on the monoculture. I am not so sure about other places...China having many many shared values with American ones for example (with Japan or Europe standing closer in a lot of areas from food to social welfare?), and it is really hard to see where India would fit in in that east is east thing. But how things are viewed via the Western media, I do think is a lot like this.... anyway, Golding's Essay was fabulous. You probably read it already but no matter how many times I read it, I just fall in love with it again.

Some Chinese friends have been circulating this example of differences in societies dominated by Chinese people:

Hong Kong: Everything is allowed, except what is prohibited by law.
Singapore: Everything is prohibited, except what is allowed by law.
Taiwan: Everything is allowed, including legal prohibition.
中国大陆 :一切禁止,包括法律准许。
Mainland China: Everything is prohibited, including what is allowed by law.

That is very hard to even imagine..... But in one sense it does speak to something I didn't really want to talk about but... yes different attitudes to the Rule of Law.

Japanese conceptions of the Law certainly have different priorities and the gray areas (for example in divorce laws) point to a differing idea of what the rule of Law should be based on or set up to accomplish... is Law based on protection of individual liberties or is it set up to gurantantee stability.... and look at Singpaore, if that doesn't shut someone up, I don't know what will..!!

I have on several ocassions in Japan heard mention of the law 法 versus 道 where one focuses on the universal application of codes and the other focuses on embodied know how.... from music to tea, teachers have recommended I work within the latter not the former in my study

I wrote this on Lady Rokujo and seem to recall there was some interesting talk...

I love this: " . . . not a trace of any personal journey of self-discovery anywhere in the essay (Eat, Love, Puke? . . . ."

Thank you.

And you may want to check out any of Guy Davenport's essay collections. He is one of the modern masters of the form.

"Ὦ ξεῖν', ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδε
κείμεθα, τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι."
"Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by,
that here, obedient to their laws, we lie."

There are fewer pieces of poetry more powerful than that.

Ever since I first got really interested in history (Antique history as a high schooler), I've had a fascination with the idea of that event: "The Last Stand," and what drives people or armies or nations to do it (or turn away! Josephus vs. Masada).

I think one of the most important things about them is that there's always a sense that "death is not the worst of evils." That there are some fates that are so damaging to the soul that the death of the body is preferable to them. (And now that I think about it, there might be a connection between that eternally optimistic Leftist phrase "No Pasaran!" and their disbelief in eternal judgment.)

Dear PJ, I really loved your comment. Thank you so much. I think a lot about Martin Luther King Jr's phrase, "To have nothing to die for is to have nothing to live for." In a way, this one concept has been really fundamental to me for a long time. I really thought it also came from Martin Luther (supposed, "here I can stand because I can do know other.") Kierkegaard also did so much with this in terms of his defining commitment. It is kind of connected to our other discussion about drones, don't you think? Today was a really long day and so I am afraid I am not making much sense, but I was hoping to get hear from you. I wanted to pass this along to you. I am only halfway throughout but like it a lot. Hope all is well there. Wishing you every blessing. (I wrote this comment two days ago but forgot to post it!!) http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/SandisTaleb.pdf

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