Noah denkt™ - The Power of Balanced Reasoning
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Putin, Erdogan, ISIS etc..,, or How to explain the weird East-West-Divide?
A naïve Dialogue with the Alter Ego on the Eurasian Antagonism (Part I), first drafted on Aug. 13, published on
Aug. 14, 2014
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    Asian values are very much inter-related. They all support the view of the individual as being a part of a much larger group or family,
    and place great importance on the well-being of the group, even at the expense of the individual. American values, on the other
    hand emphasize the importance of the well-being of the individual, and stresses independence and individual initiative. Although it
    may seem that values such as education, family, and hard work are shared between cultures, these values manifest themselves
    quite differently in the two cultures.  Some Asian values are so important that some of the cultures, especially the Japanese have
    given them names of their own, and are used commonly. Here is a list of some of the most outstanding values:  (...)
    Enyo (japanese) - The conscious use of silence, reserve in manner / Han (chinese) -  Conformity, and the suppression of individual
    attributes such as talent, anger, or wealth which might disrupt group harmony / Amae (japanese) – To depend and presume upon
    the benevolence of others. A deep bonding in human relationships between one who is responsible for another, and one who must
    depend on another / Giri (japanese) – Indebtedness, obligation and duty to others, reciprocity / Gaman (japanese) – Endurance,
    sticking it out at all costs. Self-sacrifice for the sake of others / Tui Lien (chinese) – Loss face, shame. The final standard as to how
    well one lives up to these values.
    (…) Endurance, and sticking it out at all costs is really central to the extent to which all the other Asian values are carried out, and
    what distinguishes Asian values from values in other cultures that look at first similar. As opposed to cultures which emphasize the
    well-being of the individual, and are less likely to involve sacrifice as a matter of course; one’s own situation is secondary to that of
    the group as a whole. Maintaining one’s obligations, good face, and harmony are more important than personal comfort. Endurance
    is a measure of self-control and inner strength. Sacrifice is made for the sake of others. Complaining is seen as a sign of weakness,
    and this may lead to the view of Asians as being uncomplaining, and their being less vocal as a group than other minorities. -
    Arthur Hu, An Introduction to Basic Asian Values, March 9, 1985 © 1985


Question by Alter Ego of Noah denkt™ (AE): Would you mind if we ask you a very naive question?

Answer by Noah denkt™ (Nd): Go ahead.

AE: We know that Robert Fisk or Edward Said would probably shiver just from hearing this:  But why is it that
Europe and Asia have such opposing political sentiments and orientations when they really are, at least
geographically speaking, part of one and the same Eurasian continent? What is the ultimate reason why those
in the West
(France, the UK and its US offspring, in particular) are considered the cradle of democracy and egalitarian
civil rights while Asia is generally being associated with authoritarian and patriarch social models of governance
(Putin, Erdogan, Sharia, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Communist China, and even the largely dynastic rule in one-man-one-vote India)?
Obviously, climate and topographic explanations can’t do the trick here since tropical Myanmar or Vietnam
(or
Thailand, for that matter, currently ruled by a military junta)
are quite different from Iran, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan or
Russia, and yet they still share the same illiberal tendencies? So what is going on here?

Nd: Well, that surely is an overbearing question simply put.  But let’s not shy away from it and give you an
equally naive answer instead. As you know Karl August Wittfogel, a German-American sinologist, addressed
this question in his book “Oriental Despotism” in 1957. And he did in fact focus on climate as the foremost
reason of Asia’s despotic inclinations. His argument was that it was the monopolistic control over the supply of
water
(above all, in Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley etc..) which created the top-down authoritarian
paradigm in the region.  We would like to proffer a different hypothesis though:  Could it not be that the East-
West-divide in political and social sentiment rests largely on the fact that historically Europeans are Asian
emigrants and have therefore at one point left their original home, while Asians themselves did not leave but
stayed close to their roots? In other words, is it not true that those who leave home for faraway lands are a lot
more obliged to put into question their childhood values of cohesion, humility and obedience in order to adapt
to new conditions, than those who stay at home?  And can we, hence, not infer from this that the challenge of
having to settle in alien territories may have spurred a cultural context that is more open to progressive,
experimental and individualistic approaches?

AE: Well, you could also argue that those who go away need a much tighter network of cooperation and
cohesion in order to survive than those who don’t emigrate. After all, they are much more exposed to the
dangers of the unknown than those who have already established a certain level comfort at home. Would that
not suggest that the Europeans who emigrated from Asia had to be way more Asian and group oriented than
the Asians themselves?

Nd: Don’t forget that the act of leaving, the act of emigration is first and foremost a rejection of the original
status quo in their homeland. Because they would stay at home if there were nothing major to object to. Instead
they chose to break away from their erstwhile group harmony and to challenge the cohesion that reigned
therein. This puts them firmly on a path that over time will necessarily have to lead to the present day concept
of individualism as we know it in the West.  

AE: And yet, we are talking about an emigration from Asia here that may have happened around 30000 BC? Is
it really fair to relate present cultural paradigms to events that happened tens of thousands of years ago?

Nd: Well, intensive and massive emigration of later Europeans from Asia continued from 376 to 800 AD and in
some way there is a continued trickling down to this day. See, for instance, the 3 million inhabitants of Germany
that are of Turkish descent.

AE: Well, well… there are some rather large blank spots here though where Asians don’t seem to have moved
in bigger numbers from East to West. ... But let`s accept your argument here for the sake of the argument and
ask you this instead: There has also been massive migration over the centuries inside Asia. Take the case of
the Ottoman tribes who left Central Asia for what is today known as Turkey. Or take the repeated Mongolian
invasions of China, or the large emigration of Chinese people to South East Asia. Would your earlier argument
not suggest that these people too would have had to shed their original Asian values? And yet, that doesn't
seem to have happened! –Just look at the authoritarian inclinations of the recently elected Turkish President
Erdogan.

Nd: Perhaps, the degree to which you shed your earlier childhood values has something to do with the
geographical distance that you cover in the course of your emigration. In other words, the further you emigrate
the more likely you are to leave your original Asian values behind.

AE: And it could not be that the individualistic reinvention which you experience in Europe may have something
to do with Mediterranean conditions of climate and geography that spark the creation of a seafaring, multi-
ethnic Roman Empire which in turn allows for the breakthrough of the liberating concept of contract law?

Nd: Obviously, all this is very well possible. And yet, it seems to us as if our emigration theory does hold some
water when it comes to explaining the East-West-divide.
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Keywords:

Asian versus European values, the East-West-Value Divide, East-West-Divide, Eurasianism, a divided
Eurasian continent,
democratic versus authoritarian rule in Eurasia, democracy versus
authoritarianism in Europe and Asia, How to explain the opposing social values in Europe and Asia