Striking a Balance: A Primer in Traditional Asian Values

Striking a Balance: A Primer in Traditional Asian Values

Striking a Balance: A Primer in Traditional Asian Values

Striking a Balance: A Primer in Traditional Asian Values

Synopsis

This study of Zhuangzi, a Doaist thinker, and Kierkegaard, a protestant Christian thinker, develops and analyzes antirationalism as a distinct religious category. It argues that Zhuangzi's and Kierkegaard's approaches are substantially similar, and point to the need for a new analytical category.

Excerpt

The West's former dominance in global affairs is evidenced by those immigrants who came to America and changed their names. There are countless examples, such as Hilda Lee, one of the first Chinese women in California to work on airplanes, and George Shima, a Japanese farmer whose original name was Kinji Ushijima. When my mother changed her name, Misae, to Mary, it was a way to accommodate her Japanese heritage to her new American world. All this reflected Western culture's defining authority.

Now, things have changed. An increasing number of Asians who live in the West are keeping their original names. Witness the changing names of cities: Bombay has been renamed Mumbai; Saigon has become Ho Chi Minh City; Peking is now Beijing. Witness the names of countries: Burma is now Myanmar. Consider Hong Kong's farewell to British rule in 1997 and China's embrace of Macau in 1999. These are clear signs that the once-governing axis of the West is giving ground to Asian autonomy.

As we enter a new millennium, Asia, a conglomerate of more than thirty countries with a combined population of more than half the world's peoples, will no doubt exert a far-reaching influence upon the rest of the planet. This influence will be profound, affecting global security, economy, and politics. Developments, particularly in countries such as China (predicted by many to become the new superpower), Hong Kong, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia, will send political, cultural, and economic shock waves throughout the world.

Asia's momentous ascendancy has compelled us all the more to engage in global dialogue. More than at any other time in history, Westerners need to make an earnest effort to understand Asian worldviews. We must try on Asian lenses in order to see reality from Asian perspectives. in order to participate in global dialogue, we need to construct secure bridges of cultural awareness, sensitivity, and understanding that run deeper than a merely superficial interest in Asian imports, such as martial arts, Chinese acupuncture, yoga, Japanese acupressure, Tai Chi, and Korean ginseng.

This book offers a prudent set of tools for constructing this bridge to understanding. Its underlying premise is that we in the West have much to learn from Asian values. For instance, Western cultures stress the importance of individual self-determination. Yet, while we cherish personal independence and individual liberties, we can also stand to learn from Asia's emphasis on family, social interdependence, and the priority of communal well-being over individual self-interests. Indeed, at least in the United States, we are desperately in need of a moral awakening. Perhaps a study of values that have been firmly rooted throughout Asian cultures and that have withstood the test of time and history may help to spark this awakening by urging us to reassess our own values and priorities.

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