Readers' Submissions

Face, Guile And The Commerce Of Living In The West


Is Western culture soul-less? Is American-Euro interaction more shallow than what we take for granted in the East? Hip-hop culture anywhere is easy to mock, but it's not easy to find anything but hip-hop culture in the West.

There is no interest in being educated (declining rates of college bound students). That is saying the same thing. Truth holds no value (George Bush). Same. All movements are commerce, or meaningless. There are few gardens or parks or beautiful buildings, especially here (in Dallas, Texas), unless in large private acreage to show status. The arts are barely alive in the West, unless you count MTV and the WWF. No live band writes their own material (country music bands), painters (copy from each other), and there is nearly no real literature produced (check the book top-ten best sellers list). Philosophy is not here (who has read any for any degree). Never discussed here (for good reason, it makes people think you are a serial killer). The good, the true, and the beautiful, have no widespread following (except Brad and Angelina). There are no recognizable morals of truth and justice (George Bush and Tony Blair) – lawyers and police openly frame foreigners (the US Immigration laws, especially if you are Muslim) and the disadvantaged

(arrest rates for non-whites are at an all-time high), as if it was obviously proper. No recognizable allegiance to any consensual reality, scientific or otherwise (Intelligent Design). No recognizable living arts (we used to call these craftsmen in America, not many left, although Japan has quite a few). The cultures of (America and the other western nations) amount to the importation of currently fashionable materials from (China and Japan). Guile, with nothing underneath the guile – means without an ends. After the Beemer and the big hair and the long painted nails and the secret phone numbers, then what (sounds like my ex-wife in the West)? It’s got to be lonely in there (Brittany Spears), wherever there is, and I suspect no one will ever know, or question, or care (the pappazzi do). Trappings are wealth here (Beverly Hills). People get rich in order to be rich (Donald Trump), in order to exacerbate their alienation (Eminem), to drive the stake as deeply as they can into their pain, to commit their insecurities to suicide (Kurt Cobain), to become as inauthentic as possible, as nonexistent as possible (Rupert Murdoch). As untouchable as possible. As rich as possible (Bill Gates). There is nothing to question. Nothing inside, or outside (evangelical Christians). Just relax, get your titillations, get as much status while you can, and don’t worry about your inevitable meaningless death (stock brokers on Wall Street).

So on, and so on.

An old teacher of mine once said to find real prejudice, take the words of one person who says “black” and substitute “white”, or vice-versa. That is the game I have played with this submission and I think I have made my point that there is plenty to complain about here in the West, as much as there is in the East. Yes, I have seen these people from the original submission. We all have. We have also seen them in our home lands. But is all of Asia like this? I think there is much to appreciate. A few personal examples:

• The Bangkok taxi driver who, after telling him that I was Buddhist, drove me from the airport to Siam Square free. He didn’t even ask me to call him the next time I was in town. Just a kind act from one person to another.

• The café girl who always served me breakfast, loved to talk about the ballet. She wanted more than anything to go to America to see these dancers. Were her dreams empty?

• The constant work to restore the old temples and temple art, most of it by volunteers. Is this merely merit for sins committed, or do these people really care about their country’s treasures?

• The ten thousand acts of kindness by poor Koh Phuket residents during the tsunami for the farang victims. How many lives were saved with no material reward for their courage?

• HM The King of Thailand, with no direct power, is the absolute moral authority of his people, and rightly so. What single person in the west commands such deep respect based on “walking the walk”. Even the vilest person in Thailand has a picture of the HM The King and HM The Queen in their bedroom, hoping one day to find redemption.

And last but not least, the 100,000 or so brave citizens of Hong Kong who marched for freedom and democracy the other day. Were they doing this to make a fashion statement?

I believe that if we take off our cultural, or emotional, sun glasses, there are lots of things to appreciate (and to despise) in any culture. Sweeping bends of logic lead to sweeping statements without context to what is really happening around you. Asia is not different than any other part of the world if you just look close enough.

Stickman's thoughts:

I think you have simply chosen to interpret things in a way that suits your argument. It would be just as easy to slant things in a different direction. No right, no wrong, just different interpretation.