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  #41  
Old 11.06.2010, 18:56
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Re: Modern western culture superior to any other culture ever?

First of all thank you for starting such a thought provoking thread.

I actually wrote a long reply but once I read it I realised that it made little sense.

I would say yes, for me Western societies are superior in most respects.
I wipe my @rse with political correctness as I see it as oppression and even a cause for more discrimination. What goes on in the UK is a perfect example of absurd Political Correctness.
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  #42  
Old 19.06.2010, 01:26
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Re: Modern western culture superior to any other culture ever?

[QUOTE=scribble;834970]I am not the kind of guy who thinks everything is equal equal everywhere. So for example I don't buy views that all religions, cultures, nations, customs etc are equal or have similar merit. Some things in life are equal, some better and some worse. The politically correct and fashionable view that all cultures have equal merit in my opinion is just bull. So my view is that current modern western way of life is quiet cool. The personal freedoms and choices available are probably unprecedented in human history. Freedom of speech, democracy, no death penalty, sexual freedom, gay rights, people not anal about religion, more gender equality, comparatively lower corruption, lack of forced marriages, no honour killings, wife beating socially not accepted....... I could go on forever.
QUOTE]

I agree that moral relativism is a bankrupt idea, and that not every things are equals and every one is right and youpla rainbow, sugar and teletubbies.

That being said, it means nothing to say something is superior to another is you don't specify which factor you use to determine that.

My (quite self-evident and boring) point: a culture can be superior to another in some respect, while inferior in some others.

In many ways at no point in history as it ever been a culture as advanced a modern day western civilization: incredible scientific achievment ( just think life expectancy keep going up, the moon landing, etc), cultural advancement (whatever you may thing of the ''dumbing down'' phenomenon, statistically there's never been so few illeterate people in our countries), social progress (wage and laber laws, social security), etc

But in some respect our advanced western civilisation is deeply flawed, in ways that weren't apparent in the past: the social mobility and fast social evolution means it's highly unstable (how many wars and revolutions in 20th century); above all, the ammount of ressources and energy used to keep it going is impossible to maintain on the long term, and the bickering around ressources also increase instability.

We can mock hunter-gatherers cultures of the past, but they could keep that model of society going for hundred of thousand of years. How long until our model finally crumble ? In that respect, our way of life is evidently inferior. Can any society or culture or way of life, which bears in itself the root of it's own destruction be rightly called superior ?


I'm not saying I want to revert to this kind of life, I'm quite happy with vaccins and education and stuff, but it's still food for thoughts.
I think it is possible to live a modern, elevated way of life without relaying so much on the ressource-hungry system we have now. In fact, there's little choice: it's that or Mad Max (or fallout for gamers and allergic to Mel Gibson).

It's a given in the historical process that many societies which thrive will gain in complexity, up to the point where the whole system is so complex, so interconnected that any major crisis will bring it down. Happened to the Romans, happened to Mayas, can (will?) happen to us. We are legitimmately pround or this complexity, or our advancement, but it's precisely that aspect that can bring us down

''YOu will be punished by where you have sinned''

aahh, when I start I don't seem to stop. Congrats if you went through it all.
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  #43  
Old 19.06.2010, 11:25
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Re: Modern western culture superior to any other culture ever?

This is a very interesting thread.
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  #44  
Old 19.06.2010, 11:38
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Re: Modern western culture superior to any other culture ever?

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It's a given in the historical process that many societies which thrive will gain in complexity, up to the point where the whole system is so complex, so interconnected that any major crisis will bring it down. Happened to the Romans, happened to Mayas, can (will?) happen to us. We are legitimmately pround or this complexity, or our advancement, but it's precisely that aspect that can bring us down
Good thought, but don't forget that hunter-gatherers at large have not been able to continue their lifestyle, for various reasons, but essentially precisely because they're unable to adapt to a changing environment. I think we need to retain our flexibility as a society, we are far too rigid in our demands nowadays, so we cannot react to a change in supply (be it natural ressources, weather, work, whatever) What I find mostly lacking in modern Western culture is a direction, a goal, what we want to achieve. We have a strong feeling of achievement of past deeds, but do any of todays young grow up and feel "I have to study hard to take part of this development" ? I don't think so, unlike China and India and other, more dynamic places. They have a vision for their society, they have morals and ideals, and wish to close the gap between that and reality.
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Old 19.06.2010, 11:58
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Re: Modern western culture superior to any other culture ever?

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Good thought, but don't forget that hunter-gatherers at large have not been able to continue their lifestyle, for various reasons, but essentially precisely because they're unable to adapt to a changing environment. I think we need to retain our flexibility as a society, we are far too rigid in our demands nowadays, so we cannot react to a change in supply (be it natural ressources, weather, work, whatever) What I find mostly lacking in modern Western culture is a direction, a goal, what we want to achieve. We have a strong feeling of achievement of past deeds, but do any of todays young grow up and feel "I have to study hard to take part of this development" ? I don't think so, unlike China and India and other, more dynamic places. They have a vision for their society, they have morals and ideals, and wish to close the gap between that and reality.
Yup, that's one ugly concept of the entitlement culture. People just want to reap the benefits of hard working generations before them without feeling they too should chip in. That's why I view education to be one of the most optimistic and potentially efficient way to maybe try to change the way things are now. In education (or maybe the old school that I went through), you still find people who, independently of monetary outcome, still believe on having impact on tomorrow's future, i.e. today's kids. Fostering values, giving them strategies that will help them while adding value to society. I feel, in the world of non functioning family system, with so many gadgets and toys that merely distract kids and do not give them brain food and do not induce the belief of belonging to a community that they have to protect, schools seem to me a very practical place to start the improvement..China and India, btw, have a very strong, traditional family system. I contribute the determination there to improve life and our conditions to their high quality family interaction and high quality and very available edu system. But, I might be completely naieve. Sorry for the run-on sentences..
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  #46  
Old 19.06.2010, 14:03
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Re: Modern western culture superior to any other culture ever?

I certainly think that family values can be a contributor not only generally to quality of life but also economic growth. In Asia it's very common in poor families for the oldest kids to go work so the younger sibling can go to college or university. I know several cases myself, there is a strong sense of commitment to this cause, from both sides. It really strenghtens the family bonds and gives you a clear direction in life.
That's essentially also my biggest criticism of the wellfare state, by outsourcing social thought and responsability to the state, you free the individual to not care about others, as you're "already paying taxes." And in return it gives the recipient a wrong sense of entitlement, he thinks he has a "right" to get something from the state and forgets who is paying for it. It's really a two-bladed sword, of course I see the good sides but I think a little more commitment and pressure to not only serve yourself but also society in general wouldn't hurt.
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  #47  
Old 19.06.2010, 14:59
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Re: Modern western culture superior to any other culture ever?

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I certainly think that family values can be a contributor not only generally to quality of life but also economic growth. In Asia it's very common in poor families for the oldest kids to go work so the younger sibling can go to college or university. I know several cases myself, there is a strong sense of commitment to this cause, from both sides. It really strenghtens the family bonds and gives you a clear direction in life.
That's essentially also my biggest criticism of the wellfare state, by outsourcing social thought and responsability to the state, you free the individual to not care about others, as you're "already paying taxes." And in return it gives the recipient a wrong sense of entitlement, he thinks he has a "right" to get something from the state and forgets who is paying for it. It's really a two-bladed sword, of course I see the good sides but I think a little more commitment and pressure to not only serve yourself but also society in general wouldn't hurt.
Well, there are people in need who I don't mind being supported with my taxes. The entitled feeling ones, I agree with you there. It's the old thought of either giving people bread to eat or teaching them how to make it. It is interesting to dig in Swiss own Pestalozzi these past two years who actually figured out in 1780s that a well functioning family providing education is a great investment for the state, to have those should be primary economical (and ethical) common interest in our society. Economic pragmatism was one of his main arguments, aside of noble ethics, I wonder how many people actually got him. I think well functioning families are a "luxury" of poor cultures. And cheap good schools, since the gov knows it is a future investment for the society.
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  #48  
Old 19.06.2010, 15:31
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Re: Modern western culture superior to any other culture ever?

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It is often quite easy to equate econmic status and richness to cultural superiority. A chinese factory worker, an indian farmer or an arabic merchant is in no way culturally inferior or superior to a common westerner.
I completely disagree. I read that an average farm worker in Europe in the 19th century got through his entire life less information as is written in one single weekend edition of a quality newspaper today. He was very likely unable to read or write and even if he could read, the access to anything besides the bible was very limited. We can forever discuss which element of culture is more important than another one, but the access to information on anything cultural is the basis of everything. Today, the average westerner has learned the basics and enjoys access to every cultural bit of information he could wish for. In many developing countries, the access is far less developed and yes, a Chinese factory worker has not the same level of culture as a Chinese intellectual. Overall this makes the culture less strong. China is not the best example as the country values culture very highly, so there everyone tries to get the access. In other emerging or developing countries this is happening less...

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all said and done... Western way of living is simple and beautiful. Each person is on his own. practice and preach what ever you want....
Oriental systems are not that accomodative... because it is considered that such explorations and experiments have long been done, carefully studied and the ultimate essence is now practiced as religion and culture..
Sorry to tell you very directly, but you have apparently not really looked at and understood our culture here very well. Yes, this is the essence of sitcoms as "friends", but the reality does in fact look very different (India is not like a Bollywood movie either...). I grew up like most Europeans not in a city, but a small village. There, nobody is on his own at all, but there is a society that takes care of each other very much.... and not everything that would be accepted in a city as Zurich would be accepted there.
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  #49  
Old 19.06.2010, 15:49
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Re: Modern western culture superior to any other culture ever?

I forget that Westerners were so culturally aware....

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Old 21.06.2010, 01:21
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Re: Modern western culture superior to any other culture ever?

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I forget that Westerners were so culturally aware....

You do realize that for every such video I could post 100 dumb non western ones? I won't as it would be just silly and not what my topic is about. Anyway that video is from US so does not count

The views I hold highly in life are not a direct result of my eastern background nor my western upbringing. They are a result of my own self exploration. My point is that these views are more tolerated in the west than in the east. I never meant that east automatically = inferior or west automatically = superior. Many great minds have come from the east but on the whole I prefer western society and way of life. I am not even talking about material things. For example freedom of expression on it's own is worth a lot to me.

Someone mentioned family values in the east are better etc. They are nothing but a sham in lot of the cases. It's made out to be better but it's not unless you are the type who likes every family member butting into your daily life I don't so thank you very much.

Last edited by scribble; 21.06.2010 at 02:19.
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  #51  
Old 21.06.2010, 02:13
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Re: Modern western culture superior to any other culture ever?

Forget the blonde.

Remember, the cute fifth grader knows world capitals.
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  #52  
Old 21.06.2010, 09:39
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Re: Modern western culture superior to any other culture ever?

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You do realize that for every such video I could post 100 dumb non western ones? I won't as it would be just silly and not what my topic is about.
I have no problem to be silly on a Monday morning. Just for the fun of it, are automatic doors a cultural achievement?

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Old 21.06.2010, 12:41
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Re: Modern western culture superior to any other culture ever?

Oh, no, let's not make this one of "those" threads.
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  #54  
Old 21.06.2010, 12:52
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Re: Modern western culture superior to any other culture ever?

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I am not the kind of guy who thinks everything is equal equal everywhere. So for example I don't buy views that all religions, cultures, nations, customs etc are equal or have similar merit. Some things in life are equal, some better and some worse. The politically correct and fashionable view that all cultures have equal merit in my opinion is just bull. So my view is that current modern western way of life is quiet cool. The personal freedoms and choices available are probably unprecedented in human history. Freedom of speech, democracy, no death penalty, sexual freedom, gay rights, people not anal about religion, more gender equality, comparatively lower corruption, lack of forced marriages, no honour killings, wife beating socially not accepted....... I could go on forever.

Are there not problems in the west? Sure there are many but on the whole I feel the positives outweigh the negatives more than in any other part of the world. I was born in the east and have lived sizeable early chunk of my life there but I have lived majority in the west so I do know roughly what I am talking about. I enjoy and appreciate aspects of various cultures but western culture is where I feel at home and I think it is superior to any other way of life I have come across.

People get so attached to the culture they were born in that they can never look past it and get all worked up when someone points out valid and constructive faults. Call me a traitor but I see things for what they are If I thought there were better places in the world then I surely would move there.

Now that I have placed fuel and dry wood together......what say you?
Are you sure you are not comparing classes of people, rather than culture.

Even in barbaric eastern parts of the world, if you were to go in affluent areas, the culture they have is quite similar to what you would call western culture.

Its mostly about being well fed and having money as they say "A hungry man is an angry man."
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Old 21.06.2010, 13:50
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Re: Modern western culture superior to any other culture ever?

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Are you sure you are not comparing classes of people, rather than culture.

Even in barbaric eastern parts of the world, if you were to go in affluent areas, the culture they have is quite similar to what you would call western culture.

Its mostly about being well fed and having money as they say "A hungry man is an angry man."
Excellent point: so why are some civilizations better able to organize in a manner which meets the basic needs of the masses.

I also wonder which direction the western world is currently going, up the pyramid or down. The effectiveness of numerous fear based campaigns, might indicate a downward shift.

And how did the countries of the continent Africa which formed the first university in the world get into such a challengingly complex set of problems. (Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, is generally considered to be the oldest university in the world. It was founded roughly the same time as the city of Cairo, in 969 AD. The first lecture was delivered in 975 AD.)

Is it possible to bring the majority of the world to the top of the pyramid? Is it even desirable?

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Old 21.06.2010, 14:10
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Re: Modern western culture superior to any other culture ever?

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Excellent point: so why are some civilizations better able to organize in a manner which meets the basic needs of the masses.

I also wonder which direction the western world is currently going, up the pyramid or down. The effectiveness of numerous fear based campaigns, might indicate a downward shift.

And how did the countries of the continent Africa which formed the first university in the world get into such a challengingly complex set of problems. (Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, is generally considered to be the oldest university in the world. It was founded roughly the same time as the city of Cairo, in 969 AD. The first lecture was delivered in 975 AD.)

Is it possible to bring the majority of the world to the top of the pyramid? Is it even desirable?
I think Plato's Academia would predate Al-Azhar or even the some in China.

The reason is simple lack of money.

Nopes... If you bring the majority of the world to the top of the pyramid, who clean you the roads then

To make few rich people, you have to make a lot of people poor, thats a simple principle.
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Old 21.06.2010, 14:15
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Re: Modern western culture superior to any other culture ever?

Money is not an excuse. There are too many examples throughout history to contradict this point.

Additionally, top of the pyramid does not indicate wealth. Maslow's Heirarchy of Need pyramid is not an income scale.
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Old 21.06.2010, 14:33
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Re: Modern western culture superior to any other culture ever?

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Money is not an excuse. There are too many examples throughout history to contradict this point.

Additionally, top of the pyramid does not indicate wealth. Maslow's Heirarchy of Need pyramid is not an income scale.
Money in terms of means. To climb up the hierarchy, one has to have the basic necessities i.e. Physiological needs satisfied and the only way to do that is via Money.

Hungry stomach and no roof over your head would hardly help someone realise their Ego and self actualization needs. Im not talking about few exceptions, but in terms of majority of people.

Lets say there is a guy who goes to work in say SBB train having a capuccino and croissant, reading a book or a newspaper. Then there is another guy, who is travelling with only foot on the bus and holding the bar with one hand, his toes being stepped upon constantly.

Which one would you think would perform better?

Imagine going through this struggle everyday, and barely making ends meet. You are agitated right in the morning and then you come back and the Mrs who is also equally agitated for whatever reason. She throws a fuss and the end result i s what you would call domestic violence. Too many occurences of it and it becomes the culture of that country/people.

But is it?
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Old 21.06.2010, 14:43
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Re: Modern western culture superior to any other culture ever?

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Money is not an excuse. There are too many examples throughout history to contradict this point.

Additionally, top of the pyramid does not indicate wealth. Maslow's Heirarchy of Need pyramid is not an income scale.
No, it is not. But income is somewhat close to "security" in the western world. In my dad's generation it was very simple: If you graduate from university, you will always have a job - and you will typically stay your entire career at one employer. This has changed dramatically in Europe within relatively few years.
If I remember Maslow correctly, he argued that the pyramid comes in layers and you build it up layer by layer in a society. What I see in the west is in my eyes different: The layers are all there and have been for some decades. However, for growing parts of the society some parts of the pyramid do not work anymore: Some have lost the job security, others gave up a lot on the social layer (for example through moving to Switzerland ;-) ), others have given up the goal of self actualization for lower layer needs...

This said, I cannot give an overall direction for Europe... I guess some will win, some will lose in the west while I believe that large parts of the Chinese society are currently on the winning track.
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Old 21.06.2010, 14:50
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Re: Modern western culture superior to any other culture ever?

My approach is to rate a civilization on its treatment of its weaker members. Rank the civilizations / cultures on the globe today by their treatment of:

1. Women
2. Children
3. The handicapped
4. The poor

Western civilization wins hands down.
I also highly rate the fact that there are no individuals who are excluded / down-trodden simply because of who their parents are / were. No slaves (Africa, Middle East and the various 'stans heading east towards China ), no untouchables (India).
These are the fundamentals that matter to me.
Regarding the other topics brought up:

1. Racism is unfortunately everywhere, and I witnessed the worst examples during my time in the developing world.

2. One man's exploitation is another man's job. Yes, stitching footballs may be a tough job for a kid, but it's better than starving and / or selling themselves on the street. Every time the word went out that we wanted men to dig a trench when I worked in Africa, three times as many men would turn up as we needed from the local villages, including kids. They would be begging us to take them on to dig all day in the hot sun. The daily wage for this work? USD 2.50.

3. Civilizations throughout history have exploited each other and each other's resources. There have been winners and losers on both sides. Please don't try to convince me that all the different cultures in the developing world were dancing through the forest together singing kum-ba-ya before the evil westerners turned up. They were fighting each other tooth and nail.
Regarding exploitation of resources, the colonists barely scraped the surface. There are still more mineral / hydrocarbon resources left in the ground in Africa / Asia / South America than anyone could dream of (and the Chinese are currently ripping them out as fast as possible). Establish rule of law, protect property rights, don't screw the foreign investors too hard and things improve very quickly. Tanzania is roaring away at the moment.

I am not naiive enough to think that this western civilization will last forever. There is a quotation somewhere that runs along the lines of; "We in the west like to think that our position at the top of the pile is somehow God given, everyone else has never forgotten that it is because we are better at fighting in groups." or something like this...

Cheers

Jim
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