23 May 2005

bits & pieces

"So how do we explain the differences between Japan and the west? The heart of the matter lies in their different ethos. Individualism animates the west, now more than ever. In contrast, the organising principle of Japanese society is a sense of group identity, a feeling of being part of a much wider community. Compared with western societies, Japan is a dense lattice-work of responsibilities and obligations within the family, the workplace, the school and the community. As Deepak Lal argues in his book Unintended Consequences, the Japanese sense of self is quite distinct from the western notion of individualism. As a result, people behave in very different ways and have very different expectations, and their behaviour is informed by very different values. This finds expression in a multitude of ways."

"But if one rock was thrown, if one window was broken, Gandhi would call off the entire national strike and say, "you know what--we're going to come back in two years when we're ready." Because you know what--it wasn't just the point to engage in the national struggle, it wasn't just the point to raise the critique. The question was who are we going to be while doing it. Let's be good people while carrying it out."

"Will there be a backlash? Tiefer predicts that the Republican party will turn so far to the right that Americans -- whom, he believes, are mainly centrist -- will revolt. He points to how the country moved to the right after the liberalism of Johnson's Great Society and the Earl Warren Supreme Court, and predicts a contrary movement to the left (or at least, the center) will occur now. Unfortunately, however, there are few - if any - signs of an incipient backlash. Even as conservatism has grown, from the 1970s to today, civil liberties have weakened - and attention to the needs of ordinary Americans, and to human rights, has diminished. Maybe the great American experiment in secular democracy is coming to an end."


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