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Crazy rich (in values) Asians

  • Published at 06:06 pm October 31st, 2018
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Family values are integral BIGSTOCK

Asian values could pose a threat to Western hegemony

At the recent media conclave arranged by Dhaka Tribune, one of the themes of discussion was “crazy Asian values.” A few of the panelists tried to outline what Asian values were and how it compared to the globally established values of the West. 

The European panelists in the debate were reluctant to accept anything as Asian values at all. The values of the Faustian culture have emanated from the West to eventually form Western values, and spread across the global communities pervasively. 

Much later, the advent of secularism reshaped the old set of values into democracy, individual liberty, or human rights. The idea of equality, social relationship, responsibilities, or justice was emphasized, and this brought liberty and freedom at the forefront. 

By and by, all these new values have bred this false sense of extreme happiness or freedom which are devoid of any biological, social, and physical constraints. If there are oppositions to this supreme value in any part of the world, they are quickly termed as not having democratic values, and violating human rights or individual freedom.

Dictated by political and economic perspectives, Western values spread across the world as the universal values adopted by the dominant political and economic systems. But have these values experienced smooth sailing, or collided with the political, cultural, and religious practices of the Asians?  

Theoretically, values grow from social, economic, political, and religious rituals -- practices and traditions largely from a historical legacy. The concept of Asian values emerged from the interaction of different old civilizational cultures like Sinic civilization, Indian civilization of the Indus Valley, and Magian civilization from the Arab region. 

Sinic, Indus Valley, and Arabic communities have much older civilizations and more concrete values than that of the West. The values that shaped the social, political, and cultural character of these areas were largely influenced by the Confucianism, Buddhism, and Islam.  

The traditional Confucian values that influenced the psyche of the people of Sinic civilization are harmony, benevolence, righteousness, courtesy, wisdom, honesty, loyalty, and filial piety. Benevolence, the core value of Confucianism, extends from the importance of familial ties and blood connections. 

The benevolence extends to friendships and social relationships, producing a full set of values that include justice, courtesy, wisdom, honesty, loyalty, self-discipline, and commitment. 

Care and respect for family and elders, social harmony and justice, and peaceful co-existence between different races in the same geography form the core of values of Indus Valley communities. Respect is an extremely important component -- families are valued highly, and are part of an individual’s life until death. 

The values carried by the global Islamic communities of the Magian culture, embody a systematic and coherent ideology with its code of morality, and doctrine of social justice. 

They believe in fair distribution of wealth ordained by their religious scripture. 

The Asian values are, therefore, respect for family, stability in the political realm, and ethical and moral conduct of economic affairs in the religious realm. The political philosophy for social governance in Asian values centres on the family and society, and the morality of the religious philosophy centres on promoting economic growth emphasizing on diligence, frugality, and integrity. 

These values do not deprive the people of freedom, but rather, value individuals as members of social networks. Asians are tolerant, open, and willing to negotiate to come to an agreement, despite the diversity of culture, through dialogue. This creates a sense of belongingness through friendliness and care between people. 

It invites mutual respect, equal negotiation, and peaceful and harmonious co-existence to ensure shared responsibilities and cooperation in the governance of world affairs. Asian values do collide with those of the West, as they confront the individual liberty or freedom as perceived by the West.

Mahathir Mohammad once said that the West does not approve of integration of civilization and values -- they rather, demand universal acceptance of their values, no matter if it mutilates peace and harmony of other areas. 

The Asian migration to the West, largely for economic reasons, did not integrate different civilizations, nor inspire the West to allow space of other cultures. The lack of shared responsibilities, the lack of integration of culture, and the lack of respect for others’ values have kept the migrated Asian communities from remaining aliens.

Asian values, on the other hand, promote the concept of shared governance based on mutual respect and harmony between different cultures. 

If these values are allowed to grow freely, it will definitely collide with, and threaten the supremacy of Western values. Justifiably therefore, Asian values are coined as crazy -- because they respect the idea of equality, social justice, and shared governance in global affairs, and ethical conduct in economic and political practices. 

AF Jaglul Ahmed is a regular contributor to the Dhaka Tribune.

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