CULTURAL VALUES: EAST AND WEST

CULTURAL VALUES: EAST AND WEST

My eldest grand daughter called me by my name: first, second and last. To a Chinese, this is very rude. She thought it was funny, or novel. Maybe she imitated western movies or stories she had read. It was difficult for children to differentiate between rudeness and frankness; even harder to find a right balance of cultural values.  She was reprimanded by her mother for her rudeness. Yet she needed to learn the reasons, for teaching would be more relevant than punishment in parenting. Many Chinese or Asian families might not regard such travesty as rudeness at all; the differences are how each teach “respect” and “filiality” to their children.

By allowing children to address them by their First names, the intention might be the surrendering of authority, and some kind of equal status as friends. What was a friendly approach was rude in another culture; what was respect in a culture might be interpreted as authoritarian. There are no right or wrong here. Chinese familial training is hierarchical, sex dominance and respect for the elders generally. Once an adult nephew told me Confucian teaching was “old fashioned and out dated” because of hierarchy and sexual dominance. He quoted me the relevant passages in “The Analects”.  He was right that the quotations were there, but “analects” were mere selections, and without understanding them in the right context, the teaching could be easily misconstrued.  Hierarchy in the family enhances social order, for without individual and family order, there would be no community, social or national order. Even Western culture had such order, but with different emphasis. To the Chinese, children needed to be trained at home first.  To think Chinese parents or grand parents are less friendly to their children would be absurd; “tiger-mothers” are marketed for western audiences and readers. The complementary roles of Yin and Yan are beyond mere biology and gender; the dominance are not static.  All these are stated in Yi Jing, the Book of Change.  In a changing modern world, it is always good to challenge traditional values, but , there is need to understand first before the challenge or criticism. The many classical schools ( Daoism, Mohism) provided many lessons to learn. Western philosophical and psychological teachings help to enrich our traditional teaching, and should not be seen one against the other.

 

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