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Saturday, June 07, 2014

Confucianism, Good Samaritans in China and Cultural Authenticity

A: "What accounts for China’s lack of good Samaritans? Theories vary, and point to factors as variable as the lack of obligations to strangers under the Confucian value system,,,"


B: Korea can refute that comfortably.

C: oh please, how post cultural revolution China can still be considered Confucianist, is totally beyond me.

Me: A lesson of Marxist social engineering schemes is that changing human culture (let alone human nature) is not easy.

Ask a Korean!: Confucianism and Korea - Part VI: The Korean on Confucianism in Modern Korea

"Ability to deal with strangers

Korea's driving situation is notorious: it is disorderly, erratic and fatal. Korea's rate of traffic fatality is over twice of the OECD average, coming in third-to-last among the 29 member countries. The streets of Korea often approach a state of total lawlessness, with cars jumping onto and driving on pedestrian sidewalks and motorcycles whizzing by between lanes.

Korea also has a bad track record of discrimination. As the Korean chronicled a number of times on this blog, xenophobia and racism are rampant in Korea. Even among Koreans, there is still lingering discrimination against homosexuals, disabled, children born out of wedlock, people from certain regions, etc.

What do these two social ills have to do with each other? They are both examples of how Confucianism never evolved to fit the modern life. Remember that Confucian worldview is relational, based on the five specific relations -- parent-child, ruler-subject, husband-wife, old-young, friend-friend. But what about people who do not fit in one of those relations? If you are a serious Confucian, what are you supposed to do when you encounter a total stranger who does not fit the existing set of relationships?

Bad driving and discriminations are two examples that show Confucianism's failure to deal with strangers. (There are certainly many more examples.) When a Korean person meets another person, they spent the first few minutes asking each other how old they are, what they do, where they are from, etc. in order to figure out their relational positions. But you can't do that when you are driving a car. Behind the wheel, all the markers that matter to a Confucian are hidden. Because of that, the survivalist tendency takes over again, which leads to crazy and selfish driving. Similarly, discrimination against other people ultimately originates from failure to relate. When a person does not fit a set of existing social relationship, that person matters less than other persons who do fit. This is true everywhere, but particularly truer in a society that takes a relational understanding of humans.

A crucial characteristic of an industrial and capitalistic society is the ability for people to move around and constantly deal with strangers. Without this characteristic, modern society is not possible. But Confucianism is not very good at teaching people how to deal with strangers, although it may be excellent with teaching people how to deal with your parents, for example. Since Korea would prefer to have modernity than Confucianism, Confucianism must yield on this aspect."

D: This has nothing to do with Confucianism or any other philosophical ethos. It comes down to being human and are you willing to help your fellow men. China has issues in the past where good samaritans were chastised and sued. Then again, if you have a society filled individuals with an "only child mentality" - you can imagine how that would affect a country in general.

E: Lack of obligations to strangers under the communist system - it's the government's job.

Me: So philosophical ethoses are impotent since they do not affect human behavior

E: Culture affects people. Politics affects culture. Philosophy/theology is too hard for most people - they follow the pop version of their religion or official cultural philosophy.

Philosophy can affect people if first popularised through art for easy consumption e.g. existentialism.

Me: Does philosophy affect culture ?

E: Confuciansim was supposed to be the philosophy for the ruling class of China. Taoism was the religion and life guide for peasants.

A simplified and distorted philosophy can affect culture, similar to how the religion that most people follow is simplified and distorted and far from their religious texts.

The general public didn't understand empiricism until after they watched The Matrix.

The general public has a distorted view of the philosophical implications of the quantum uncertainty principle, due to its misuse in pop culture.

Me: So what is "true" Confucianism? Is fundamentalist (hah) Confucianism the only Confucianism worthy of the name? Mencius and Xun Zi developed Confucian philosophy in different ways - should we repudiate everything they said as "corrupted" Confucianism and go back to the source ? Note that here we are not blaming Confucius per se but Confucianism

Cultural influences are always mediated. Doesn't mean they don't exist. For example Buddhism in china was different from Buddhism in India. But you can't say Buddhism in India has nothing to do with Buddhism in china. Or that it's not Buddhism.

E: I know my limits. Don't know much about Confucianism. But what I'm saying is that your average Chinese follows his culture (you might call this a circular argument) and doesn't really know what Mencius actually wrote.

My point was not about splits within a religion. I'm saying that most Indian Buddhist don't know much about Indian Buddhism. I'm extrapolating from my experience with Christians. I don't know many Buddhist but I had a colleague who thought she was Buddhist but she was actually following a Buddhist/Taoist mix.

Me: Most Indian Buddhists don't know much about *traditional Indian Buddhism* (if that can be defined). What they practise is Indian Buddhism, by definition, and that is based on traditional Indian Buddhism.

In any event, traditional Indian Buddhism is also contested.

If you want to talk about Christianity, most Christians don't know about the early history of Christianity. But early Christianity is not necessarily the most "authentic" version. There were many competing versions.
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