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East And West, Different Outlook And Changing Trends

Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
East and West, Different Outlook and Changing Trends

by: Dr. Sawraj Singh, MD, FICS

In the last two centuries, under western domination, eastern philosophy, spirituality, secular concepts and the east´s contribution in the overall development of humanity have mostly been ignored or denied. As the western domination is coming close to an end, these issues are coming to the forefront. Is there any place for the eastern concepts to help in resolving the crisis faced by the dominant western society? Why didn’t the technological and scientific development of the last two centuries led to similar progress in humanitarian fields? Many people feel that there has been a decline in human values during this period.

Before the industrial revolution, the east had made more progress in almost every field. After the industrial revolution, the west started leading in production. Because of this industrial strength, the west was able to conquer the east. This led to impoverishment, overpopulation, and decline in the environment. Many eastern intellectuals also started feeling that the east did not make any significant contributions to the overall human development and had nothing to offer in the contemporary world.

This thinking which is born out of slavish mental and inferiority complex, denies the historical facts. Actually, barring these two centuries, the east was the leading region. What is the main reason for this? I feel that a favorable climate had a lot to do in that regard. The milder climate led to abundance of vegetation year-round. This meant abundance of vegetation and other resources. This situation created favorable conditions for development in the spiritual, philosophical, and scientific fields. This abundance also led to a tendency of renunciation, sharing, tolerance, and coexistence.

In the west, on the other hand, harsh climatic conditions led to a bitter struggle for survival, hoarding, intense competition, and a tendency to conquer. The climatic differences also explain the eastern emphasis on stability and the western attitude of adventure and a tendency towards nomadic existence. These conditions were also responsible for the development of eastern cultivational and western prescriptive spirituality. The concepts of pleasure are also different. The eastern concept laid more emphasis on the internal source of happiness and contentment, while the western concept was on a never-ending quest for happiness. The eastern concept of happiness states that real pleasure lies in self enlightenment or knowing your real self and being alienated from oneself is the real cause of suffering.

The west´s never-ending quest for pleasure led to unnatural ways to seek it, such as "night life." Nature made days to work and nights to rest. Dazzling lights, deafening music, and getting drunk can hardly be called a relaxing experience.

The western outlook to woman is mostly focused on her being an object of pleasure, while in the east, woman´s aspect of being a mother was more emphasized. This attitude of commercialization of sex as a commodity in the western-dominated world has led to the outbreaks of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and epidemics like AIDS.

The basic western attitude of trying to conquer nature rather than coexist with it has led to the environmental damage which was unheard of in the previous eras. It is the view of several environmentalists that our environment has been damaged and more plant and animal species have vanished from the earth in the last two centuries than at any other time in the history of the planet.

The arrogant and extravagant western attitude has also affected the eating habits of people and their lifestyles. Promoting meat as having high quality proteins compared to the lower quality of vegetable proteins has resulted in a very unhealthy population. The problem of being overweight and obese has completely gotten out of control. Similarly, the status of mental health of the people can be estimated by the record number of antidepressants, tranquilizers, and hypnotics being used now as compared to any other time in history.

Now the trends have started changing. It is becoming clear everyday that the western domination of the last two centuries is not going to last in this century. Actually the change may come sooner than many people can imagine, perhaps towards the end of the first decade. Asia is going to become the leading region; China the largest economy; and Islam will emerge as the largest religion in this century. Even though Islam is the youngest of the Judeo-Semitic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), yet Islam, for all practical purposes, has become an eastern religion because it finds itself in conflict with the consumerist western culture.

The intellectually enlightened segment of the western society has become aware of these trends. This has led to a phenomenon which can be called “intellectual polarization.” The gap between the intellectuals and the general population is becoming wider. The intellectuals are being attracted to eastern cultivational spirituality. They are becoming vegetarian. Many are trying eastern relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation. Many Americans are giving up hard liquor and starting to drink wine. Some even drink mineral water during {censored}tail parties.

The more informed Americans have different views on foreign policy and generally are less likely to support war. They support the principles of pluralism, diversity, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence.
The world will be a better place for all if we evolve such a system where better ideas are adopted from different cultures. The eastern concepts in the fields of spirituality and overall human development can be a good resource for the rest of the world. In the last two centuries, these ideas were suppressed and therefore humanity could not benefit from them. Now conditions have been created for the acceptance of those ideas globally. The ideas of tolerance, peaceful coexistence, harmony, pluralism, and diversity are very relevant and important for the contemporary world.

Dr. Sawraj Singh is Chairman of Washington State Network for Human Rights, and Chairman of Central Washington Coalition for Social Justice



Cleverness is not wisdom
May 2, 2010
Islam has had such a bad press in recent years that I struggle to see how it could possibly become the dominant world religion......I hope this does not happen...