Author: Jahem al'Arathul
Comparing cultures; my thoughts on Tarvalon.net
I'm hardly a writer, but I thought I'd just put down a few thoughts on my experiences in this community.
Before coming to tarvalon.net, I admit that I had a somewhat negative view of the people of United States and the Western world in general. That's not to say I was a blatant racist, but I had developed the opinion that the majority of its people were ignorant and aloof. That they have it easy, their youth lack discipline and respect and that their minds and hearts were too soft.
I realize now, as inhabitants of a diverse global society, we are more often than not party to the same ignorance and misunderstanding that we feel each of our people and cultures are victims of. Yes, that's right, I was wrong. Feel free to say "Omigod!" now.
It is a sad thing really but all one can do is learn and remember. The people in this community are far from ignorant. I just manage to pass off with reasonable intelligence amidst such well informed company. I am very impressed with the way knowledge is sought out here. Your system of education has encouraged free thinking and research. You want to learn and understand. You want to know. The style of teaching in the Asian sub continent does not instill this trait in its students. Things are changing now, but not fast enough.
You take an active interest in your country's local and foreign affairs. Freedom of Speech is a mild concept in Sri Lanka. People aren't given free reign to criticize. Those who do, run the risk of being silenced. The educated youth look outside the country for better paying jobs. Those who are able to leave the country for education or for work are often the ones who have the power to make changes, improve the economy and help develop the nation. But their interests lie elsewhere. My interests lie elsewhere.
I still maintain the notion that the majority of the people in the west are soft of mind and heart. That is not to say there isn't strength in softness. The culture I was raised in emphasized discipline. Your parents have the right to smack you about the head if you did something wrong. Your teachers had the right to smack you about the head if you didn't do your homework. Trying your best is all well and good, but if you've got C grades then you are just not using your full potential. If you can't seem to study, try harder. No doctor's note saying you've got a problem sitting in one place and focusing your attention. No excuses. We learn respect mostly through fear of disappointment and punishment. At the end of the day you know your place. Don't cross any lines. Know your responsibilities.
It's ironic really. Western culture is objective. Eastern culture is generally subjective. Western culture allows for men/women to have a say in the events that shape their lives. Western culture believes people can learn to control these events. Eastern culture believes in fatalism, that people are ultimately subject to the will of a supreme power/fate: whatever happens was meant to happen for whatever reason. Western culture is rational and uses science and logic. Eastern culture takes emotions into consideration first: dignity, honor, family reputation, shame, crimes of passion. Despite this, we from traditional eastern cultures mostly avoid showing much emotion, especially in public. Whereas the people in this community, and from what I've noticed of the western peoples so far, embrace their emotions and openly share them with one another.
Lastly, the amount of political correctness here took a lot of getting used to. I think that didn't have much to do with cultural differences though. Or maybe it did. It seems to me that by allowing themselves to be emotionally open, those in the west have become too sensitive and too easily hurt. And as such they've become too defensive. Eastern culture has always been mostly closed. Speaking personally I'd say I take things light-heartedly. I do get offended on those rare occasions but I usually keep it to myself, or just never express that hurt publicly. But it happens and we move on. That's just me personally so make of it what you will.
It's been an educational year-and-a-half in this community. I've met some hilarious and intriguing characters here and I've been acquainted with some not nearly as fun or interesting. We are not as different as we'd like to think. Our differences make it worth getting to know one another and exchanging ideas. There's something to learn from everyone.