Traditional cultural values – those aspects that Europeans and North Americans often see as most foreign – inform Asian countries’ social contracts even today. When problems arise, it is these differences that are so often blamed by media. Bosmosis makes a good point that foreign cultures should be evaluated on their own terms. His post points out that it was not blind obedience that brought about the Sewol ferry disaster on April 16th, but the responsibility of authority figures, another integral part of Confucianism, that was lacking.
However, my concern is that problems are always pinned on those aspects of a culture that are most foreign to the observer. The idea that “I don’t understand the problem, so those things that I don’t understand about the situation must be the source of the problem,” does not seem logical to me. Is it really Confucianism that caused this accident? I hardly think so. Can’t we talk about negligence, which is all over the Japanese news here in Tokyo, and draw lessons from that very familiar cause of problems?
I wasn’t disappointed. Writing for the South China Morning Post, Andrew Salmon wondered whether the accident was made worse by Confucianism. Salmon noted that in the initial minutes of the accident, the captain ordered passengers to stay where they were, and most of them obeyed “even as the…
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