Tolling through the AsiaTimesOnLine archives I came across a highly provocative item by Henry C. K. Liu, a writer the Meme Merchants have followed for a number of years. What came up today was the first installment of a series he wrote back in July 2003: The Abduction of Modernity, The Race towards Barbarism. I say provocative in two senses: being thought-provoking in Lui’s inimitable way, and also provoking some very strong disagreement.
Before I was halfway through the article I found myself doing a kind of point by point rebuttal, the genesis of this piece, which I had to eventually push mentally aside in order to finish the article. The article was so thought-provoking that I feel I have to give myself a kind of ‘intellectual time out’, before I proceed with a more serious analysis or criticism of the article. Mr. Liu is a very smart and thoughtful writer, one has to at least try to meet him at his own level.
This morning in way of introducing the topic I will anticipate that much of the further discussion on the subject will revolve around two rather different world views, one the so-called ‘modern’ Western world view and the other the traditional Eastern Confucian world view. To be fair to Mr. Liu, the point of at least the first article of this series is precisely the nature of that ‘modernity’ and its relationship to Western civilization.
A strong dichotomy it appears.
Of the many possible dichotomies of civilizations you can draw, one is the dichotomy of a civilization that sees what is noble and valuable in the individual as what is in conformance with the cultural model, and another civilization who’s culture sees what is rare and valuable in the individual as everything that is different from the cultural model.
One of those world views, I propose, is ‘modern’, the other is not.