Tuesday, March 26, 2002

FROM THE YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH INSULTING PEOPLE IF YOU'RE ONE OF THEM FILE: Salon ran an interview with Kishore Mahbubani, Singapore's ambassador to the UN who wrote "Can Asians Think?" --a title obviously designed to get people talking. From the interview it sounds like a cultural version of The Mystery Of Capital:

SALON: You mention in the book that some people were offended by the title. Who was offended and why? What do you mean by "Can Asians think?"

KM: We live in a politically correct age. The idea that you can actually ask whether or not ethnic groups can think upsets people. I have friends who travel on planes with the book and the guy or lady next to them will say, "How can you read a book like that?" I keep emphasizing that this is not a frivolous question. What happened was that the International Conference on Thinking had its biannual meeting in Singapore some years ago and they wanted a Singaporean thinker to give one of the keynote addresses. That's when I thought of the question.

The reason why is actually quite simple: In the year 1000 the most successful, the most flourishing and the most dynamic societies in the world were Asian. Europe was still struggling out of the Middle Ages and North America hadn't been discovered. One thousand years later you get the exact reverse of that: the most dynamic and flourishing societies are in North America, Europe is one tier below and Asia is far behind. And my question is why? How did societies that were once at the leading edge of global civilization lose an entire millennium?

SALON: Is it that they fell behind or is it that there were certain things about Western societies that were so advanced and progressive?

KM: It's a combination. There was a magical leap in the Western mind.

SALON: What do you mean?

KM: There was the Reformation, the Renaissance, the scientific revolution -- wave after wave of advancements. I'm curiously a child of both the East and the West and the only advantage this provides is that I can actually enter the mental universes of Asia and of the West. By being able to do so, I can see that there are two different mental universes. They haven't become fused into one mental universe. To me, it's quite puzzling that so many Asians can't realize that they have to ask very hard questions about themselves if they want to succeed and not waste another millennium.

Read the whole thing. I would page Andrea for dirt on the guy but she's in Perth. Stay away from the Perth Pink, Andrea. This is a bottle with a message in it and the message is "Beware." This is not a wine for drinking, this is a wine for laying down and avoiding. And so on.

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