The Dartmouth Observer

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Sunday, February 22, 2004
"Asian" values, again

What the heck are "Asian values"? Those who frequently invoke the term to justify censorship, oppression, and other very silly policies seem to have no idea just how heterogeneous and plural Asian traditions are. Worse still, proponents of Asian values imply every time they use the phrase that Western values are, by contrast, immoral and corrupting. Have these people actually read and synthesized the texts and thinkers -- Confucius, the Buddha, Muhammad, the Vedas, and so on -- that constitute Asian intellectual history (or histories)? Have they read seriously in the Western classics, or are they deriving their views of the West from Britney, Janet, and other specimens of American pop culture? Are they aware that the cultural relativism that underlies their statement is just one of many Western ideas/values that they've appropriated but conveniently forgotten? Judging by the consistent stream of ill-informed appeals to authority that flow from lawmakers in that region of the world, I guess not.