From West to East and East to West

by Bob on Saturday, 08 December 2007 Comments
The topic of this issue of Renlai is “How the Future of Asia is envisioned by its Youth”, with special concern for the different roads that might lead to Asia’s integration. If Asian youth are to look at Asia in terms of its future, then they must not look only at one another across local Asian boundaries, but at the whole world, because Asia is on its way to becoming a dominant world power. This means that youth must engage in dialogue not just with the young and old of Asian nations, but with the young and old of the rest of the world. If East and West are to live together, they must speak to one another, share ideas and work together.
The “East” is a term often used to denote the whole of Asia, but sometimes it refers especially to areas east of India. Here it stands for the whole of Asia beyond Asia Minor. The “West” is for all practical purposes the rest of the world. What keeps the people of the East and the West apart is not just the geography, but the different languages and cultures that have developed. It is harder to bridge cultures than to cross oceans and open borders.
In 2002 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity described culture as follows:
"... culture should be regarded as the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group, and that it encompasses, in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs".

Textbooks are full of descriptions of famous ancient civilizations. Anyone with a world view will be aware of the dominant cultures of modern times, the Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Indians, Indonesians, Thai, Americans and Europeans, etc. Those who read National Geographic Magazine, watch the Discovery Channel or otherwise learn about minority peoples will be aware that there are so many other cultures in the world, like the indigenous aborigine tribes and other dwindling groups who still cling to old ways on the fringes of developed countries. Each one has a language, culture, traditions and religion of its own that is worthy of respect and even has lessons for us about how we should treat nature and protect the environment.

To be continued...
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