Skip to comments.Life in the YANG - The genius behind being wrong in America
Posted on 10/07/2006 2:07:16 PM PDT by humint
The Yin Yang symbol from Chinese Philosophy represents opposing natural forces. Yang, literally translated, means the sun or sunny. Yin, being the natural opposition is thought to be the moon, darkness or shade. Sir Isaac Newtons Third Law of Motion: - To every action there is an equal but opposite reaction - is an extremely pure definition of the Yin Yang symbol. While natural balance, Gods fulcrum if you will, is accepted by the mortal mind even when the opposing forces have complex dependencies like morality and are thusly, vague. Chinese philosophers commonly apply Yin Yang symbolism vaguely, including, among other complex social forces, Masculine (Yang) and Feminine (Yin).
The West (Yang) and the East (Yin) also work with the logic of Yin Yang symbology. To acutely apply it however requires a near universal mind that demonstratively transcends common limitations of both Eastern and Western culture. To assert a full conceptual mastery of both cultures is most likely a lie. This is not to say that a single man or woman cannot articulate Eastern and Western experiences from a single cultural point of reference. There is great value in sharing human experiences of this kind.
For example, Phyllis Chesler, an American who married an Afghan, lived several years in Afghanistan, interacting with her Afghani peers in their environment. Recounting the experience Chesler delivers important insights with her literary works not because she is an exceptionally insightful person. By my estimation shes not transcendently insightful. Instead her flickers of insight are more a function of harboring a life lived in the Yin and the Yang. What interesting about Chesler is that hers was a journey from the West to the East which is arguably less common than Easterners who long for the Yang, consciously defect from the Yin.
My earlier remarks about Phyllis Chesler 11/29/2005 3:19:33 PM PST HUMINT: I'm going to break with popular sentiment here and say, I think she is a cultural pioneer. We don't need to agree with all she has done, tried to do or even her motives for doing them but her experiences are extremely valuable. Theyre like an American window into another way of life. Most Americans will never leave the United States and that's fine but the ones that have lived, really lived in the ME should stand up and describe it; all that's good and all that's disgusting about it. We can read National Geographic and watch PBS but thats fly on the wall stuff. She lived it and no one can speak to Americans about experiences like Americans can, even when we disagree with one another.
The problem for most minds struggling to transcend cultural boundaries of East and West, toward something more universal, is that the mind itself is a function of one or the other. Every thought, every reaction, every decision we make is at least influenced if not entirely developed by the social forces that combine to define Westernisms or Easternisms. Living in the Yang, isolated from the Yin, the Westerner is ill equipped to understand how he or she is perceived by an Easterner and vice versa. Recognizing this very real boundary as and American, Ive sought to transcend it. Admittedly my research is informal but my general inspection of Eastern perceptions of Americans has revealed a pattern. The pattern is simply that we Americans are always wrong. The President of the United States is always defending some idiotic program or policy; congress is forever turbulent with accusations of ineptitude, negligence and even criminal wrong doing.
This is our system constantly communicating and dramatizing all that is incorrect about it. Its no wonder that Eastern (including some European) observers are disgusted by all of our errors. Easterners have problems such as poverty, malnutrition and communicable diseases that are several orders of magnitude greater than any American problems, but they dont dramatize them. Indeed, Easterners are notorious for quietly ignoring systemic failures to save face, in the name of honor. For their effort, they hold a very different, often superior, self perception.
The genius behind being wrong in America is that, here, there has always been a goal regarding how life should be in the future. Alternatively, the East is predominately right because of an aggregate self perception that life is how it should be, right now, for all time. Unfortunately, living in the Yang, many unimaginative Westerners have become adept at destroying what is wrong around them as well as what is right. They stomp their opponents programs without any progressive ambition.
Case in point, Newsweeks article about Bob Woodwards book State of Denial, was depleting. Woodwards was a poor articulation of why this Administrations vision for Americans and American influence throughout the world is flawed. The work is not transcendent but instead is locked down by perceptions of dissenting Westerners who tend toward anonymity. State of Denial may serve its purpose, ultimately playing a role in rendering the Presidents vision for America defunct. If it does, the Presidents vision may be aborted, like many ambitious visions dieing before coming to fruition. I for one hope not. If the fledgling democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan fail, slipping back toward despotism, the world should expect Baghdad to begin exporting violence. This President or the next may need to refine todays vision, strengthening its immunity to the infectious Woodwards of the West. Unless that vision is one of capitulation and surrender, the new American vision is apt to be more beautiful and more resilient than the last.
Woodward is no genius but the system in which he throws bricks is. Hes living in the Yang. Hes unlikely to transcend his intellectual and cultural obstacles.
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