Tuesday, 2 February 2010

On the Brink II : Areas of Evolution

I think three areas of the world reflect most clearly three different approaches to dealing with the battle between gut and mind: North America, Asia and Europe. I apologise in advance if some of the below seems cliché or even racist, but I'm just trying to outline and define the major tendencies of each population, and some of these may smack of existing prejudices. Don't worry, there's some for all.

North America seems to be taking the 'gut' approach. Almost everyone there judges their existence by their 'comfort level' — an existence centred on possessions and the 'feelings' that these bring to their owner. The question of 'need' is almost totally absent from the question; this has been replaced by a 'comfort level' set by the status quo — or in other words, a comparison of one's own possessions and purchasing power with those of others. As for the mind, for the larger part of the populace, thought and the exchange of ideas and information seems to be centred around comparing/justifying the valour of products, and the 'feelings' that these bring. When one applies this attitude against the real world and our real needs as humans, I almost consider it a state of denial. This is a tendency centred on the majority of the population — the middle class — but even the upper-class North American citizens of today tend to use thought to justify and defend a certain state of comfort.

To the opposite extreme, Asia, especially Japan, has taken the 'mind' approach. Everything there is centred around education and the exchange of 'useful' information and products, an exchange based on a very strict and long-standing protocol of politeness and hierarchy. There, save for a taste for gastronomical pleasures (all the same based on a strict diet) and 'identity' objects, the body seemingly does not enter the equation in matters of sex and comfort — the 'usefulness' of each act is prioritised. In fact, unhappiness and discomfort, or an enviable state almost akin to martyrdom, is embraced by the general populace as a sign that the sufferer is making a 'sacrifice' to the 'greater good' of the community and is perpetuating its strict moral laws and behaviour. This tendency can be found through all levels of Japanese society.

Europe seems to lie almost exactly between the two. Intelligence and education are indeed a major part of European culture, but the tools gained there are used, in a very selective and 'network-connected' way, to gain personal stature within a selective community network and to fulfil an often very individualistic sense of comfort, an egotistical sense of comfort that I would almost call 'self-satisfaction'. Contrary to the other two areas of evolution, the general tendency seems to diminish through the lower classes towards a level of comfort that is defined by one's usefulness and standing in an often very small community.

Each path is in some way in conflict with our basic human nature, especially where reproductive habits are concerned. The human tendency to seek multiple (and always younger) partners is almost forgiven there, and at least until recent years, being/having a mistress/lover had an almost respected community statute of its own — but within a couple, it creates all the usual problems. Infidelity in Asia is considered wrong, but the social rigour and lack of attention to bodily comfort in the greater culture often pushes people (mostly males) into infidelity; what's more, the wronged gain stature by their 'martyrdom', or the sacrifice they make to preserve the family stature in suppressing the quite natural emotions of betrayal and outrage that occur from such circumstances. American pairing habits, especially in the upper-middle class (the highest follow a protocol almost European), is a confusing and ill-definable affair, most likely because their concern with an immediate and ever-changing definition of 'comfort'.

In all, each culture's means of dealing with the conflict between gut and mind is defined by the stress they place on each: cancel one, and the other suffers.