Look at your own backyard

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 April, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 April, 1995, 12:00am

READING David Chu's tedious patronising of the West ('A Confucian cure for the US', South China Morning Post, April 4), reminds me of the old joke about a couple of lobsters sitting in pots on a stove. One lobster looks at another pot and says, 'It might be getting warm in here, but at least I'm not boiling like that poor fool over there'. Mr Chu and other self-appointed preachers from the heart of the Confucian Belt appear as foolish as the lobster in ignoring the decay long present in their own societies, while sparing no opportunity to pontificate about the West's shortcomings.

Mr Chu seems to overlook the fact that the history of Confucian central China, is a history of warlords, triads, corruption, and miscreant rulers such as Mao, a leader who through a combination of savagery and economic mismanagement was responsible for more suffering and death than anyone who ever lived.

It is also a history of technological and cultural stagnation that spanned milleniums, and it is only now able to achieve a certain level of growth because of technology developed in the (decadent) West.

The entire region's rate of growth is deceptive, too, since it begins from such a low level. Indeed, the US's 1994 growth of five per cent in a $6.2 trillion economy actually exceeds the absolute total growth in all of East Asia for the same year, even though the US has around one seventh of the population.

One might argue that it is actually Mr Chu's East that is decadent, since it shares most of the West's social ills but has the arrogance to suggest it is without sin.

A glance at the newspaper on virtually any day is replete with stories of assaults, chopper attacks, child molestation, unrest in the provinces, sexual slavery, human bondage and cross-border concubines. The term 'Asian family values' could just as easily be used to describe the net worth of children of senior Chinese Communist Party officials or that of corrupt bureaucrats, as it could be used to denote a kind of moral superiority which exists far more in theory than practice. Is it 'family values' that obliges the women of Asia to turn a blind eye to the roamings of their spouses, whether it be to the ubiquitous hostess bars of Asia or the brothels of Mongkok, Macau or Shinjuku? No, Mr Chu, while much does need fixing in the US, the supposed cure you offer has a spotty record of success over the last few thousand years, and in looking at the total picture, the cure may be as bad as the disease. America would do well to try to solve its problems in its own way, lest it lose those things which allowed it to advance to the economic and technological level which the East is now trying to reach. Ideals are just that: ideals, whether they be Confucian, Judao-Christian, or whatever.

No society comes close to its own professed ideal, neither in the West nor in the East. There is work to be done everywhere, including Asia.

So Mr Chu, rather than offer advice where it is not wanted, why not put your efforts toward making your own society the utopia you mistakenly think it already is.

There is a lifetime of work right outside your door and there will be a whole lot more come 1997, which you'd be able to see much more clearly if only you would remove your jade-coloured glasses.