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Is Western Culture Superior?

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#11 Asmo


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Posted October 16 2015 - 07:24 AM

I would make a distinction between the questions what is the best place to live and which culture is superior.


But at first instance I would say no. The only way I can perceive a culture as superior than other cultures is by going by preferences/subjectivity. But even then I don't see the use of hanging a superiority label on it... :P If I go by preferences and what I am intrigued by and interested in I have to say that contrary to most people these days Japanese culture is on the low end on my list. Does this mean they are the most inferior? I really don't see how.

#12 Mountain Valley Wolf

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Posted October 16 2015 - 08:51 AM

In my own experience/research/critique I have concluded that Western Culture has become the global culture---and that today it is largely exported American Culture (as opposed to early on when it was clearly European culture that defined exported Western cultural values).




This does not mean that Japan is becoming American, for example, rather it means that Japan is becoming its interpretation of American values, or more correctly----assimilating its version of American values within its own industrialized cultural context.




But this does not mean that American or Western culture is superior. For one thing, when you use the term culture, you are using a very broad concept. What is superior? Music? Art? Our zeitgeist and World view? Western social structure? The Western cultural programming that is used to keep the masses in check?




Since the OP was written in a general catch-all tone, let me speak in general terms----we are exporting our faults as much as we are exporting positive values within our culture. And Western culture is today a culture of nihilism. We no longer have truth, authenticity, meaning and a sense of universal value. We have no true unifying truth (or as Post-Modern theorists say, unifying myth---I prefer 'truth' because a unifying truth/myth is the truth of the culture it gives strength and unification to). A culture cannot survive too long without a unifying truth. We do, however, have a fabricated shallow, and inauthentic unifying truth----consumerism. But the values, and satisfaction consumerism provides is shallow, and temporary.  




In addition, as American culture is exported as Modern Global culture, American culture is assimilating diverse global cultural values. For example, well into the 1960's and even the 70's, the church was still a largely unifying cultural value. It was as recent as the 1950's that we placed, 'In God We Trust,' on our currency----and this was for a unifying purpose---a defining act to separate us from the perceived evils of communism. Eastern philosophy and other spiritual traditions had never appeared so strongly in Western culture as it started to with the youth in the 1960's. But the Hari Krishnas, ashrams, Buddhists, Taoists, and even the cults were still largely a cultural aberration----in many ways, not much more than a passing pop cultural trend (as Eastern philosophy has often been even in past centuries). But today, it isn't very hard to find someone who considers him/herself as a Buddhist. And today the church is nothing more than just another of many such elements that competes to try to define existence for us.



But the modern nihilism is also a breakdown of traditional values that have guided civilization since its early planter cultural roots. We are seeing a breakdown in dualism, group ethic, and male dominance (the latter being from our later planter cultural roots). Truth and meaning is relative today, just as it is growing in divergence, but both of these dynamics---relativism and divergence---represent a breakdown.




I will continue with this later...

Edited by Mountain Valley Wolf, October 16 2015 - 11:57 AM.

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#13 Mountain Valley Wolf

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Posted October 16 2015 - 01:53 PM

(To continue with my last post:  )


There are many elements to our culture that are clearly decadent in nature (i.e. representative of decay). There is no authentic meaning that is embraced culture-wide to guide us, unify us, and provide meaning to our culture itself. Collectively, we are struggling to find meaning in an overly rationalistic and objectivist world. In the past, cultures that have found themselves in exactly this same predicament did not survive. In other words, we are rapidly approaching the doom of Western/global culture. More seriously, because of, 1.) the serious negative impact of industrialization on this planet (thank you Western values of human dominance over nature), and 2.) the tremendous dependance of our overly inflated human population upon industrialization and modern technology (as the indigenous alien told the human in the movie Avatar, "You are like a baby!) we are rapidly approaching the crossroads leading the to the destruction of the human race. 


Can we call a culture that is essentially meaningless superior? Can we call a culture that is on the verge of its own demise superior? Can we call a culture that is on the verge of destroying our whole species superior?


Now that I have shared the gloom and doom of our current situation, let me provide hope. We are definitely experiencing what the Ancient Greeks referred to as a, "metamorphosis of the gods." In other words, there is a feeling in the air that the times are ripe for change. "There is a change a-coming" is a very significant pop-cultural motif and meme. This is, after all, that struggle to find meaning I referred to earlier. The Age of Nihilism is in fact a symptom of the globalization of culture; it is a purge of the outdated and divisive understandings we have carried from an ancient past; it is also a means of coming to terms with our growing understanding of the cosmos----there is no coincidence in the fact that relativism as a philosophical understanding is happening just as the Theories of Relativity are coming of age, and we are understanding the relative nature of the universe (imagine the change in our zeitgeist as quantum mechanics comes of age, and we began to understand reality as it reflects quantum reality).


The problem is, will we find meaning and a unifying truth in time to save our own culture, or even in time to save mankind?


Assuming however that we do, or, considering that we are at least trying, does this mean that we are therefore superior as a culture that could lead mankind into the future? Not really---first of all, it is our own cultural shortcomings that has put us into this situation, secondly, this is a situation that has happened before.


Consider dualism, for example. The Hindu's long ago, took the problem of duality and defused its negative implications by developing a philosophy/unifying truth that focuses on transcendence. Granted, they did not resolve the issue, but they did create a unifying truth that has produced one of the longest surviving cultures, and longest surviving civilizations, in history. Is Indian civilization superior? Well, in some ways we could argue, yes-----but it is a very repressive culture built upon a strong group ethic, and for us, would represent a step backwards, not a step forward, and would therefore not resolve the current condition.


I also argue that their resolution to the problem of duality is not an answer for us. We are witnessing the break down of dualism, not a dialectic. Therefore we must ask, what is left if there is no duality? One answer is a singularity---but this cannot be our answer, because we do not have an existential experience of reality as a singularity (and this is true no matter how hard we try to be reductionist). The other answer is a multiplicity----and not surprisingly, this is in fact reflective of our actual existential experience of reality. We don't live in a world that is a continuous battle between two opposing forces. We live in a world filled with all kinds of forces. Even human relations are becoming less a question of two opposing genders, and more a question of differing humans. And imagine that-------a multiplicity is more reflective of a universe based on quantum reality than dualism.


But indigenous people all over the world have seen reality in terms of a multiplicity since well before we ever tried to record their beliefs. Does this make their culture superior?


Or, consider their concept of group ethic, the closer they are tied to their hunter-gatherer roots, the less formulated is their group ethic. In fact, all over the world, their version of individualism is one that gives true value to the individual. This is very different from American (and now global) industrial individualism---which is not really individualist in nature----but actually a version of elitist group ethic. To be an individual in the modern world---you have to 'make it' in your peer, professional, or other social, group-----otherwise you are a nobody. Who you are is a reflection of your credit report, your police record, your college degree, etc. etc. etc. In indigenous cultures the world over you are who you are, and they understand that each person has existential freedom to gain new skills, new understandings, to be a new person.


So are indigenous cultures superior? They are literally the oldest cultures on earth. They certainly have values that we seem to be struggling to understand in our own way. Yes, there are ways that they are superior (and imagine that, they are the one's we label as savage and primitive...) But would you be able to give up all of your technology, the comforts you enjoy, the medicines that may be saving your life, and so forth, to return to an indigenous lifestyle? Probably not.


Every culture is superior in its own right-----and that is a glimpse of the truth behind multipicity...

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#14 Mountain Valley Wolf

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Posted October 16 2015 - 02:34 PM


Im most interested in Japanese culture, when I retire being an expat in tokyo might warrant serious consideration

Go for it----you could study calligraphy, or tea ceremony, or some other traditional are and have a cultural visa.

But you will find, like every other foreigner else that lives there, you will have a definite love-hate relationship with the culture. It is a fascinating culture though, and if you are fascinated with Japanese pop culture it is an exciting fast paced culture----a social experiment for you to watch change and evolve in its own right. For example, the children in Japan today live in almost completely completely alien culture from that of their grandparents. One could argue that this is true of any country-----but it is far more so in Japan than you would find in just about any other First World Nation.

If it is traditional culture that you love, well, I think Westerners fall in love with that spark that is buried under centuries of Confucianist ethic. I am talking about a nature-based creativity that is incredibly aesthetic, vibrant, rich, full of life, very existentialist... Unfortunately, there was a time when the Japanese believed the Chinese to be their superior and adopted the rationalist-objectivism of Confucianism. (See how negative it is to label one culture superior to another?)

Unfortunately this buried that Japanese nature of spontaneous creativity----breaking it up and placing it into many boxes. Haiku, for example is an increduble art form that sometimes lifts the veil of physical reality to give a glimpse of what may be underneath. But Japanese today over-analyze haiku, approaching it from a rational standpoint. Haiku originates in the irrational heart---not the rational mind. For example, several times I have submitted haiku to contests at Buddhist temples or online. Several times I won the contest. The time I didn't win I received honorable mention. I am fluent in Japanese, but I am not a native speaker. But I write from the heart.

Everything in Japan is 'in a box.' As creative as they are, they are still doing it from one of their boxes. Spend a few years in Japan and you will know what I am talking about. I lived in Japan for about 15 years.

But, I wouldn't give up any of those 15 years for the world.

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#15 BlackBillBlake


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Posted October 16 2015 - 02:45 PM

I think it depends on what criteria you use to define superiority and inferiority. And that raises some deep questions. 


I'm inclined to the view that western culture has become somewhat toxic. But being a westerner, I'm as stuck with it in some ways as even the most ardent of cheerleaders for the whole  enterprise.

For example, I think in the English language. I can think in French to some extent if I concentrate, but it's not that different. How would it be if I could think in the Bushman language? Or Chinese even?


I think the main problem with western culture is that it tends to isolate the individual and distance them from the natural world, and the organic extended clan or tribe, But we are all part of that natural world, and in living our lives disconnected from nature, we also tend to disconnect from our own being. We become something like ciphers in a wholly artificial construction. We can no longer read the code that is writ large in all things. Thus we become less than the human entities nature forged us to be. In simple terms, western culture fucks people over at an essential level. You have to try to make them more like ants if you want this kind of culture. 


About the best we can hope for might be some kind of purification of the culture. We reject what is bad, nurture what is good. But the chances of that occurring are very low. A huge and widespread spiritual awakening might do the job. It's probably the only hope for the future. The sleepers must awaken.

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#16 MeAgain


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Posted October 16 2015 - 03:15 PM

Western culture is more advanced in the areas of human rights, technology, science, and rational thought. There are bumps along the way, but generally we are advancing in all those areas and in broad terms we are ahead of most of the other parts of the world.


It is having problems with morals at a local level in some segments, but at a national awareness level it is improving year by year. The local problems are the result of one segment of the culture advancing faster than others and of certain special interest groups retaining too much power. Also our educational system, due to poor funding and and leadership at the policy level, is not keeping up with the moral changes we are encountering.


"Oh, how sweet it is to hear one's own convictions from another's lips"

~ Goethe



#17 Moonglow181


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Posted October 16 2015 - 03:22 PM

In some ways, yes, and in some ways, no...Western culture does not have Eastern culture beat in medicine and natural remedies......Western is too wrapped up in the business greed of medicine and money to really advocate for real healing.

#18 Metal Groomp

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Posted October 16 2015 - 03:49 PM

Well, compared to other cultures, yeah, it does.

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#19 librarygirl


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Posted June 27 2016 - 04:18 PM

looking things culturally raises many issues and I don't think it's possible to label some cultures as being inferior than the other, history and environment dictates its constitution and culture is too complex a term to judge by ranking it. But I do think you can compare in values, and I believe that the western values are superior to any others, history has proven that and it will continue to do so, as Douglas Murray has correctly pointed out. and yes western values demands sacrifice when and where it is necessary however if people choose to think that this is unforgivable, there's that. 

#20 Ajay0



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Posted July 29 2016 - 04:15 AM

I was just wondering. Is western culture superior to others (by "western", I am including the USA, Canada, and Europe)?


Islamic culture particularly comes to mind. Did you know in Saudi Arabia (one of our [allegedly] closest allies), they'll chop of your hand for stealing a loaf of bread?


I am somewhat hesitant to say it, because I fear the ire of my fellow liberals. But I want to start the discussion, by saying emphatically "YES".


What do the rest of you think?




Every culture has its ups and downs. In ancient times, India, Zoroastrian Persia,Egypt, Greece and China were the sole civilized nations in the world. Later came the romans, the arabs and the mongolians. Greek culture permeated to the rest of european culture , which were in a savage

barbaric and uncivilized state and helped develop them up . The arabs too promoted the development of the west as they taught the Hindu-Arabic numeral system and mathematics to the west which prepared the foundation for western science and technology as it is now. 


But now the Greeks are nowhere, while the nations they helped civilize have gotten ahead of them. Same too with Italy. And same with the arabs. 


The point is that no nation rides the crest of the wave for long before being slammed to the ground by time. 

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