How Society shapes us;
an exploration sparked by the change of hair and persona.
How are we really affected by our environment?
- Personal motivation for writing
- Eastern Chinese Tradition
- Western Intellectual Tradition
- How they are different.
In part two( coming later in the week):
- Ideal eastern person vs Ideal western person in the modern day
- How these ideals may manifest in fashion, media, and culture.
- How these shape our standards of beauty.
- Concluding thoughts.
This post is an adventure into my own life.
I went through this phase during secondary school, where I was ‘hyper-aggressive’ or ‘hyper-ambitious’, due to hyper insecurity. These would be the labels that I would use for myself. This entailed me basing my entire identity, my entire self-worth, on how much I could achieve, how much I could lift ( in the gym ), how well my grades were, how much I could … you get the point. It was always about this constant more, more, more. Never settling for less, always stretching yourself and pushing yourself to the limit. ‘If you’re not feeling pain, it means your not growing’ kind of mentality. This was what I embodied for the past 3 years of my life( sort of secondary 2 — secondary 4).
So for some reason, I decided to switch things up in the middle of Junior College. It would be less outwardly focused, less ‘needing to achieve’, less ‘needing to do things’. ( pardon my grammar) I think this shift came about when I saw my father with his hair down for the first time, usually, it was gelled up like a faux hawk of sorts, thus it was much less intense. Looking at this new found state of being, I decided to make the transition myself as well. Wearing glasses to look less athletic, putting my hair down to seem more docile. There was an internal calling to make that shift.
Surprisingly it worked, somehow I embodied all the stereotypes (that I had) of being an individual who wore glasses: geeky, slightly more reserved, passivity, observing rather than acting out and trying to prove myself all the time. It was as if I had found a whole new identity, a whole new role in which I could relate and contribute to the rest of the world. It seemed as though I had adopted another personality so that I could see the world in a completely new light. It was rather odd and fascinating. The entire experience was quite discomforting, but I think it gave me a certain amount of struggle, and this allowed me to have a new language and context to understand those who were of the geekier and reserved nature. I do not wish to be demeaning, I just think these two words provide a very quick and easy depiction of the type that I was aiming to relate to.
This post will outline the two very different approaches that we can have in life, and I will attempt to show the similarity ( I would prefer to use the word isomorphism), between cultures, mainly the east and the west and how we approach our lives as well. We will in a very broad and generalising sense, compare Eastern values and Western Values and how these values are manifested within our lives.
Eastern Chinese Tradition:
It’s time to turn back the clock and visit the birth of Confucianism. Imagine a time where your kingdom is wrought with tension, with conflict and war. Your state competed with 7 other states for control over China. Your country,(the kingdom in this context, nations have not existed yet) is becoming increasingly militarised and your entire spheres of concern stem from fighting and usurping power.
Amidst the chaos, there was a need to find a solution to establish order in the region, to provide the Chinese with a sense of security, a sense of peace and stability. The daily struggle of war and conflict had to be ameliorated. Thus this wise man, or at least he is considered to be wise, devised a school of thought known as Confucianism. The main purpose of this school of thought was to bring order by establishing a sort of hierarchical relationship between people, based on honour ( so to speak). The main aspects of Confucianism were the emphasis on relationships and a strict definition of roles within society.
This consists mainly of 5 relationships.
Father to son
husband and wife
Elder sibling and junior sibling
Elder friend and junior friend
Ruler and subject.
The Confucian thought was highly relationship oriented, and it aimed to hierarchise society into these class distinctions in order to establish order and subservience.
The aim of an ideal gentleman was to provide for his family and be highly educated and cultured. Physical labour was also meant for the lower class, and therefore muscled bodies and tan skin was associated with being of lower strata in society.
Western Intellectual Tradition.
In all things American, we tend to hear the distant echoes of liberty and freedom. We imagine a bald eagle superimposed upon the flag of America. The constitution writes, all men were created equal, and this is one of the founding statements which shaped the atmosphere of the west as we know today.
There are a few distinct schools of thought that have influenced mainstream American values, today we will be looking primarily at John Locke.
Locke believed that everyone had individual liberty and a natural right to do as they please if I were to very briefly paraphrase. Society and governance come into the picture only after people have agreed to follow a set of rules, restraining their rights to act to a certain degree, in order to gain the benefits of living in a cohesive society.
Therefore he had also supported the right to revolt, when governments do not honour this contract providing them with stability, for the sacrifice of their own individual rights.
Differences between the two:
The key difference between the two cultures is where their ‘start’ begins. There was a stronger emphasis on ‘all men were created equal’ in modern western tradition than in eastern tradition, where men are subsumed to follow these standards of being an ‘ideal man’( the confucian one), which is based on how he honours his relationships.
So now at the end of this post, we will have established why I think that western society is more individualistic than eastern society.
In the next post, I will try to link this to our personal lives, our personal sense of fashion and our own value systems.
Till next time
oh yes also:
For those in who are in jc, especailly ACJC, do drop me a message, I would like to do a humans of JC in Singapore or a ‘humans of’ something in general. For reference, google ‘humans of new york.’ You can have a chance to tell your story on this medium.