He is a White Westerner? He Can't Say That!

I grant two things about White Westerners: 1) Their ancestors did a lot of bad things in the past and oppressed people from countries all over the world, and: 2) They are usually still in a position of privilege compared to other races and nations.  It is perhaps easiest for them to criticise given their their exalted position and that their ancestors have had it easier than others.  For these reasons how can they possibly understand other cultures, races, and countries?  Who are they to comment?  What right do they have, given their track record, to advise others on how to behave?

Well, this depends.  Do white westerners have a right to dictate to others?  No.  Do they have a right to be proud of themselves and belittle others?  No.  Do they have a right to suggest that things in other cultures or countries aren't right and that they could do things better?  Absolutely, yes.  Should they just sit idly by and watch as people suffer (and as they suffer themselves) under injustices?  Absolutely, no.

I am a White Western man, guilty as charged.  On this blog I criticise aspects of Korean culture, guilty as charged.  But hang on a minute, I live in Korea and I am married to a Korean, does this not entitle me to have an opinion on the culture?  Is that how it works; you go to live in another country and you just accept how they treat you and each other without questioning it?  I think not.  What difference does it make where I'm from or what colour my skin is?  If something is being done badly or wrong, those doing it should be ready for some criticism.  If they can't take this, then it is their problem; it is not like arguing a point is threatening violence, they are words and words alone.

Now words can be harmful and incite violence sometimes.  Ideologies are some of the most deadly aspects involving human nature.  Bad ideas can end up killing millions of people, so I am not saying words don't matter, of course they do, in fact very much so.  The only way to feel safe in a world of conflicting ideas and ways of life is to encourage ideas and opinions to be heard and for all sides to be dispassionate and reasonable in dealing with disagreements.

What I do find slightly ironic when I get accused of prejudice or am criticised about making arguments from a 'White man's' perspective is that most of these criticisms come from people who live in Western countries.  These are the people that are meant to be standing-up for freedom of speech and expression in the world, yet it is they who are the biggest callers for my silence on this blog and on other sites.  When I talk about this to my wife or some of my Korean friends, they give me a quizzical look and say things along the lines of, 'why is saying something bad about part of Korean culture so wrong?'  In fact what often gives me confidence in making my arguments on this blog is that I have run them by Korean people first and they often agree.  What I dislike about Korean culture is exactly what many Koreans themselves dislike about Korean culture, and especially those Koreans lower down the hierarchical tree of status, i.e. women and young people.

I can't also help but see some hypocrisy in the way Western liberal-minded people deal with some of my posts.  If I write something positive about Korea, I receive kind comments (gratefully received of course) saying how I have really hit the nail on the head and how it is obvious how I understand and love Korean culture.  If I write something negative, however, I haven't gone into the culture in enough depth, need to read up on the subject, or obviously hold a deep grudge or prejudice towards Korean people.  I have even been accused of suffering with depression after writing a negative blog post about Korea.  So in summary, if you live in another culture and are immersed in it like me, you are only talking with knowledge and authority when you say something nice.  If you are not saying something nice you are either ignorant or some kind of bigot.  I must, however, acknowledge the many kind messages of agreement with my less positive posts that I receive on my blog, and encouragingly these kind words are regularly posted by Korean people themselves.

It is, of course, quite possible that I do write some unjustified codswallop about Korea sometimes, after-all I am a simple blogger and no Einstein.  It is quite probable that during the course of writing a great many blogs now that I have been wrong about a number of things.  If so, however, the best course of action is to counter those specific arguments with better arguments, not play the 'White Westerner, who is he to comment on anyone else but his own race' card.  This move is basically to accuse the person of a degree of racism, it is a soft way of warning the person against being a bigot or at least be careful not to turn into one.  I find this troubling, and although I hate throwing around the word 'racist' as it occurs all too commonly these days in all manner of arguments, it seems to me that criticising people of all different races and cultures as objectively as possible is very anti-racist and those who say I can't comment (or at least should be careful commenting) because I'm white are the one's with the explaining to do.  Most of my problems with Korean culture are born out of the suffering of Korean people within it, not of me personally.  I criticise because I care about these people.  If I don't like something, I go for the culture not the people, there is a big difference here.

Anyone who knows me, and especially my friends from back home in England would also know that I am often equally scathing (if not more so) of my own culture, it is not only one-way traffic on Korea.  This is not to say that I hate my country, I don't, I have a certain love for my homeland and I also have genuine fondness for Korea.  Korea is a place that is not especially well-known in the UK and my friends often have a slightly negative view of the place and think it is a little more backward than it actually is.  In their company I will often tell them the good things about Korea, of which there are many and this blog deals with those too.

As I have said before, there is a negative bias in reporting stories generally and this bias probably extends to this blog also.  Just think if you were an alien and got all your information about the human race from the news; what a sad reflection on human nature it would show, but there is more to us all than that.  However, this doesn't mean that valuable lessons can't be learned from regularly watching the news, as long as it is with an open mind and and a critical eye.

Perhaps it is difficult to trust a white man and what he says about another culture, but maybe you could give me the benefit of the doubt.  I criticise because I care about people (and non-human animals), especially the vulnerable, no matter what colour they are, where they are from or what culture they subscribe to.  However, I don't give a damn about offending them if they are wrong, and especially if they are using cultural traditions for their own advantage over other people or infringing on their rights because of cultural philosophies best left in the past, which have no reasonable basis to back them up.  I am a white man, an ancestor of the those that were part of the British Empire.  This doesn't mean I am who they were, but I am guilty of criticising a culture that I wasn't born into and I am proud of that fact.


Re: He is a White Westerner? He Can't Say That!

Let's say you are walking, and you approach a group of a thousand people that aare walking the opposite direction. Would you expect that whole group to suddenly turn around and walk along with you in your direction? What would be required for such a group to change their behaviour? 

Maybe all thousand of them would prefer to go in your direction, it is downhill and thus much easier than walking uphill. They agree with you, but instead of turning around, they keep walking uphill. Why, because that's just the way it is. In Korea you walk uphill, not downhill. 

Let's say you start asking them questions. Isn't it easier to do it my way? Isn't it better? They will agree, but they keep walking uphill. 

In other words, everyone will sometimes feel annoyed in another culture. Heck, I am the first to admit I sometimes feel annoyed by my own culture. But you can't expect society to change. All you can do is change yourself, try to feel less annoyed by things and focus on the positive. 

Just my two cents. I'm not an Einstein either, but almost 6 years abroad have learned me not to focus n the annoyances anymore, and it is much better for my health.

Re: He is a White Westerner? He Can't Say That!

Your example is benign and therefore does not really get to the point I made.  I wasn't even complaining about the effect of the culture on me, but on vulnerable Koreans.  

Let's take a more extreme example, you are in Afghanistan and there have been a series of gruesome incidents involving men assaulting young girls for going to school.  Is it ok to just sit back and do nothing, say nothing, try not to effect change?  Let's say you work in the country, do you just get on with it or leave out of protest?  Under your argument you would just sit back and ignore it because it doesn't effect you.

Even a less extreme example, sexual harassment and bullying at work.  My wife received it at the hospital she worked at when she worked as a nurse.  So she and I should just accept that sort of treatment?  Does it not involve me at all?  I would be ashamed to just accept such treatment of my wife without even voicing my opinion about it all.  Why should it be any different with someone I don't know?  Does not knowing someone mean that I shouldn't care about their possible suffering?

We should stand up for the vulnerable full stop.  Ignoring our responsibilities for others just because we are in another culture is unacceptable.  It is political correctness at its worst.  Granted we can't do much, but voicing an opinion about it can't hurt can it?

Re: He is a White Westerner? He Can't Say That!

I was replying to your post in general terms, not replying to bad thing that may have happened to you and/or your wife that were not mentioned in your post and which I do oppose. 

All I am saying with my 'benig' and therefor 'not to the point' reply is that cultural things somtimes do not make sense and that things sometimes are just the way they are in a culture. Going against it is a mere waste of time. If you can't beat them, join them, and if you don't want to join them (for whatever reason) try to get out for your own sake. It goes for countries, clubs/groups, work, relationships etc..

Like someone replied to one of your other posts,  "Living amongst the savges must be so tough"...



Re: He is a White Westerner? He Can't Say That!

The examples I gave are examples of possible criticisms of culture, though, you cannot get away from that.  If you oppose these examples, then you agree with me in principle, that we should stand up against certain aspects of another culture and criticise them.  Besides, all manner of things might come back to bite you, whether you are concerned with them now or not.  You live in South Korea, are you not against their driving culture?  Can't beat em, join em?  You really think it is OK how they drive?  What if you or a friend of yours is run down by a careless Korean driver one day? (Korea has the highest pedestrian death rate in the OECD)  Caring about these issues and bringing them to light is in your own self-interest, in almost all cases.  You might not change anything, but highlighting problems to as many people as possible is at least the first step to change.

As for this comment, "Living with the savages must be so tough".  What a completely hypocritical statement.  It is those that don't care about people just because they are form another culture who should be accused of thinking of others as "savages".  My wife is Korean, some of my family are Korean, my students are Korean and, shoot me, I care about them and other Koreans I don't even know.  That is why I get animated by aspects of Korean culture that causes them suffering.  Koreans are people, simple, I try and get as upset about things that cause problems in British culture, I don't discriminate. 

I am interested, do you care about issues within your own culture?  Do you care about people in your own country?  Why should your attitude change because you live in a different one? 

You sound like you just want to avoid any controversy or conflict, what a shame, as I think people learn so much from both.  I find the conflict of interests between myself and Korean culture most often highly interesting and enlightening, it is not a source of great unhappiness in my life, indeed it is quite intellectually stimulating and life enriching.


Re: He is a White Westerner? He Can't Say That!


In living and experiencing Korean life the past 7 years, I have observed that part of the "problem" with Korean culture/beliefs is that there is very little dialogue amongst Koreans about what westerners consider important issues - racism, sexism, ageism, global climate change, even just the entire issue of the status of South Korea as a developed country (i.e., westernized country). Opening a dialogue about these issues isn't being critical; in my opinion, it is increasing awareness. Education about these issues is the key for Korean society to succeed. Western culture encourages reflection and debate. Eastern philosophy emphasizes the collective whole and following the values and beliefs of the group in general. With westernization (modernization) there has been a significant shift in focus on the individual, disregarding the effect on others. While western philosophy is very individualistic, we still consider the effects of society on those who are challenged. For me, it seems that Koreans have become too focused on themselves and not the collective whole.

Korea has come a long way very quickly. There is still a lot to learn. Opening a discussion about issues is the key to its ultimate success.

Re: He is a White Westerner? He Can't Say That!

Leslie, I think that was extremely well put.  

That is the great thing about an open dialogue and freedom of speech; it is not only for the person speaking but it is the right for others to hear what they have to say.  Because what they say might be unwelcome, offensive, or critical but may be exactly what needs to be heard or lead to other important arguments, even if the speaker is wrong.  You are right, Korean culture being more open to what 'outsiders' have to say would greatly help their society.  Westerners also have to get out of the habit of being so PC about other cultures and create a more honest dialogue, as it would help Western countries too.

On the point about Koreans becoming too focused on themselves, this is correct in a weird way.  They are when they are outside of a group situation, but when they are at work, at school, at home, etc, they actually still tend to think solely of the whole group and miss those individuals who are struggling.  When they are outside of a group situation they can be quite self-focused.  An individualistic Western society does consider the little guy a bit more because we are used to seeing through the eyes of an individual, I think.  Therefore we can put ourselves in the place of others more naturally.  In group situations, however, Westerners don't have the natural group etiquette and thought and seem quite selfish to Koreans.  It is an interesting difference.

Re: He is a White Westerner? He Can't Say That!

I am interested, do you care about issues within your own culture?  Do you care about people in your own country?  Why should your attitude change because you live in a different one? 

As a matter of fact, yes I do care. And a lot of the issues that we have in The Netherlands (I'm Dutch) originate from people not accepting different cultures. Dutch are being raised to believe they are tolerant (gay marriage, legalized prostitution, legalized soft drugs). We are so tolerant, but yet we complain about immigrants not integrating in our culture. My root cause analysis is that people in the Netherlands believe they are so tolerant, that being a little less tolerant is still morally acceptable and way above average. However, maybe the Dutch are not that tolerant and being less tolerant results in being a bit racist?  

Although I am not in Korea, my wife is Korean, I speak the language, I often visit, yet I live in Hong Kong. I have experienced my own rejection of Chinese culture, I have seen my wifes rejection of the Chinese culture and of Korean culture as well when she realized that so many things are easier in Western families. I have learned to recognize the rejection process, something we all go through when moving abroad. 

The culture won't change, we will have to adapt (walk uphill). Korea, nor China nor Hong Kong, will change for us. No matter how right we are and how rich the experiences we have are. We can only walk uphill with them, and learn the strenghts of their culture, be proud with them, and then utilize these to create grounds for our thoughts. You may be right with every letter you write and every word you speak, but being right doesnt bring you anywhere. Only if people agree you are right they will walk along with you, though they might come with different solutions for problems or not solve certain problems at all and let it linger.

Every person, every nation has its own proud of past successes and cultural heritage (proudness is something you must have noticed in the Koreans) and only if we acknowledge these, pople will be invited to learn about us and from us as well.

Finally, I love statistics but so often they do not reflect true situations. Sure, I have seen some crazy driving in Korea, but it is much better than in many surrounding countries. The fact there is more pedestrians dying in Korea than in any other OECD country does not bring us directly to the root cause of the problem. Is it bad driving behaviour, or does the infrastructure of small back streets/alleys (골목길's) play a role, or the drinking behaviour of the Koreans. I frankly don't know, but knowing the real root cause can make a frameshift in the perception of it. 


Re: He is a White Westerner? He Can't Say That!

Needless to say, I think you are so wrong on this point, but I am enjoying the dialogue.

Of course we should accept other cultures, there isn't only one way of doing things and the world is richer for it.  However, some ways of doing things aren't benign and can cause major problems, not just for the culture in questions but for the planet as a whole.  It would be lovely to think that if we just let every culture go about their business and leave them be, that the world would be a happier place.  I think this is a little naive, especially in a globalised world when so many of our actions are interconnected.  The problems of ways of thinking and acting in other cultures (including our own) will come to your doorstep anyway, there is no avoiding them.  Honest dialogue has to prevail.

My point wasn't that you don't care, but that you surely do care about the welfare of your fellow countrymen.  Your point about your own country's intolerance points to the fact you would want to change things within your own country to avoid the unnecessary suffering of others.  My point is, have those feelings and extend it to others regardless of where they are from or where you currently reside.

As far as your own country goes and much of Western Europe as a whole, I think there are legitimate concerns about immigrants not integrating into our societies.  By immigrants, I think you and I know what group in particular we mean and that is Muslims.  I agree that there are racists that pigeon hole all Muslims as radicalised nutters, but there are a great deal of valid problems brought by an influx of Muslims into Europe.  I won't go into them all here but I will give an example of how problems will come to your doorstep.  Violent protests in the streets, death threats, and the burning of Danish embassies.  Why?  Because the Danish government weren't prepared to change their own country's laws on the censorship of the free press, i.e. drawing cartoons of Mohammed.  One culture is for freedom of expression the other is not.  One side is wrong and it is important to win the battle against them or would you like Sharia law in your country of birth?  We can't avoid this battle if we want to maintain our own cultural values, it is as simple as that.  The issue of freedom of speech is an ongoing battle with many supporters of Islam.

When it comes to Far Eastern culture, we can and should pressurise cultural norms with better ideas and it does bring success.  Japanese whaling, for example, has come under significant international pressure and although it hasn't stopped completely it has been markedly reduced and the Japanese people themselves are growing in their lack of support for it.  There are so many other examples I could give, but one more from my own country.  The UK has got some serious issues with drinking and violence.  We export this to other countries in Europe and in Asia when we go on holiday or when we watch football matches.  I have also been to your fair country and seen them causing trouble on the streets of Amsterdam.  Because of this your country is in the process of changing its laws of tourists using marijuana legally in bars to try and reduce the influx of people coming to Amsterdam for specifically that reason.  My own culture needs to take and accept some criticism for their thuggish attitude to drink and having 'fun' on nights out.  We can do this and still accept the kind praise for all our historical and cultural achievements (I have praised Korean historical and cultural achievements many times on my blog).

Finally, I wonder if you genuinely believe driving is acceptable in Korea.  Sure it is better than some other countries but not with similar economic means.  The death rate is the worst in the OECD and if you wanna chalk that up to the back streets and drinking behaviour then fine, but that still does not change my point that Korea could do with improving its driving culture does it?  Pointing this out is the first step to greater research into the problem, changing the culture and reducing road deaths.

Re: He is a White Westerner? He Can't Say That!

I will start with the last point. I am not saying traffic in Korea is great, my whole point is that as long as I don't understand the root cause of the high traffic deaths, and I may not, any claim on the 'why' of these metrics would be a mere assumption. Korean society may not be as open as Western societies and thus I wouldn't even know if the government is having attention for it or not. I'sd be interested to learn.

Ever seen a sign in Korea that says "고래 고기"? Thats where they sell whale meat in Korea. I have seen it on the fresh market in Busan as well. But not only Japan and Korea are catching whales, Iceland and Norway are too. And yes, even Alaska (US) allows whaling. Just like fishing, there is quota and rules and they should be respected by individual countries. Imagine if India would suddenly impose a ban on eating cow meat on the rest of the world? Or if the muslims and/or jews would try to ban eating pork? 

The whaling example shows that for both Asian and Western societies cultural point of views cannot be changed easily and even despite international treaties both western and eastern cultures have a hard time adopting to new standards especially when it touches cultural issues. 

My personal world view is that we are humans that all strive for the same things every day. We have families, children and parents to feed. We want a roof over our heads and clean water to drink. We want to take care of the people that are dear to, have security and if possible, we want something additional money and opportunities to enjoy ourselves. There is really no difference whether you are European, American, Eastern Asian, African, Central Asian etc..  

Based on different cultural backgrounds we choose different ways to achieve the same goals. As long as we don't judge on others and try be tolerant to differences, we may realize there is no perfect world or country and that each country has its strengths and weaknesses based on cultural beliefs, religion and rich history. This is exactly why I don't try to critisize the country I live in, there may be too many historical and cultural things that I don't understand that make the society and that are vital in decision making processes. 

When we move outside our countries, we bring with us a set of ideas and principles that we have learned from the day we were born and whatever we do in life, these will always be with us. Western European countries asking migrants to 'intergrate' is a silly demand in my opinion. We should not ask people to change, on the other hand, migrants should also respect the local culture in the country of arrival. If cultures are too different the only thing that really works is to be tolerant and acknowledge the difference, not to reject it or try to change it.

In my opinion, if things in Korea ain't right, it is primarily the responsibility of the Korean people to change it, unless it directly affects other countries or the world. There is simply too many things we may not understand. 


Re: He is a White Westerner? He Can't Say That!

Disclaimer- My view is not that of Koreabridge, nor others here.


Just my honest feelings about the culture , based on the article here. Not to say my own opininion is right- or is perfect. I have felt that my own country was extremely racist. I just wanna express my feelings here. They are based on nearly a decade of different negative experiences. I have had many good ones, but can’t overlook some key things.


I have felt that, it is has a look, listen to, follow me culture. He follow, you follow, and she follow me. Just my opinions on trying to integrate into semi-impermeable culture.


In social situations, I feel that you want me to look at and listen to you, but don't want me voice any opinions. Why? Cos it's rude to question you, cos you understand me already, right? The idea that people know - who you are, what you are, what you eat and why you are here before they know me well, grates on me. Freedom of comment from coworkers, etc., on all matters of my body, style, situations and my relationship's status irk me.

Whether positive or negative, I don’t want it. I don’t want your questions or praise, let students attend and judge. We can chat, talk, but keep it simple.If you wanna criticize, save it for the end of the week, or book a meeting with me.I had a co-teacher at interview tell me, “Let me tell you, I worked with many foreigners, all were very laze, to be honest with you." This was just the other day. I was like thanks mate, but hey, when in Rome, hey?? I forgive you, let's walk uphill together.

 If fair, basic dialogue in employment notions, or social relationships weren’t so fragile, one-sided, I'd understand where Uphill theory stands, but why do you insist I’m walking downhill? That is not where I’m coming from though, I respect them for their immense success. If communicating, even with a translator present, was genuinely a two-way thing, I'd be more understanding of Uphill argument. The pretense that, my conversations appeared to be real, 2 way, and not bartered for, makes me laugh. I'd understand the Uphill theory, if in my time, I'd seen equality of a dialogues, but it can never be with a Glass Ceiling.

In my experience here, the Ceiling has stickers on it, bright ones. When negotiating and communication is only one-way in most cases, outrageous situations evolve out of nothing, or even escalate into emotional blackmail, shouting and sometimes fighting. I see and hear it every night, right outside of my house. I'd understand the Uphill theory, if I didn't see examples of poor communication within themselves. I don't need to speak a language to know that that is not Uphill theory, or right.

I don't want to be isolated from culture, cultural experiences, demeaned, banned from shops or restaurants, called a monkey , cos," it's just our way," Understand us, don't be a hater- make love and not war. Uphill theory is Ok too, when I'm being laughed and stared at, right??

In terms of national communication, watch the news and read the newspapers, you'll see a foreign criminal element lurking in the shadows. The constant threat of the sexual abuser, drunkard drug- dealer and almost every week. Headlines, will express joy that they caught another criminal. Strangely, a week later, but HE was let go, due to a lack of evidence, the victim that didn't press charges, again. Stories that will criticize quickly, and many wrong. And, yet another and project involving foreigners, very few to praise in my experiences, by contrast.

An Upward looking society, alleged global culture, where a man's life gets threatened. In response, he goes to authorities to complain, but gets no justice, cos that's ok? Why? The defendant didn't mean it, really, forgive his threats, you’re a foreigner. The officer tells him, “very difficult, don’t waste your time, your life, they can't move forward, and he should forgive and forget, life is too short”- lol. A culture where the authorities meant to protect everyone’s interests, focus their investigation on one race.

I have also seen justification for any kind of behavior with, "When in Rome." Look at the TV shows, where any kind of attention-seeking wannabe gets hours and hours of Shout n Skip face-time. It amazes me that, top stars do these shows, too. Entertainment, or people looking for attention? Big Bother meets Richard and Judy, me thinks. Not to say they are bad people, terrible shows, but I'd rather read a book. Spare me the justifications for self-indulgence. 

For example- Just look at the music videos. Look at the camera work in the videos and speed of frames. The Pigs in lipstick analogy comes to mind to me, at times with some videos, imo. Not to say they are ugly like me or bad, but they seem overly made up, frantic, loads a makeup on both genders, sexually focused, and on looking perfect, cutee. Smacks of a lack of self-confidence and insecurity, in my mind.

Look at the sexual content in many ads, even just for vitamins or insurance- you can't count the mini-skirts, or tight blouses???? Baseball meets mini-skirt, snatch a shot, we got to home plate and we bring it to your living room, you’re out!!!! Are snatch-snap shots what lady supporters want to see mid-evening, or do they just accept it as Uphill walkers? Is that the demand? Is this really look uphill culture??? Aren't marketers meant to be at the hub of trends? Are silly faces, tandem dancing and cuttee all there is? I think there is more to see, offer, but not seeing it while walking uphill. Is it me, or were Boots ads in the UK like this? Match of the Day with Page 3 girls. I guess, topless reading clubs where men can go topless won’t work either?

Social relationships baffle me. In my country- my Dad, my brothers and old Fred down the pub is a mate. In uphill culture, we are supposed call an older man- Big Brother, or older lady- Sister, but cannot use my friend, due to an age difference. You cannot be my friend, I'm older than you. The respect lies within them, I just never see it. A manners to suit needs culture, I feel.  I must give you automatic respect because you are a year older than me.

Meanwhile, still walking upwards, huffing and puffing due to pollutants, and I wonder how we will ever be equal, when the odds only favor one race. The rules of the game help one team. Where anything can be said about / to someone from another race, even talking in the third person when they are present.

I mean rude treatment-  where people call, threaten, insult and blackball people to force their way upon another. Even if it happens to their own race, it’s unacceptable to me, especially when you think you can justify it like, “it's just our way, just understand us, forgive us, we didn't mean it, after they are found to be in the wrong, or not??" Why does a human have to reach limits of sanity, insulted, threatened, humiliated cos someone feels like it's a right of race to do that, cos, it's just our culture, we do it to our own." What irks me most, is they rarely do it to their own, cos they know they’ll be sued, and sued when the odds are even.

The classic- is we don’t apologize, but you better apologize to me immediately, or I’ll sue you. Keep walking upwards and when I pass you in my Zimmer frame, I’ll toot.

Re: He is a White Westerner? He Can't Say That!

I'll try and deal with these points in order. The fact is that there is a problem with car accidents in Korea. Unless people start making a song and dance about it, we will never know the underlying cause for sure. I have some theories that I am pretty confident about, but that may be a topic for a whole separate blog. I know one thing for sure, highlighting the problem and even making fun of their driving is not going to make things worse and might possibly make them stand up and notice it a bit more and start dealing with the problem better. To me, I could have easily picked Norway or Korea for the whaling example or the Ivory trade, rhino horn, and sharks fin for the Chinese. There is a difference between banning pork or beef and banning whaling and that is certain whale populations were becoming critically endangered, much the same as rhinos and elephants. Since reduced whaling the numbers have recovered. The Japanese are not respecting the quotas, however. The Chinese might have been a better example, as for the sake of a medicinal system that is mainly guff, they endanger a great number of rare animals on the planet that are also very ecologically important. They should be criticised for this, especially as what they are killing them for is totally unscientific. In one sense I do agree with you about all people being essentially the same, wanting the same things, but going about it in different ways. Some ways some cultures achieve the same goals are harmful to people and other cultures, however, and I think dealing with this is where our difference of opinion lies. Historical and cultural reasons for behaviours explain things well and we should try to understand them, but regardless of the history some things are right and wrong and the bad practices are worth changing. I find I absolutely agree with you on the integration point. We shouldn't ask people to change, people should be able to live their lives how they want in a free society as long as they don't harm others. I do think that there needs to be an honest dialogue between cultures in the same country, though, or you get situations like in the UK where you have the black community, the Muslim community, the Jews, the Hindus, the Eastern Europeans, etc, all isolated in their own separate groups. Religious people even send their children to separate religious schools. I see this as a problem because there are many different cultures living in the same country that don't really know about each or are friends with each other. This is bound to cause issues of misunderstandings and fear of the unknown. Finally, I think we can reject harmful aspects of some cultures. We can't be too relativist and say anything goes because we don't understand the root cause of it and the culture's history. I agree again with you that we can't hope to force a change in culture (we are finding that out in Afghanistan and Iraq) but I see dialogue and honesty and promoting opposing ideas to people as a way for them to affect their own changes if they wish. To do this we must be able to criticise their bad ideas, just as they should be able to criticise ours.

Re: He is a White Westerner? He Can't Say That!

Let's agree to disagree. 

I do like to comment on on particular remark. I work in cancer research, previously for a pharmaceutical company and now in a privatized health care clinic. Our work is to write and conduct research in patients with cancer, who volunteer to participate. 

"The Chinese might have been a better example, as for the sake of a medicinal system that is mainly guff, they endanger a great number of rare animals on the planet that are also very ecologically important"

When I came to Asia, I too thought that the Chinese medicine system was a bogus, not on science based institution that the world rather should get rid of than keep for all the arguments mentioned above on the possible extinction of plants and annimals. But over the years we have seen traditional medicines that work. Some can help prevent side effects of chemotherapy, some may increase the immune system and thus the patients overall health and some even have anti-cancer properties. The problem is that the mechanisms have not been studied well, and the principal behind these medications is so different that it is sometimes difficult to measure as methadologies for clinical studies are based on research with western medicinal research. Methadologies for research with traditional medicines may not be acknowledged by wester health authoroties such as FDA, and EMA.

But I guess this could be a whole new topic as well ;).