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Great Ideas from the East…?

I don’t think I’m racist. At least, not consciously so. And I would hate to think I was unconsciously racist. (Althougth the PURPLE vMEME easily makes racists of us all if we’re not careful, with its not-of-our-tribe discriminations!)

I guess I sort of knew enough from my studies in Psychology and Sociology to recognise vaguely that I was ethnocentric. Today it was brought home to me just how ethnocentric I am.

I was exposed to the ideas of a female Pakistani business consultant – WOAHHHH!!!!!! Hang on! A female business consultant from Pakistan???????? Well, there goes the tabloids’ version of a Pakistan stuffed full of sub-al-Qaeda clerics intent on reducing the world to a feudal fundamentalist state, with the women only allowed out of their homes if chaperoned by their menfolk and dressed in full burkha.

Clearly there is more diversity in Pakistan than ‘The Sun’ newspaper would have us believe!

Score one on the enthnocentric challenge meter!

Then, the ideas of this consultant, Ramla Akhtar, are really rather interesting. Although it is nominally a business model, Ramla’s People Centred Model of Businesa (PC-MoB) is as much a model for growing psychologically-healthy individuals in a sociologically-healthy society.

Ramla admits to developing her schematic before discovering Spiral Dynamics; so it will be more than a little interesting to see how the PC-MoB develops as she takes the concepts of vMEMES and memes on board. Even so, PC-MoB has much to offer as it is now in terms of sociopsychological thought. As Ramla says, it is as much about asking questions, as proposing solutions, about how we act and interact in the structures of society.

PC-MoB uses the same kind of 4 quadrants idea Ken Wilber (1995) bequeathed us – and developed so powerfully by Don Beck (2000a) in 4Q/8L. However, where Wilber has a tendency to lose many of us in the heights of his abstraction, Akhtar relates her concepts to the practical realities of most people’s lives.

A potent foundation on which much can be built.

Yet this concept didn’t come from the gurus’ mansions in California or even the noted Integral Salons of Seattle, New York City or London. It came from Karachi in Pakistan, a country caricatured in the Western media as socially, economically and philosophically backward.

The contradictions reach a zenith of sorts when you realise that one of Ramla’s favourite books is the Qur’an!

It isn’t supposed to be like this. Great ideas, according to the (neo-)science Western text books, come from the (neo-)scientific West. Not the pre-scientific East.

Score two on the ethnocentric challenge meter!

Better take the East seriously
An hour or so following links from Ramla Akhtar’s various web activities did nothing to dispell my schemas that there is massive poverty in the Indian sub-continent, that the hard BLUE of Islamic fundamentalism does represent a real threat to the ORANGE-led consumerism of American Capitalism and that the West does need to be concerned with what is happening politically in Aghanistan and Pakistan. (Even though Western intervention has, in the mid-term, arguably done as much harm as good.)

What my web odyssey did show me was many, many instances of Pakistani (and Indian!) innovation, creativity, diversity and rich thinking that was a match (at least!) for much of what you would find on comparable Western web sites.

Why am I surprised (and delighted!), I ask myself. I know historically  that China, India and the Middle East contained advanced civilisations when Europe was languishing in the post-Roman misery of the Dark Ages. Even now it is clear that China and India will be among the most dominant players in the world economy within just a few years.

When only a hundred years ago Europeans were colonial masters of the East and Asians were regarded (and treated) as racial inferiors – how ever much one might abhor racism and the suffering that colonialism inflicted upon millions upon millions…

…when the United States has dominated cultural and scientific thought in the West and way beyond since the end of the Second World War…

…it takes a little recalibration to realise just how alive with thought the East is and just how much thinkers in the East can offer to thinkers in the West – and what a global collaboration might achieve. The more superficial stereotypes in what Carl Gustav Jung (1917) called the Collective Unconscious are being challenged and need to change.

I find that every now and again I hit one of those ‘ah-ha moments’ Abraham Maslow talked about as a characteristic of (YELLOW) Self-Actualisation. I think Ramla Akhtar might have triggered one of them!

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7 Responses

  1. Sha says

    Hey Keith I’m glad you read some of Ramla’s work and it changed your perception of Pakistan.

    If you ever came to Karachi – considering the opinion you have of us – you would be shocked. Now I begin to mention all the exquisite cafes, the bright-lit roads, the bank-leased SUVs, girls in jeans and with open hair, arty furniture shops, druggy art students, beach parties and so on…

    But I stop myself and wonder – to make you see that we’re civilised I’m forced to talk in YOUR context…I mention the things YOU can relate to so you see Us as a bit like You. Perhaps we can be civilised and human and philosophical without having the appearance of a Westerner.

    And perhaps if you come to our country you will see ten news channels one more frank than the other, you will see young girls & boys who write beautiful and thoughtful prose at age 17. You will see that we’re a huge country with a diverse population – we are 3 times the size of UK, our population is equal to the populations of France & Germany combined, we speak many languages, we have some of the highest mountains, rivers & fertile lands, desserts filled with minerals and emptiness stretching forever, an amazing coastline and we’re the home of the ancient Indus Valley civilisation…

    If you were to read Allama Iqbal or Faiz Ahmed Faiz or Habib Jalib…you would feel their intellect, their passion, their hopes & their dreams. But genius can rarely be translated. We can appreciate the beauty of Shakespeare’s phrase ‘Some are born to sweet delight…and some to endless night…’ but you cannot connect with the genius of Iqbal when he says ‘Khudi ko kar buland itna ke har taqdeer sey pehley…Khuda banday sey khud poochey, bata teri raza kia hai…’ Perhaps one day, empathy will rule.

    • keitherice says

      “I mention the things YOU can relate to so you see Us as a bit like You.” Please don’t encourage me in my ethnocentricism, Sha! Ramla was quite a shock – in Piagetian terms, accommodation rather than assimilation! – and a shock I recognise I needed. But we all start off measuring new information against our existing schemas. So forgive me if I start off with the Western consumerist idea of civilisation.

      But who is to say that the West is more civilised than…? Appreciating diversity is a challenge to most of us – but at least I’m working on it! And I think I’m heading in the right direction….

  2. Paul Morgan says

    Now I get it! your responses are ironic. A wonderful send up of psuedo intellectual clap trap. Once I realised that it all made sense. So when I ask for a shread of evidence re the Sun I get 4 links. None of which have any hard data on …The Sun. Indeed little of the prattle written would get near any decent peer reviewed journal. As I was taught by Popper and Imre Lakatos (see I can drop names too!….it’s catching). I loved the ‘soundbite’ Popper reference.That it would be used to justify lightweight ‘conspiracy’ theories of the Western media and the lack of any attempt to provide hard evidence is delicious. And as for – “left me with a strong impression that there is a pretty strong perception out there that the Western media is by and large biased in its representations of the likes of Pakistan.” A strong impression…..a pretty strong perception……is by and large biased – I guess that is factually on the money on tier 2. Further down the tier 1 foodchain this looks like unsubstantiated opinion. [Again a wonderful send up of all those pretend Gravesians who immediately put themselves in tier 2 and claim to see what other lower mortals cannot.] And the bit at the end stating what one ALWAYS has to do re the media. The questions that (MUST?) be asked. Again very funny. The exquisitely myopic nature of what one should ALWAYs do. Great. Thanks for the laughs. Sorry I took your original Sun diatribe literally.

  3. Paul Morgan says

    Yes, yes. I am the victim of the “western caricatures” while you see things as they really are. And of course you did not caricaturise the Sun’s reporting of Pakistan. Sadly I have not seen any well researched studies that show a clear causal link between the way the Sun ( or is it now ‘Sun style’?) covers Pakistan and the alienation of Muslims. Perhaps the suggestion of such a link without hard evidence is….’a shallow generalisation’. Do let me have the specific references if they exist.

    Must be exciting up there is the 2nd tier to be able to generalise about ‘the Sun’ / ‘Sun style/ whole western media. I am a mere 1st tier guy – and probably lowish down that tier – and clearly a victim of the western media (who apparently all push the same line) unable to think for myself…unlike you guys on the 2nd tier. Geez I bet the view is marvellous up there. Please remove me from your…stuff.

    • keitherice says

      Try:-
      http://www.ecln.org/essays/essay-3.pdf or http://www.geocities.com/CollegePark/6453/myth.html or http://www.ihrc.org.uk/show.php?id=2493 or blogs.georgetown.edu/?id=31113.
      Obtained from the first 3 pages of Googling on ‘Muslim alienation Western media research’.

      I’m not necessarily saying that the research is completely objective – but then very little research is. As Karl Popper said, scientific research is theory-driven and, therefore, by design can’t be objective. Gun Semin also said that all observation requires a prior viewpoint. ( Actually Clare W Graves may be one of the few researchers whose early work may actually be genuinely objective as he started off with no theory to prove.) And there is research out there that tries to demonstrate that the allegations of anti-Muslim bias in the Western media are greatly exaggerated. So you could argue that the research is mixed. Nonetheless, a short trawl through the web, taking in both Eastern and Western sites, left me with a strong impression that there is a pretty strong perception out there that the Western media is by and large biased in its representations of the likes of Pakistan.

      With the media, you always have to think who wants you to know what?…and why?

  4. Paul Morgan says

    Hi please take me off your list. the banal attributons to the Sun are pathetic. The paper does suggest that there are many pro violence fundamentalist groups in Pakistan. Groups who do repress women and gays. And some of the delightful people who blew up commuters in London were trained in Pakistan. maybe in your “green little world” none of this is so.But hey, don’t let the facts get in the way of your pomposity. I could write more…but you are not worth it

    • keitherice says

      An overreaction on your part, Paul?…and possibly a victim of the Western media’s caricaturing of Pakistani Muslim = terrorist…? If you re-read the piece, you will see I say my investigations did nothing to allay my impressions of that area of the world being associated with major poverty and fundamentalist opposition to the Western way of life. Moreover, I do say that the West is right to be concerned with what’s going on there – though I do also think our intervention has, in some respects, made things worse.

      This poverty-fundamentalist-repression view is one that ‘The Sun’, etc, would have us believe represents Pakistan per se. My point is that, thanks to Ramla Akhtar, I came to a jolting realization that there is clearly far more diversity of thought and opinion in Pakistan than the Western media credits. (Don’t forget the Modernisation Theorist Alex Inkeles was quite explicit in his assertions that the Western media should have a deliberate agenda in its efforts to manipulate the ‘developing world’!)

      None of this negates the very real problems Pakistan has in dealing with poverty, fundamentalism, etc, or the very real threat that the likes of al-Qaeda pose to the Western way of life. I’m merely pointing out that there clearly is 2nd Tier thinking in elements of Pakistani intellectual thought and Western thinkers would do well to collaborate with it. By contrast ‘The Sun’-style shallow generalisations will most likely alienate moderate Muslims and increase the likelihood of disaffected young Pakistani men being seduced into anti-Western activities. How to formulate an appropriate response that undermines and even neutralizes extremists whilst enabling moderate Muslims both to honour their religion and engage fully with the wider family of man is one of the greatest challenges the world faces in the first decades of the 21st Century.

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