A bifocal view is better

Published: December 10, 2012
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Individualistic or collectivist society? When we abide by one, we are, in fact, giving up the privileges that the other offers. PHOTO: REUTERS

“Out beyond ideas of right doing and wrongdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there” – Rumi.

Difficult indeed. Very difficult, especially when you are too smug in your belief that somehow the weaknesses of your system are only by-products that have to be endured for the sake of greater benefits.

We like to believe that the western civilisation will crumble under its perverse and highly individualistic value system.

We have heard countless times that our family system, based on still-vibrant values of marriage, respect for the elderly and strong familial ties, and is better than theirs. Their system gives rise to elderly homes, nuclear families, fewer marriages and disease.

The fact that you have to worry about rent, household chores, groceries all by yourself along with, worrying about securing yourself with a suitable life partner. This simply illustrates how stressful life can be in such a society.

However, we forget that to perpetuate our own family system, we are, in fact, suppressing our individual freedom for the sake of a collective good.

There is, perhaps, more day-to-day stress for women; curtailing of one’s will and speech, family politics and all. How, then, can we say that our family structures are better than theirs?

This feels like a very rudimentary commentary on the differences between family systems of the two societies.

The explanation lies in coming to terms with this reality: human societies are fashioned along certain paradigms that guide the thinking of the people in those societies.

Hence, our norms and values are a product of these paradigms. The West sees society through the lens of individualism, while we view it from a collectivist perspective.

Both derive from rich histories and traditions; both have lived the test of time, going through their ups and downs; both continue to evolve.

None is necessarily better than the other. These are two systems that provide benefits, as well as disadvantages. When we abide by one, we are, in fact, giving up the privileges that the other offers.

Read more by Mifrah here.

Mifrah Haq

Mifrah Haq

Sub-editor at the The Express Tribune Magazine, Mifrah is a Boston University Alumnus, having graduated in International Relations and International Communication.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.