Fri 18 Apr 2003
Can Asians Think?
Category : Commentary/canasiansthink.txt
Sometimes I think so, but quite often not. Like Kishore Mahbubani, Singapore's (former, I think) ambassador to the UN, I can argue both ways, but probably not as well.
He's written a book on that subject "Can Asians Think?", subtitled "Understanding the Divide between East and West".
I believe this question is worth thinking about because if you ask the wrong questions, you may spend your life solving the wrong problems. For example, there is a question that many have spent no small amount of time, money and energy solving - like "How do we make our people more entrepreneurial so that we can generate more wealth?". This may be the wrong question to ask because being entrepreneurial may be a result rather than a cause.
I believe that being entreprenuerial requires an ability to make a deal, to understand that the profit motive needs to exist on both sides of the equation, and therefore to think from the other person's point of view. In social terms, it means to be considerate. In personal terms, it means to have integrity, to keep to one's side of the bargain. But above all, to think of what it means to be a decent human being.
Coming to work each day, I'm sick of people sneezing into my head and coughing into my face. It's the thoughtlessness that reminds me of the difficulty many entrepreneurs have of collecting money after they've done the job and getting a fair shake.
In Japan, it seems that people voluntarily wear a mask when they're ill, in consideration for others, rather than the other way round. I've looked with interest at Japan's Sars statistics - so far none. Is there a correlation between this and intelligence, and, from there, the quality of civic life and ultimately wealth?
We need to learn how to think better, whether we're already good at it or not. Mahbubani's book is as good a place as any to make a start.