The west has much to learn from asia by claude lévi strauss
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Document: The westhasmuch to learn from asia by claudelévistrauss. Un article de claudelévistrauss, transcrit en anglais. rare.
Extrait: If there is one notion that a European seeking to understand the problem of south Asia must bear in mind, it is that of the ?exotic?. Contrary to what so many suggestions in literature and travellers' experiences may imply, the civilizations of the East are in essence, no different from those of the West.
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[...] If there is one notion that a European seeking to understand the problem of south Asia must bear in mind, it is that of the ?exotic?. Contrary to what so many suggestions in literature and travellers' experiences may imply, the civilizations of the East are in essence, no different from those of the West. Let us take a look at the bare remains that the passage of the centuries, sand, floods, saltpetre, rot and the Aryan invasion have left of the oldest culture of the East. the sites in the Indus valley, Mohenjodajo, Harappa to 5,000 years old. [...]
[...] It is to the birth and development of urban life that Europe has come to attach its highest material and spiritual values? But the incredibly rapid rate of urban development in the East (e.g. in Calcutta, where the population has increased from 2 to 5 million in the space of a few years), has merely had the effect of a concentrating, in the poverty-stricken areas, such misery and tragedy as have never made their appearance in Europe except as a counterpart to advances in other directions. [...]
[...] Despite the interest evinced by scholars and the remarkable work accomplished by Orientalists in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the mind of the West has not, as a whole, been very open to the messages of Asiatic thought; it seemed difficult to comprehend when attempts were made to introduce it to groups of peoples who lacked the basic experience underlying it. All Western civilization has tended to separate corporeal from spiritual activities as completely as possible, or rather to treat them as two incommunicable worlds. This is reflected in its philosophical, moral and religious ideas, and in the forms taken by its techniques and everyday life. [...]
[...] What a disconcerting experience! Streets straight as a bowstring, intersecting each other at right angles; workers' quarters with houses of dreary, unvarying design; industrial workshops for the milling of flour, the casting and chasing of metals, or the ?mass production? of those cheap goblets whose remains still litter the ground; municipals granary occupying (to use a modern term) several public baths, drains and sewers; residential quarters providing comfortable yet graceless homes designed more for a whole society that lived in comfort than for a minority of the well-to-do and powerful all this can hardly fail to suggest to the visitor the glamour and blemishes of a great modern city, even in their most advanced form as Western civilisation knows it, and as presented to Europe today, as a model, by the United States of America. [...]
[...] But it reflects rather well the different positions of Europe and Asia in regard to their common civilization. From the material point of view, at least one seems to be the ?reverse side? of the other; one has always been the winner, the other the loser, as if in a given enterprise (begun, as we have said, jointly) one had secured all the advantages and the other all the embarrassments. In one case (though will it always be an expansion of population has paved the way for agricultural and industrial progress, so that resources have increased more quickly than the number of people consuming them; in the other, the same phenomenon has, since the beginning of the eighteenth century, assumed the form of a constant lowering of the amount taken by each individual from a common pool that has remained more or less stationary. [...]
[...] When, however, the picture was shifted from the economic to the moral and psychological plane, these contrasts became more complex. For nothing seemed further from the American pattern than the style of life of this sage, whose pride lay in walking barefoot and having, as his sole earthly possessions, three cotton tunics which he washed and mended himself, and who thought he has solved the social problem by cooking his food on a fire of dead leaves, collected and ground up with his own hands The reverse side When one flies over vast territories of South Asia, from Karachi to Saigon, and once the desert of Thar has been crossed, this land divided up into the smallest plots and cultivated up to the last acre, at first sight seems somewhat familiar to the European. [...]
[...] Yet, without going back four or five thousand years, this striking misfortune seems to have been neither inescapable nor of very ancient standing. As recently as the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries- thanks no doubt, very largely, to the Mogul emperors, who were admirable administrators- the population of south Asia was not over-numerous, and there was an abundance of agricultural and manufactured products. European travellers who saw bazaars extending from 15 to 20 miles into the country for instance, from Agra to Fatipur Sikhri) and selling goods at what seemed to them ridiculously cheap prices, were not sure whether or not they had arrived in the ?land of milk and honey?. [...]
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