Christian Long

Devdutt Pattanaik: East vs. West – The Myths That Mystify

In TED Talks on May 10, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Reflection by DARCY S.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Devdutt Pattanaik:  East vs. West – The Myths That Mystify

Devdutt Pattanaik’s talk was sincerely splendid. He illustrates the differences between people (in this case Western, or primarily American, and Indian) by retelling the basic structures of our clashing cultures. In understanding the differences and the similarities our cultures share, the relationships of business and communication between countries is made more evident. However, Pattinaik’s does not use the definition of culture as one’s immediate definition.

Culture is not as superficial as food, clothing and even tradition. Culture goes as far into the human being as mannerisms, habits and method of thinking. This reasoning suggests that people within a culture think in homogenous ways and when you look at the western culture, it’s pretty solid proof that we do think and act similarly.

The ways of the westerner, in the eyes of a foreigner, are often regarded as negative; that is, negative behavior as in selfish motives and ruthless conquest. America was traditionally founded upon nationalism, unity, equality and rights of the individual and over centuries we have turned into an economically functioning state, just as the rest of the competing world has. The entire business realm is concerned with material objects, which at the end of the day are virtually nonexistent, and in western society it is impossible to escape materialism. This business is not just trade anymore; it is our lifestyle. It has its pros and cons, but when dealing with the rest of the world, our motives, ideals and objectives are out of sync.

This is only due to our nature as Americans, in other words our culture. However, every country or providence or continent has a unique culture and a unique way of doing things. Pattanaik explicates the ever-decreasing functionality of global affairs by demonstrating the specific differences between cultures that believe in one god between cultures that believe in many gods.


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