Exploring the Social Imagination

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Where East Meets West in the Social Imagination

The Social imagination in the West is different from the East. The West is about doing and the East is about being. Not that there isn't any idea of being in a place in the West; there is but, it is more fluid more like a free flowing river hopeful and eager to change. This sounds good to Western ears, hope and change. For others, it sounds unrealistic, not practical and not reasonable given their long time cultural heritage. The West has a problem accepting that people who live outside the West see life different when it comes to change especially. Hence, we see people supporting authority that we Westerners see as tyrants/obstacles to change.
Being in a place is different from doing in a place. Westerners cannot imagine that there are groups of people who have been in the same place or felt connected to a place (as in homeland) for thousands of years. The Western mind is open, free and mobile. Westerners don't have a problem with change or changing places. For them doing is their destiny. The Western mind is geared toward doing in a place. He/she thinks about what he/she can do and how to improve life which includes how to move about in a place, or even move from place to place, taking their doing with them. You see, you can't take being from place to place. Of course, one can be in a place, but that is not the same as being in place. I can be at the bus top. However, being in a place requires years, generations. For Western minds, being sounds and seems to be unproductive, not progressive, not forward thinking. They are engaged in doing, not being. They race around the world doing things. They can feel unappreciated for their doings, they often don't understand being in a place. They think that those who live 'being' in a place are without enthusiasm or hope. They usually don't understand that maybe those 'being' people hope that they can just keep 'being' where they are. That their comfort and future is in being not doing. Such thinking is not in the Western social imagination.

*this sociological insight is based on years of participant observations and participated research projects.

I would also like to point to a recent Hollywood film that can help to illustrate being vs. doing. In the film, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" the main characters Cesar and the human leading role reflect these two mindsets. The 'intelligent' ape stresses being and their future is in being in a place ~ their home. The human stresses doing, and that their doing is not harmful because doing is good, better than just being. Of course, conflict breaks out and it is realized by the characters in the film that there is some doing in regards to being in a place. That doing includes fighting for being in a place. What the audience can see though is that the Ape would have always been happy with being if someone of the doing mindset had not come along.

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