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Asian Values

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Follow Me on Twitter     Message Iftekhar Sayeed

In the inside pages of the Bangladesh Observer, an article penned by Human Rights Watch appeared in October. I was in a hurry to get away to St. Martin's Island, so neglected to cut out the copy. Nevertheless, the piece was objectionable enough to have survived the retroactive inhibition of sun, sand, and sea-turtle for, on returning, I seemed to remember its contents vividly.

Naturally, Human Rights Watch would have no truck with Asian values. They dismiss the idea out of court. It's merely an excuse for authoritarian governments to torment their hapless citizens: but for September 11th, its days were numbered. Unfortunately, the US government again countenances the brutality of Asian governments. But for September 11th, the world would have happily converged by now on the utopia of universal that is western values. But for September 11th.

It never occurs to Human Rights Watch and others of their ilk that September 11th was a reaction precisely to those precious western that is, universal values. September 11th was no mere hiccup in the world's digestive tract in the effort to swallow those values.

One of those values, of course, is accountable government. Pity the US government is not accountable to Palestinians. Freedom of the media? Pity the US people think the Palestinians are evil-doing barbarians who must go the way of Red Indians.

But Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and others are not naively suggesting that western governments respect human rights. Regarding values, they are making a deeper observation: they are saying that Asian values are a myth. The world is one big family.

Let's start with family. Throughout Asia, the extended family is the norm. Indeed, in India and Bangladesh, you have the 'joint family' several families living under one roof. The joint family is celebrated in those Bollywood [a play on Hollywood] films that are watched by wait for it expatriate Indians in California.

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Iftekhar Sayeed teaches English and economics. He was born and lives in Dhaka, ‎Bangladesh. He has contributed to AXIS OF LOGIC, ENTER TEXT, POSTCOLONIAL ‎TEXT, LEFT CURVE, MOBIUS, ERBACCE, THE JOURNAL, and other publications. ‎He (more...)
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