On a visit to Sandeep Gautam’s Mousetrap blog I came across this video and Gautam takes the opportunity to further discuss the contrasting Eastern and Western values in terms of illnesses such as psychosis. The video that Gautam refers to consists of a presentation by Dr Devdutt Pattanaik who describes himself as a medical doctor who has gone on to advise businesses on ideas, mythology and beliefs. I found this video interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly Pattanik gives an extraordinairy performance – a showcase for just how good a presentation can be. He weaves a narrative into his presentation with the meeting of Eastern and Western cultures. He uses some slides, but these really fade into the background because he carries the presentation through his charismatic performance. It is almost as though he is negotiating with the audience at each point. Secondly the content of the presentation is very interesting also in that he contrasts Eastern and Western lifestyle approaches. It can be argued that there is no single Western or Eastern approach, making contrasts difficult. Nevertheless Pattanaik considers beliefs about the many idealised approaches in Eastern culture, the recognition of the sheer magnitude of possibilities that are available in life and the person’s place in the greater scheme of things with a western approach which is closely aligned to success, goal setting and a single life in which to achieve all that is necessary. Pattaniak suggests that where Eastern and Western civilisations meet and these differences are not understood it will result in difficulties. Pattanaik focuses on the example of western businesses that need to adjust when operating in the East. However if such arguments are valid they have applications elsewhere. For instance with migration from East to West or West to East, families will have to adapt to these new values and this process of adaptation can influence health which is an area that has been studied extensively e.g. in transcultural psychiatry. The implication that health can be influenced indirectly by cultural mythology is on reflection quite profound. The adjustments that families make when moving between civilisations has been explored in literature and film also. Nevertheless even when there are such differences there are also many similarities. Education is assessed in both the East and West and the outcome of this goal-orientated process influences lives in both cultures. From an evolutionary perspective, competition features in a number of ways and this can itself be considered a goal-orientated process which is found in both Western and Eastern cultures whether implicit or explicit in various settings. Pattanaik’s presentation is a useful starting point for discussing cultural differences.
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