thumbnail of WNYC; Miscellaneous; Asia Society Presents: Asia Through the Cultural Looking Glass
Transcript
Hide -
<v Speaker 1>[music] The Asia Society Presents. <v Speaker 1>This is a series of interviews with experts on Asian affairs designed <v Speaker 1>to strengthen our understanding of Asian people and ideas. <v Speaker 1>Your host on this transcribed series is the noted author and award-winning broadcaster, <v Speaker 1>Lee Graham. Here now is Mrs. Graham. <v Lee Graham>I think it's a very good sign that we are studying Asia these days. <v Lee Graham>There was a time when Asia and Africa were never mentioned in textbooks. <v Lee Graham>But, why we are studying Asia? <v Lee Graham>What is the motivation? Are we doing it the right way? <v Lee Graham>Well, these are some of the questions we will discuss on this program, and I don't think <v Lee Graham>we can have um a qualified person with which to discuss it, than <v Lee Graham>our guest, who is Dr. Seymour Fersh, because he is the education director <v Lee Graham>of the Asia Society and this is his own bailiwick.
<v Lee Graham>Um he recently came back from a trip to the Far East, and I'm sure he'll tell us in the <v Lee Graham>course the program, we shouldn't say Far East. <v Lee Graham>And he knows the world well. <v Lee Graham>He's traveled it as much, I suppose, as most people do. <v Lee Graham>Uh now Dr. Fersh, <v Lee Graham>the fact that we're studying Asia more is good. <v Lee Graham>But you seem to imply that we're not doing it for the exactly right reasons. <v Lee Graham>What is the trouble with our approach? <v Seymour Fersh>Well, I'm delighted to have an opportunity to talk about it. <v Seymour Fersh>I remember in my own undergraduate studies, I was training to be a <v Seymour Fersh>social studies teacher, and the only course we had that included Asia and Africa <v Seymour Fersh>was a course called World History, which never really did include Asia and Africa. <v Seymour Fersh>It was more of a history of the American people and its past. <v Seymour Fersh>And I've noticed in the last 5 or 10 years that Asia and Africa and other <v Seymour Fersh>so-called non-Western studies are beginning to enter the curriculum. <v Seymour Fersh>But I think the reasons are not difficult to discern. <v Seymour Fersh>And the first reason is that Americans are involved in these areas.
<v Seymour Fersh>Troops are involved in these areas. <v Seymour Fersh>World War 2, the Korean War, the Vietnamese war, so that our interest has been carried <v Seymour Fersh>into Asia, and conversely, Asia has been carried into our own living <v Seymour Fersh>rooms through television. So that students today, instead of waiting <v Seymour Fersh>for teachers to bring information to them, students are beginning to get the information <v Seymour Fersh>first, and in the same places, incidentally, as the teachers. <v Seymour Fersh>And when the students go to class, they're beginning to ask questions. <v Seymour Fersh>And so in a sense, the students and the world itself is ahead of- has been ahead <v Seymour Fersh>of the schools. So that Asia and Africa and these other areas are now in the curriculum, <v Seymour Fersh>not so much because educators decided to put it in the curriculum, but because world <v Seymour Fersh>events and radio and television and world styles and so on have <v Seymour Fersh>have made the world more part of everyday American life. <v Lee Graham>Right. I think you would agree and so would most people that it's good <v Lee Graham>that we're studying Asia at all. But if the reasons aren't right, we're still better than <v Lee Graham>nothing. <v Seymour Fersh>Yeah [laughs].
<v Lee Graham>But there seem to be something wrong with the reasons. <v Lee Graham>I mean if we-. <v Seymour Fersh>Well, yes- <v Lee Graham>Political necessity is not the best reason, I take it. <v Seymour Fersh>No, that's right. I think political necessity really corrupts in a sense- interferes <v Seymour Fersh>with learning. <v Seymour Fersh>This is true in all countries, I think. And in general, all cultures teach their young <v Seymour Fersh>that they belong to the culture and not to a culture. <v Seymour Fersh>Each culture tends to think of itself as the center, of the Chinese, for example, <v Seymour Fersh>are the Middle Kingdom people. <v Seymour Fersh>The British are indeed the center. <v Seymour Fersh>They have the prime meridian going through their country, although they were the ones to <v Seymour Fersh>decide where the prime meridian went. <v Seymour Fersh>And in our own country, we we have our own Mercator map of the world with the US in the <v Seymour Fersh>center. And so each of us figuratively tend to think of ourselves <v Seymour Fersh>as being in the center. And psychologically, we tend to refer to ourselves <v Seymour Fersh>unconsciously as the natural people. <v Seymour Fersh>So that when we use terms in referring to these other countries, we- <v Seymour Fersh>as we start our study of them, the terms themselves interfere
<v Seymour Fersh>with what we're trying to learn. <v Seymour Fersh>For example, when we say even though India's backward, we mustn't feel superior, <v Seymour Fersh>or when we say that certain countries are emerging countries, underdeveloped countries, <v Seymour Fersh>backward countries, it's ironic that India was the country that Columbus was looking <v Seymour Fersh>for. And so whenever you say developed or underdeveloped or emerging <v Seymour Fersh>or overdeveloped, there must be inherent in the definition some <v Seymour Fersh>sense of of what standard you're using, and when you examine it, you find almost <v Seymour Fersh>invariably that the standard is your own standard. <v Lee Graham>But it would be difficult for many people to have standards <v Lee Graham>other than their own. <v Seymour Fersh>Exactly. <v Lee Graham>I mean what they're brought up with as children. <v Seymour Fersh>Right. <v Lee Graham>What they've always seen. <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. <v Lee Graham>And they- something exotic uh mystifies them. <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. Oh, well, I- <v Lee Graham>And is generally considered inferior by them. <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. No, that's a very good point. I think the point is not that we would <v Seymour Fersh>do away with our own standards, but become aware of the fact that they are a standard, <v Seymour Fersh>perhaps, rather than the standard.
<v Lee Graham>It should be more relativity and less absolutism. <v Seymour Fersh>More- yes, that's r- Yes, that's very good. <v Seymour Fersh>I think the key point here is awareness of how you're doing the measuring. <v Seymour Fersh>When we say that the Watusis are tall and the Japanese are short, we're suggesting <v Seymour Fersh>what luck that our heighth is somehow natural. <v Seymour Fersh>And so we need to- and in saying that we need to begin to smile about it, to be aware of <v Seymour Fersh>the fact that even in mud huts, Indian mothers love their children. <v Seymour Fersh>We sometimes see that in some of our textbooks, as if mud huts were somehow connected <v Seymour Fersh>to affection. Even in some tall apartment houses, American <v Seymour Fersh>mothers love their children. [laughs] <v Lee Graham>I don't know. I have a feeling that African mothers in mud huts love their children even <v Lee Graham>more. <v Seymour Fersh>Yes, I think so. But- <v Lee Graham>But how does one get rid of this almost built-in condescension which <v Lee Graham>our education gives us. <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. Well, you don't so much get rid of it. Almost like in psychoanalysis, perhaps, <v Seymour Fersh>studying other cultures may be like cultural analysis. <v Seymour Fersh>You don't get rid of it, but you learn how to live with it and you become aware of it.
<v Seymour Fersh>You bring it somewhat to the surface so that you begin to <v Seymour Fersh>catch yourself saying things, making judgments. <v Seymour Fersh>When we say that people are poverty-stricken, what is the measure? <v Seymour Fersh>How are we measuring them? <v Seymour Fersh>I was once thinking about writing an article and putting it in the terms of an Indian <v Seymour Fersh>talking about the US as an affluent-stricken society and then beginning to <v Seymour Fersh>cite all the evidence that would support his contention of affluence-strickency. <v Lee Graham>The fact that we may have a little more money, but we lack a number- <v Seymour Fersh>Right. <v Lee Graham>-of other things such as clear air to breathe. <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. Well, that's a related point, is that we in this country have tended to use gross <v Seymour Fersh>national product as a kind of a magical word. <v Seymour Fersh>And we think that it uh- we suggest that it measures standard of living. <v Lee Graham>Don't you think, though, Dr. Fersh, that a person has to, at some point in his life <v Lee Graham>develop what he thinks are standards, which are sound. <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. <v Lee Graham>So he has to have a guideline. <v Seymour Fersh>Right. But the uh-.
<v Lee Graham>So how would he do it without afterwhile seeming arrogant? <v Seymour Fersh>Well, I think- I think the standards that you develop come out of your own context. <v Seymour Fersh>In fact, I'd like to just mention this in relation to what we're- in looking at Asia, <v Seymour Fersh>that in trying to make an assessment of of a certain event or certain <v Seymour Fersh>fact, I don't think it's really possible to to make an assessment of unless you <v Seymour Fersh>understand the context. Let me give an example. <v Seymour Fersh>India today is one of the countries that's um concerned with birth control. <v Seymour Fersh>And many Americans find it difficult to understand why Indians are not moving <v Seymour Fersh>more quickly in the direction of birth control. <v Seymour Fersh>But all you need to do is to take a few minutes to see the different context <v Seymour Fersh>of the role that children play in our two cultures. <v Seymour Fersh>Now, in our culture, in the last 20 or 30 years, it's become, I think, quite <v Seymour Fersh>incontestable, that children are an economic liability. <v Seymour Fersh>I say it, not in any- with any malice, but to try to put the point
<v Seymour Fersh>clearly. That is, most Americans in deciding how many children to have <v Seymour Fersh>ask themselves the question, can we afford to have children, meaning <v Seymour Fersh>can we assume the responsibilities of parents: having the children's teeth straightened <v Seymour Fersh>and sent to school and through graduate school and so on. <v Seymour Fersh>And we don't expect anything from them. In fact, this is perhaps one of the problems, in <v Seymour Fersh>a sense. We make this clear to our children that we're willing to make these sacrifices, <v Seymour Fersh>and you might put that in quotation marks. <v Seymour Fersh>And in our own old age, we rely on unemployment insurance, <v Seymour Fersh>Social Security, pension plans and so on, so that children for us are something <v Seymour Fersh>we perhaps want to have, but they are not involved in our economics <v Seymour Fersh>except as a- as a liability. <v Seymour Fersh>But if you reverse this and you go to a country such as India, and if you examine <v Seymour Fersh>along with the birth rate, the death rate, the death rate, after all, is related to the <v Seymour Fersh>birth rate. And the death rate in India, until very recently, was something
<v Seymour Fersh>like 4 out of 10 would die in the first year, and <v Seymour Fersh>of the remaining 10, perhaps 3 would- uh the remaining 6, perhaps 3 would die before they <v Seymour Fersh>became adults. And of the remaining 3 who became adults, the key person <v Seymour Fersh>were male children, because the males would help support the family. <v Seymour Fersh>And so it- it's not difficult to see why in India, and of course, <v Seymour Fersh>this was true in our own country a hundred years ago, it isn't as if this were an <v Seymour Fersh>Oriental birth pattern, that is- <v Lee Graham>But aside from the fact, Dr. Fersh, that that many children or babies would die <v Lee Graham>so early in life, uh the population of India does explode. <v Seymour Fersh>Well, what has happened, what has happened in the last 15 or 20 years in India <v Seymour Fersh>is that the birth rates have remained pretty much the same. <v Lee Graham>It's the older people are living longer. <v Seymour Fersh>Well, and also the infancy rates are dropping. <v Seymour Fersh>It's easier to introduce death control through sanitation and through <v Seymour Fersh>different medical practices and so on.
<v Seymour Fersh>Now, in India, what is happening at the moment is that the- there's <v Seymour Fersh>a cultural lag, that is, most of the village people are still <v Seymour Fersh>following a pattern which made sense 25 or 30 years ago when the <v Seymour Fersh>number of children they had did not- the number surviving was not great <v Seymour Fersh>enough to offset cutting down on the number. <v Lee Graham>I think in all fairness, we should say that not only we as Americans are guilty <v Lee Graham>of this kind of cultural condescension- <v Seymour Fersh>Oh yes, no. <v Lee Graham>-but the people of various countries. The Chinese very much- <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. <v Lee Graham>-feel superior and- <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. <v Lee Graham>-no doubt think we are impossible. <v Lee Graham>And the French can- <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. <v Lee Graham>-care less than the British, poor souls, our American cousins. <v Lee Graham>I mean, everyone is doing it. <v Lee Graham>Is that something that is uh one can remedy? <v Lee Graham>Isn't it something so inherent in people? <v Seymour Fersh>Well, I think- I think well, what we're talking about here is variously called <v Seymour Fersh>ethnocentricity. <v Seymour Fersh>I think each culture needs to be ethnocentric. <v Seymour Fersh>Wherever babies are being born, babies are the most malleable of all
<v Seymour Fersh>the species, and wherever babies are born, there is a way of life which <v Seymour Fersh>precedes them, which is more or less the best way of life that people have been able to <v Seymour Fersh>evolve in that particular area. <v Seymour Fersh>And so when the mother says to the child that there is a proper way to do things, she <v Seymour Fersh>believes it, and indeed, for that context, it is perhaps the most proper way to do <v Seymour Fersh>it. Now, until recently, most people lived out their lives within their own cultural <v Seymour Fersh>region. And so it really didn't matter how they felt <v Seymour Fersh>about others. For example, if there's life in other parts of the universe, <v Seymour Fersh>it doesn't really matter so far, at least as far as we can tell, what the kind of life <v Seymour Fersh>is there, because it doesn't seem to touch on our condition. <v Lee Graham>Not as yet. <v Seymour Fersh>No. But what has happened, especially for Americans, is that now that we are moving <v Seymour Fersh>outside of our own cultural area, we are coming into contact with people <v Seymour Fersh>who are as ethnocentric as we are, not more so or less so. <v Seymour Fersh>But it's the it's the touching of these people from different cultures,
<v Seymour Fersh>and then each person tending to make a judgment of what seems sensible <v Seymour Fersh>on the basis of what seems sensible within his own context. <v Seymour Fersh>I just want to quickly add that I think in our own country, what <v Seymour Fersh>what we have been calling the generation gap between <v Seymour Fersh>one generation and their children is not really a generation gap, but a cultural gap. <v Seymour Fersh>That is, the kind of context in which we lived 20 years ago <v Seymour Fersh>is so significantly different from the context within which our own children and students <v Seymour Fersh>are living, if you just look at the technological differences. <v Lee Graham>The change has probably been more rapid than at any time- <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. Yes. <v Lee Graham>-that we could recall or read about in history. <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. <v Lee Graham>But Dr. Fersh, I know that you travel quite a bit throughout the United States, as well <v Lee Graham>as the world, in your activities as education director of the Asia Society, and <v Lee Graham>you come in contact with many teachers and students. <v Lee Graham>Do you have the impression that this is a- um a national
<v Lee Graham>malady? This looking at other cultures with a somewhat superior <v Lee Graham>air saying poor souls- <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. <v Lee Graham>They don't quite have it. But maybe someday they'll be as good as we are? <v Lee Graham>Is that something we all do in this country? <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. Well, I think- yes, I think we do, and and I'm not really upset about it, because <v Seymour Fersh>I think it's it's somewhat natural. <v Seymour Fersh>That is- and important- that is, people need to have a self image <v Seymour Fersh>of themselves. <v Lee Graham>But how- this ability, which I guess is quite rare, to combine a confidence <v Lee Graham>in your own style because that's what you were brought up with. <v Seymour Fersh>Right. <v Lee Graham>Combine it with the tolerance with the style of other people. <v Seymour Fersh>Well. <v Lee Graham>Is that hard to do for most people? <v Seymour Fersh>It's hard to do as long as you think of it as a chore. <v Seymour Fersh>But I- for me, it becomes an opportunity. <v Seymour Fersh>For example, I hear people calling this the problem. <v Seymour Fersh>They say one of the problems is how can we help- how can we understand people from other <v Seymour Fersh>cultures? The word problem itself is probably the most overused word in our own culture, <v Seymour Fersh>and as soon as I substitute the word opportunity, I think I get a much <v Seymour Fersh>different picture. That is, we now have an opportunity not- to live not only in our own
<v Seymour Fersh>culture, but to live in other cultures, and this opens up our options. <v Seymour Fersh>Now, in many ways, we in this country have already had those options and are so used to <v Seymour Fersh>them that we don't notice them. <v Seymour Fersh>We are, among all the nations, one with the richest <v Seymour Fersh>heritage from Europe, and we we don't even notice the amount <v Seymour Fersh>of different foods we have. I mean, pizza and kosher meals and Italian <v Seymour Fersh>restaurants and French restaurants and so on are almost considered American dishes for <v Seymour Fersh>us. And when you go to Europe and you go to each of the European countries, you're you're <v Seymour Fersh>aware of how homogeneous they are within their own country. <v Seymour Fersh>So that- studying other cultures is something um- well, <v Seymour Fersh>let me just try it one other way. <v Seymour Fersh>Mahatma Gandhi said something once that I think makes the point very clearly. <v Seymour Fersh>He said that he would like his house opened to <v Seymour Fersh>the cultures of all the world, and he would like them to blow through his house and swirl <v Seymour Fersh>around, but he would not want to be blown off his feet by any of them.
<v Lee Graham>He'd like to know about them ?inaudible? <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. <v Lee Graham>-belittle, but still be himself. <v Seymour Fersh>And in the process of studying other cultures, you also get an insight <v Seymour Fersh>into your own culture. <v Lee Graham>Well it is, as you say, not only an opportunity, but a most fascinating adventure. <v Lee Graham>Don't you think that with the opportunity that perhaps Americans have more than any other <v Lee Graham>people to travel? <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. Yes. <v Lee Graham>We should be better at this than some other groups. <v Lee Graham>I don't say that chauvinistically-. <v Seymour Fersh>Yes, no. <v Lee Graham>-I mean just economically. <v Seymour Fersh>Well, Americans have a special opportunity because we do have a chance to travel <v Seymour Fersh>more widely. And also we have a greater responsibility because of all <v Seymour Fersh>the peoples of the world, we have chosen to involve ourselves in the affairs of other <v Seymour Fersh>people. If someone in, I hesitate to even mention <v Seymour Fersh>any country, but if you say say in Nicaragua <v Seymour Fersh>is born in his town there and he goes to his grave knowing nothing of other cultures, <v Seymour Fersh>I would say that it was his personal loss. <v Seymour Fersh>But we in America are affecting the world in such great measure that
<v Seymour Fersh>what we don't know about the world affects not only ourselves, but others. <v Seymour Fersh>And therefore, you you have no right to go out into the world until you prepare yourself <v Seymour Fersh>to understand how the world functions. <v Lee Graham>Yes, it's- becomes a noblesse oblige situ- uh <v Lee Graham>situation which, if you have the wherewithal, you must do something about it. <v Lee Graham>But I was wondering, Dr. Fersh, if you were able to notice any differences <v Lee Graham>in the attitude of Asian people towards us at this point in the course of your travels <v Lee Graham>there. Do you have the feeling that they see in us an <v Lee Graham>increasing desire to understand them better and to appreciate them more? <v Lee Graham>What do they think? We're still pretty backward from their point of view. <v Seymour Fersh>Well, I don't- I'm not quite sure whether they think we're backward or not. <v Seymour Fersh>I almost feel like shifting. <v Lee Graham>Well, choose. [laughs]. <v Seymour Fersh>Well, I feel like shifting the ground a little bit and then perhaps we can come back to <v Seymour Fersh>it. But I do think that Asians and others <v Seymour Fersh>will be most impressed by what we have to offer to the world
<v Seymour Fersh>to the degree that we are able to function better at home. <v Seymour Fersh>I mean, it seems so elementary, but a country cannot offer itself <v Seymour Fersh>to the rest of the world as a model at the same time that it has not exhibited <v Seymour Fersh>an ability to to deal with its own national situation more <v Seymour Fersh>effectively. And I think this is reflected in many of our <v Seymour Fersh>younger people who I think a few years ago were interested in the Peace Corps <v Seymour Fersh>because they felt that the United States had a great deal to offer to the world. <v Seymour Fersh>I think many of these youngsters now are beginning to feel that their service should <v Seymour Fersh>start here and that in order to prepare yourself to live in the <v Seymour Fersh>world, we need to improve our own system. <v Lee Graham>How unable do you think we are to handle our difficulties <v Lee Graham>or how much do you think this is due to bad propaganda, if <v Lee Graham>I may say subversive elements who are envious of our success and <v Lee Graham>ability? How much of this is a genuine problem that the United States has-
<v Seymour Fersh>Oh, I think we- <v Lee Graham>-and how much of it is just bad broadcasting? <v Seymour Fersh>Oh, no, no. I think- well, I think it's both. <v Seymour Fersh>I think for some reason, new- bad news gets printed more quickly than good news. <v Seymour Fersh>There's been a lot of comment on that recently. <v Seymour Fersh>But I think the the point is that in studying other cultures and in <v Seymour Fersh>recognizing how other cultures have had culture lag, for example, <v Seymour Fersh>we see the the Indian population rates not taking notice of <v Seymour Fersh>the death rates that are changing, we say that's culture lag. <v Seymour Fersh>When we talk about the sacred cow in India, and if I had more time, I'd talk about good <v Seymour Fersh>reasons why they do treat the cow in a special way. <v Seymour Fersh>But as you see other cultures unable to respond to changing conditions, you come back to <v Seymour Fersh>your own culture and you very often recognize the same kind of stickiness. <v Seymour Fersh>Now, for example, the automobile in our culture, it's almost subversive to <v Seymour Fersh>raise the question of whether we shouldn't deal with the automobile in a different way <v Seymour Fersh>now that conditions have changed. <v Seymour Fersh>And I was discussing this once with an Indian friend and he said the solution is so
<v Seymour Fersh>simple. He said, why don't you practice birth control-. <v Lee Graham>For your automobiles? <v Seymour Fersh>For the automobile, because the arguments came very close to being the ones <v Seymour Fersh>that we give for his practicing birth control of people. <v Lee Graham>It's true. I mean, why should anyone, let's say, have more than one automobile? <v Seymour Fersh>Well, there's there's a- there's a lot of reasons in our culture why you don't have birth <v Seymour Fersh>control of the automobile in the sense that something like one out of every <v Seymour Fersh>six Americans makes a living from an automobile. <v Seymour Fersh>Automobiles raise taxes. <v Seymour Fersh>We've created- we've arranged our our culture in such a way now that you <v Seymour Fersh>need an automobile to go shopping, you need an automobile to go to to resorts <v Seymour Fersh>and so on. The point is that when the Indian says we should practice birth control <v Seymour Fersh>of the car, we say yes, but, and then we begin to mention <v Seymour Fersh>all the things that he usually is not aware of in terms of the context. <v Lee Graham>So that he- <v Seymour Fersh>That is, uh- <v Lee Graham>-might understand us better as we hope to understand him? <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. But you also in the process of explaining to him why his idea is not a good one,
<v Seymour Fersh>I think begin to realize that perhaps when you have an equally good idea, in <v Seymour Fersh>quotation marks, for his culture, there may be reasons that are unknown <v Seymour Fersh>to the outsider. <v Lee Graham>Do you see some improvement in this, let's say a new clarity <v Lee Graham>in the cultural looking glass? Are we looking more clearly then at other people as a <v Lee Graham>result of this new interest and increasing education? <v Seymour Fersh>Oh, yes. Yes, absolutely. <v Lee Graham>Less distortion? <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. Well, I think- I think you- I think we've begun to see it in our own country. <v Seymour Fersh>There is a new, I think, a growing sense of humility brought on <v Seymour Fersh>by many of our crises. Now, in many ways, some of the crises that <v Seymour Fersh>we're experiencing are probably necessary and good. <v Seymour Fersh>That is, we may have had false notions about some of our systems and <v Seymour Fersh>by seeing other cultures, how they deal with it and becoming <v Seymour Fersh>less parochial, literally. I mean, as you move outside of your own system, <v Seymour Fersh>you begin to see other options.
<v Lee Graham>Yes. Even with a small amount of travel- <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. <v Lee Graham>-you come home really shocked by your own ignorance. <v Lee Graham>I speak personally, not of yours. <v Seymour Fersh>Yes, now- I don't want to- I certainly don't want to get caught with with <v Seymour Fersh>people inferring that I'm I'm thinking that the United States is somehow deficient <v Seymour Fersh>in these ethnocentric ways and so on compared to other cultures. <v Lee Graham>No, this is a global attitude. <v Seymour Fersh>Yes, it's um- and uh- but those who will in a s- <v Seymour Fersh>see the study of other cultures as an enrichment will be able to harvest <v Seymour Fersh>all of these marvelous things that have been created by other cultures. <v Lee Graham>I would like to ask you a personal question, Dr. Fersh. <v Lee Graham>What has attracted you so much to Asian study? <v Seymour Fersh>Well, I think- <v Lee Graham>Was there something in your life which opened your eyes ?inaudible? <v Seymour Fersh>Yes, uh yes, it was exactly that. <v Seymour Fersh>I think my own enthusiasm for Asian studies is is accounted for by the fact <v Seymour Fersh>that I was not an Asian studies expert. <v Seymour Fersh>All of my schooling, including my doctoral work in American history and
<v Seymour Fersh>so on was not related to Asia at all. <v Seymour Fersh>And then I was invited to go to India for a year as a Fulbright professor, and <v Seymour Fersh>when I returned, I was furious that my own education had been so limiting. <v Seymour Fersh>I knew nothing about Hinduism, knew nothing about Buddhism, knew nothing about Indian <v Seymour Fersh>music and nothing about Chinese art and so on. <v Seymour Fersh>And so my own first reaction was not motivated <v Seymour Fersh>by the political events, but the realization that that all of us are <v Seymour Fersh>inheritors of all the cultures, and that to the degree <v Seymour Fersh>that we don't expose ourselves to other options, other cultures, we are really limiting <v Seymour Fersh>ourselves. <v Lee Graham>But there is a certain danger or let's say a conflict between the specialist and the <v Lee Graham>generalist. You try to know a little bit about everything- <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. <v Lee Graham>-then your society finds fault with you because you don't know a lot about some things. <v Seymour Fersh>Well, I think- uh well- <v Lee Graham>What do you do? <v Seymour Fersh>Well, I think it's a- I think each of us have different contributions <v Seymour Fersh>to make and the specialists are there. <v Seymour Fersh>In fact, I want to- I certainly don't want to close without saying a word about
<v Seymour Fersh>the publications that my own office has been issuing, because I think it- <v Lee Graham>Yes I was amazed at the range and the value of them. <v Seymour Fersh>Well, I want to mention them because I think the the opportunity now is one of great <v Seymour Fersh>choice. There has never been so many books, paperbacks, films, records, maps, <v Seymour Fersh>globes. There have never been so many good materials for studying other cultures. <v Seymour Fersh>Some people refer to this as the problem of materials, and I refer to it, as you could <v Seymour Fersh>suspect, as the opportunity of materials. <v Seymour Fersh>And so in my department, we are putting out guides, selected and annotated, <v Seymour Fersh>trying to identify outstanding materials. <v Seymour Fersh>And in each instance we identify a specialist, as you're suggesting, <v Seymour Fersh>who knows India, and he suggests the books on India. <v Seymour Fersh>We pick someone who knows something about film as a medium and also <v Seymour Fersh>something about Asia. <v Lee Graham>How are these made available to people? <v Seymour Fersh>Well, I think the quickest way to mention- <v Lee Graham>To write? <v Seymour Fersh>Yes, if they write to the Education Department at the Asia Society. <v Lee Graham>And they could see what is available- <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. <v Lee Graham>-on just one sheet of paper-
<v Seymour Fersh>Yes. That's right. <v Lee Graham>I think all the availabilities, and then they could see what they might like. <v Lee Graham>Well, I thank you very much, Dr. Fersh, not not only for being here, which <v Lee Graham>I appreciate, and the Asia Society appreciates, but all that you are doing <v Lee Graham>on such a broad scale and in such an interesting manner. <v Seymour Fersh>Well, it's it's embarrassing to be thanked for doing something that you enjoy doing. <v Lee Graham>That you enjoy- exactly, I always feel the same way about my work. <v Lee Graham>And I want you to know that our guest on this program has been Dr. Seymour Fersh, <v Lee Graham>who is the education director of the Asia Society. <v Lee Graham>And if you would like to know more about what we've been discussing, you simply <v Lee Graham>have to write to the Asia Society and ask for information about the material. <v Lee Graham>And this is Lee Graham saying goodbye, but always asking you to remember that although <v Lee Graham>east is east and west is west, we do think the time has come for the twain to meet. <v Speaker 1>That concludes tonight's edition of The Asia Society Presents with Lee Graham. <v Speaker 1>This series comes to you through the cooperation of the Asia Society.
Please note: This content is only available at GBH and the Library of Congress, either due to copyright restrictions or because this content has not yet been reviewed for copyright or privacy issues. For information about on location research, click here.
Collection
WNYC
Series
Miscellaneous
Episode
Asia Society Presents: Asia Through the Cultural Looking Glass
Contributing Organization
WNYC (New York, New York)
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
AAPB ID
cpb-aacip/80-278sftgm
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/80-278sftgm).
Description
Description
Dr. Seymour Fersh - Director of Education for the Asia Society is interviewed by Lee Graham.
Genres
Event Coverage
Rights
Acquisition Source: Peabody Archives
Media type
Sound
Credits
: Fersh, Seymour
Host: Graham, Lee
AAPB Contributor Holdings
WNYC-FM
Identifier: 43965.1 (WNYC Media Archive MDB)
Format: Data CD
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:00:00
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: 69011prr-arch (Peabody Object Identifier)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Citations
Chicago: “WNYC; Miscellaneous; Asia Society Presents: Asia Through the Cultural Looking Glass,” WNYC, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 28, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-80-278sftgm.
MLA: “WNYC; Miscellaneous; Asia Society Presents: Asia Through the Cultural Looking Glass.” WNYC, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 28, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-80-278sftgm>.
APA: WNYC; Miscellaneous; Asia Society Presents: Asia Through the Cultural Looking Glass. Boston, MA: WNYC, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-80-278sftgm