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Around The Sun: The Weakest Link

Steve Harrison compares attitudes to life in the East and the West.

Western society regards itself as caring, concerned for the individual. It created the welfare state to look after those unable to look after themselves.

Eastern society is considered in the west to be uncaring, a region where life is cheap and people are expendable, able to be bought for nickels and dimes.

In the West we attempt to protect the rights of individuals, yet we also seem at the same time to be protecting their mistakes and stupidity. If a child drowns in a pool a law is passed that every pool in the land must be fenced in. Another child dies after being hit by a train. Every mile of railway track in the land has then to be fenced. The cost to the general public is astronomical. We pay dearly for this protection with our taxes and insurance policies. The sensible must pay for the ignorance of the stupid. We in the west tax the wise and sensible and use the money to reward those who are stupid.

I recall an incident where a drunken man, late at night, tried to dive into the sea at Bondi Beach in Australia. He dived onto a sandbar, seriously injuring himself. He then sued the local council and was awarded a huge amount of cash. How crazy is that! If you are dumb enough to dive into the sea when it isn't there you should accept responsibility for your injuries. Don't expect society to pay for your lack of common sense.

There was talk of fencing off the entire beach at Bondi. There are certainly more surf patrols, working longer hours. Guess who pays for them?

In Eastern society such notions do not prevail. If you jump into the ocean without checking that it's safe to do so you deserve to drown or injure yourself. If you are injured because you do something dumb it's your own fault. Far from life being cheap people in the east have stronger family bonds than those in the west. They spend hard-earned money on honouring their dead. In Asia there is no safety net to catch the stupid.

I always enjoy travelling by train in Vietnam. The rail lines run through the centre of cities, towns and villages. Restaurants set out tables and chairs on railway tracks. Kids play on them. When a train comes along everyone knows they should get out of its way. Tables and chairs are moved, then put back where they were after the train has gone by. Of course people do get killed by trains in Asia, but the feeling is that they should have been smart enough to get out of the way,

In the east people invest in their own futures by having lots of children. When they are old and feeble they will be supported not by the state but by their own children. Older poeple are respected in Asia.

I like that plan. It makes sense to me.


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