6 May 2009

life goals and self-worth ~~~ memories from Taiwan

When you think about whether you are successful, whether you are a good individual, whether you are proud of yourself, what are the things you look for, what are the MEASURES that you judge yourself by?
I would guess that for most Western people what they want is the respect of their peers and most people think that financial independence (i.e., having a proper carreer) and a similar life style (i.e., consumption) are the way to be accepted. Increasingly there is also a trend of people identifying themselves with their looks, which can be seen in the rise of beauty surgery. I recently came to think about the cultural difference of life goals and self-image, when I saw a documentary about Africa that stated that for many Africans the number of children they have is the most important thing in life... (which is probably part of the reason that economic progress in African countries is so slow compared to many Asian countries).
Thinking about all this I remembered my (and fellow traveller's) experience with Taiwanese people. It seems that for the Taiwanese, learning is a central part of there self-esteem. In Taiwan you find people working sixty hours a week, but still taking time to study. One of my class-mates (Indonesion of Chinese descent) worked seven days a week to earn money and still came to take classes five days a week. Our teacher, her age not much short of retirement, is still studying for a graduate degree.
Additionally I noticed that while in the West, many things involve quite a lot of technology, in China many things involve a lot of skill. Technology can be bought, but skill has to be aquired.

When I think about my own life, I find that I am also very much attracted to learning and improving skills. I am among those who don't need an iPod or iPhone, who are still working with a five year old computer.
What I value in myself and what makes me happy is what I know and what I am able to do. In that sense, I am a little Taiwanese myself.


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