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Eastern Ethics by Hodo Hersi

After discussing the western ethics, the eastern ethics was the next topic and it was prepared by Dr. Hamed. In this topic, he discussed how the ethics were transferred in the Asian continent mainly, the Chinese ethics, Persian ethics and lastly Japanese ethics.  I will briefly describe all the three and then reflect on my understanding.

To start with, Chinese ethics began before current era and one of the dominant Chinese thinkers was named “Confucius (551-479BC)”.  This man come up that Chinese ethics should emphasize on personal, government, morality and honesty.  Ancient Chinese philosophers believed that political agents and social reforms to promote good ethics rather than using violence and force. They also believed the existence of obstacles against creating good manners; consequently, one should overcome the obstacle to achieve good behaviors.

Secondly, Persian had also an important influence in the ethical perspective of the continent. Persia is the current Iran which is one of the earliest civilizations of the continent and it had many relations with the neighboring countries.  The Persian ethics is mainly influenced by a man named Zarathustra (1760BC-1683BC). This man achieved to convert the Persians who were polytheists to follow only to Gods namely, Ahura Mazda (the Good) and Ahriman (the evil). Zarathustra left one books for the Persian, The Avesta which after his death become the main book for the dominant belief in the area. It was followed thousands of years until Islam reached there and most of the Persian converted to Islam after a long time resistance.

However, some groups refused to accept and they still follow the Avesta book. Some of these groups emigrated from Iran to keep their religion, and now they live in India.  The books disappeared and now we only have its fragments, however it was agreed that the main principles of the Avesta was (1) Good Thoughts (2) Good Words (3) Good Deeds.

The last part of the lectures was about the Japanese art of ethics. Under this section, the lecturer explained over view history of Japan, religions and finally their ethics and society. Geographically, Japan is divided into three locations: Hiragana, Katakana, and kanji. The two main religions in Japan are Buddhism and Shintoism.  Japanese ethics is very broad but it focuses on the following four points: (1) Cleanliness (2) Eyes and Facial Expressions (3) Politeness (4) Work: Collective/ individual responsibilities.

That was the overview of the topic, and now I would like to share an amazing story which grabbed my attention during the lecture, the story of the aero plane from Tokyo to Hiroshima.

A lecturer Dr. Hamid was planning to take flight from Tokyo to Hiroshima and as normal he arrived the airport one before the flight. However, to his surprise the staff told him to come back after forty minutes. Though he could not believe he did what he was told, and he came back after 40 minutes. The lecturer said all the passengers arrived at the same time and it took less than ten minutes to get all of them on board.

This story is very interesting if we look it in different aspects. First, it shows us the punctuality of the Japanese people and how fast they perform their jobs. Secondly, it shows the patience of the people, meaning that everyone is politely waiting his turn, on the contrary many other parts of the world it hard to control and arrange 50 passengers and more in ten minutes. Thirdly, it indicates how much Japanese people are responsible because of one of the staff is late or goes to somewhere the whole process will be delayed. Lastly, it shows that Japanese are very ethical yet highly modern.

In conclusion, the lessons of this week were impressive and I gained a lot of knowledge about ethics on different people.  I also realized that though different societies might have different social norms, the underlying values of ethics are the same. On top of all these, I tried to find the answer of the question if Japan has been able to enter modernity, be a leading center of technology, and at the same time retain its ethical essence, how did it achieve that?

Some students answered that homogeneity allowed them to achieve this, while others said the nuclear bomb of Hiroshima and Nagasaki lead to unity in Japan that enabled them to do so. Nevertheless in my opinion, those viewpoints might be true to some extent, but the real cause is Japanese people try to teach ethics from childhood to adulthood. A good example of this is kids are taught how to behave when earthquakes happen as the country experiences waves of earthquakes. This enables them to be stable and protect themselves when an earthquake takes place.

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