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David Brin describes his idea of Otherness in a little essay entitled "The New Meme" at the end of his short story collection "Otherness." The idea is picked up again in his book, the TransparentSociety.

Brin proposes four forms of Zeitgeist to describe cultures. These new labels are not related to communism or capitalism, Christianity or Islam. They don't relate to economy or faith, they relate to how problems are solved.

Machismo is the most prevalent Zeitgeist in parts of the world. It describes a patriarchical culture, where power is of utmost importance. How many friends you have, how dangerous you are. Women have no rights. Violence is a primary problem solving method, vengeance is a respected conflict resolution strategy.

Paranoia is a Zeitgeist which seems to be disappearing. Brin used it to describe xenophobic Russia. In a paranoid culture, foreigners are foes, scheming to undermine your world, just as communism tried to spread world revolution. Supression and suspicion prevail.

The East is historically a very successfull Zeitgeist. It enforces uniformity, respect for elders, discipline and hard work. There is civility and friendliness, respect and thoughtfulness. But on the other hand, there is barely any change. No development. Things are done the way they have always been done, no questions asked.

Otherness is where Brin places all his hopes. It is the Zeitgeist of the neo-Western world. The neo-West does not encompass all the inhabitants of of North America, Europe, Australia and Japan, but it a large part of that population. Otherness is the curiosity for other things, new things, the encouragement of criticism, humour, the embracing of change, suspicion of authority. Problems are solved by discussion, deliberation, experimentation, solutions are tested and withdrawn, new policies emerge.

SiteMap / AllPages / Out / / Last change: 2001-05-01