I went to a talk by Jane Poynter, a crewmember of first Biosphere 2 enclosure. As this talk was given at a Buddhism gathering, interestingly most questions were drawn to the conflicts the crewmembers had living inside biosphere 2. Although the crewmembers knew each other very well (many of them were even good friends before going in Biosphere 2), they started fighting each other and separated into factions shortly after living inside biosphere 2. Living so closely with each other inside an isolated space proved to be a huge challenge to them. People started discovering things they didn’t know about each other, started hating each other and couldn’t tolerate each other. Jane also mentioned a crewmember from Nepal, however, was surprised by all the conflicts among the westerners and couldn’t understand why they couldn’t get along with each other.
As I came from China, when I grew up, our society is made of pretty much closed isolated units. I don’t know it is our culture that made it so. Or it is something common with traditional societies. Or is it because of communism. Or maybe all of them. People know each other, and you always interact with the same people everyday. Even you hate someone, you could not leave. It was very difficult to change the job then and people mostly work at the same jobs for their whole lives. As in a closed place, a strict hierarchy is maintained and people crush each other.
At the same time, China is going through a transformation of economic reform and adopting market oriented economy. The society became more urban and mobile. People are more free to move around. I certainly welcome this kind of change. And I consider this change a process of modernization and westernization. After I came to US, I realized that the traditional closed village-like life has its own values. In a village, people are closer. You have nowhere to escape. You have to deal with them. (See the article Community vs. Network) From my experience, no matter who, after you stay with them for long enough time, you will discover the beautiful things of their nature, and be able to find fun together.
So in the age of web, as we reconstruct our social structure and make our life style more sustainable, we need to ask whether we want to make it more like a village or more like a network. Then this kind of experience we are talking above will be very valuable. Unfortunately, what I see in the west gives me the impression that many people only have experience with one world, so they rebel against it without having a historical perspective. I am afraid that they will have to relearn the good things of network and the bad things of village. To have the experience of the other world, you can learn of history. One way to learn of history is to read novels and literature, and immerse yourself in that time. Another way is go to developing countries such as China to really take a look of the situations there. This is why I think cultural communication is very important. It is also important for Chinese to come to the west to really experience the what the west is experiencing now and thus can avoid some lessons that the west has paid for.