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For over a decade, David Tian, Ph.D. — a uniquely qualified therapist, life coach, and former university professor — has coached tens of thousands of people from over 87 countries to achieve happiness and success in their relationships, dating, psychology, and lifestyle.

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“The Man Up Show” Ep.88 – Do Asian Values Clash With Being A Masculine Man?

Do Asian Values Clash With Being A Masculine Man?

  • David Tian Ph.D. clarifies what Asian and Confucian values are and what they are not.

  • David Tian Ph.D. explains what the philosophy of the masses are.

  • In this Man Up episode, David Tian Ph.D. discusses why this is not an issue of betraying your culture.

David Tian: Boom! In episode 88 of Man Up, I answer the question of, do Asian values get in the way of being truly masculine?

[Intro Music]

Masculinity for the Intelligent Man. I am David Tian, Ph.D., and this is, Man Up!

[Music Fades]

Hey, this is David Tian and this is Man up, episode 88. It is coming down to sunset, I changed the setting so I don’t appear so red like I did in episode 87 as the sun was coming down. Got a question here from Zach from the private Facebook group. He’s been waiting a while, I’ve been waiting a while to answer it.

It’s a long question.

I’m going to try to boil it down to you. Very cognizant of the past several episodes have been way past 5 minutes. I really want to keep it under five minutes but I know there’s not any chance in this question, it’s too big of a question.

So, he is a Singaporean, young and he wants to do his own thing. He’s an aspiring entrepreneur. But his parents… he’s done a lot of reading and he’s done a lot of growing, it’s wonderful, he’s still young but anyway, this is what his parents want him to be or this is what he feels society and his family – let’s just keep it at society – want him to be.

So he’s got this little flow chart here, be obedient and get good grades then get a degree that they want then get a high paying and stable corporate job, then fly up the corporate ladder, then get married and have kids then work until you are 60 and you die.

Since when was life expectancy at 60. That’s kind of sad. And then he says, and in the process, don’t stand out and don’t take risks. And always please people, always stay out of trouble and embrace senior superiority. Okay, then he doesn’t want to do this.

He’s gone through this intense journey he says on personal development and growth because he didn’t want to be that wimpy loser who’s 35 unhappy, lost, who has spent half of his lifetime pleasing everyone else. Yes, sounds pretty bad. Then he’s done a lot of growing and so on.

So, great! And I’m skipping a lot. The guys in the group, you know how long this question is. Then he moves into what he thinks is the issue.

He says he’s had a massive growth over the last two years, excellent for you. But he says, “but I’m still feeling resentful and dissatisfied with the upbringing I had which I believe has held me back to a large extent. In personal growth, we’re always taught to live on the edge and out of the comfort zone and we have to move towards the identity that we want for ourselves so that we create the future we want”.

Sounds good!

“But the more I move out of the comfort zone or box, the more I embrace my personal values over the Confucius values that are imparted”. Every time he does this, his parents would attempt to put him back into that box again”. He says it’s frustrating because it’s undoing a lot of effort that I’ve invested to grow as a person. A lot of it comes off as annoying, incessant nagging in order to maintain their positive image or pride.

Okay, interesting read! So my question is this, “How can I learn true masculinity and escape the ramifications of parental imposition of Asian or Confucius values [being a wimpy loser, always playing safe, pleasing people and not standing up for yourself].

After all he says, I’m living with them and they’ll attempt to control me if I step out of the expectations they impose on me. Thank you so much for hearing me out. PS, for some of you who may not like what you’re reading, I do understand that my parents impose those values for my interest and I love them and respect them nonetheless”.

Alright, great! So two issues… actually it’s just one issue. Because I thought originally, as when I read it the first time that he’s asking something about getting out of that rat race but he’s clearly solved that problem. So it’s not that. He understands the problem.

So that’s not the issue. The issue is he feels like his parents are holding him back. It’s mostly his parents. He really didn’t identify society and so on. But it’s his parents, of course it’s his parents are part of society. And of course the education system has something to do with… but he identifies mostly his parents and the Asians slash Confucius values. I understand.

I think what he’s saying is also, he doesn’t want to sell out his Asian values so to speak. Are Asian values holding you back from getting what you want? I was a professor of Asian philosophy at the National University of Singapore. My Ph.D. was in Tang Dynasty, Chinese, Confucian scholar elites. Their interaction between their intellectual and spiritual religious interests in Confucianism and Buddhism, because Buddhism was very strong… anyway, so I don’t want to get into it. So I studied for most of my adult life.

Either studying, teaching or both the Asian values so one thing you have to know is most of what you will hear from people in Singapore about what are Confucian values or Asian values is the values of the masses. And it’s the same whether it’s Asia, Europe or wherever. It’s basically what keeps the man down.

So you don’t want your slaves, your peasants or your serfs or the farmers, so if you think about how most of Asia was for most of Asian history, there was a king who possessed hundred percent or ninety nine percent, whatever… ninety-five percent of the wealth really of and all the power and the wealth through the power. So you zero US tax rates of 50 to 70 to 90 percent and you can make an argument that America is not that different, but the point was like the disparity was much bigger.

You actually had very little liberty and freedom. So the elite. Let’s make this distinction between elite values and we’ll call them serf… servant values. Let’s use the word servant instead of serfs, it’s less feudal. Or let’s just call it the value of the masses. Okay, so the value of the masses. Europe went through the French revolution and then and so on, of course American revolution… and have now democratized their societies and the middle classes are so much stronger than it was before. This is just obvious but that came from within.

It was a movement from within the population. For Asia, that came from outside, from without, from the external and that was imposed mostly with gunboats to democratize or else… democratize is the wrong word… change your socio-economic system or else. So basically they wanted to do trade with the Asian countries in order to extract resources out of these countries.

So this should have been covered in your Asian history classes which I know most of you in Singapore and most of the world has never taken, but you know everyone should learn about the history of basically the largest area… I mean I’m so shocked that even in Canada, people still don’t know that Indonesia is the fourth largest country in the world by population. Fourth or fifth.

And that Jakarta is the capital. It still boggles my mind especially with the dominance, like the prevalence of Muslims and Islam in the news. It’s the biggest Islamic country in the world. So this cultural parochialism… anyway, get educated. You know this show is for educated or intelligent people. So get that under control.

So these are values of the masses and what he’s identified as… being a wimp. Don’t stand out, don’t take risks, always please people, stay out of trouble, embrace senior superiority. And then elsewhere further down he says being a wimpy loser. Always playing safe and pleasing people, not standing up for yourself. Well look, that’s… those are great values for the conquered.

Those are great values for the masses who are peasants. Those are great peasant values. For most of Asian history, 95% of the population, I would say 98, 99%, you’d have to ask a historical sociologist or social historian to get the exact figures but like well over 90% of the population were peasants of some kind or laborers, you want them to have those values.

You do not want them revolting or rebelling, like what happened to Europe, you don’t want that to happen. You want them just dumb and obedient, right? That’s not Asian values. Unless you identify Asia with peasants. Maybe you can make that equation but you’d have to argue that. Because what is taught in the works of Confucius, the analects and the Confucians is not that at all.

What is taught in Confucianism is – Confucianism by the way, he says Confucius values, that usually means the values of this person named Confucius and that would just be the analects arguably, but Confucianism is not about that. Confucianism was taught to… it’s arguable… I mean it’s debatable what Confucianism really is, like the theories and lessons in the Confucian books, texts were lessons to the rulers, the ruling classes.

Where the peasants of the ruling… they were taught to… the ruling class. Confucius started out as a wanderer basically going from like noble family to try to get somebody to hire him to be tutor to their kids or as an advisor to the kings.

Further down my period of the Tang forward, the Confucian scholars were all officials, they were all government officials. So that’s how they made money and then they theorized in the study room in their spare time pretty much… these are actually the values of the elite. They stand out. They govern. They lead. They are not wimpy losers.

In fact, one of my heroes is Wang Yangming and one of the most prominent, most famous new Confucian philosophers and he was a military general who put down very violent rebellions in the Ming Dynasty. He never played it safe and did not give a fuck about pleasing people. You can read the things he says in his works and he just tells it like it is. One of his doctrines is the unity of knowledge and action.

And it’s a really great one that I still adhere to. In fact, one of my first academic article was on the unity of knowledge and action. And not standing up for yourself, are you kidding me? These guys are so assertive, they’re leaders. They follow through. They get shit done. They are leaders and take responsibility. They stand out, they innovate. Those are the values of the elite. Everywhere around the world. In order to be elite, you have to do those things. You have to be those people. In order to be elite you have to be a leader.

The bullshit that you’ve learned from society especially in Singapore and the government wants to keep you not rebelling. One of those things that was told that NUS is that the campus was designed in the old days like the old parts of the campus so that students could not gather. Basically they were afraid of communist back then. So communists were large students… students driven in that part of the world.

So they didn’t want them to gather and have them big rallies, overthrow their government and so on. It’s totally understandable and I get it. They wanted they don’t want you to revolt, they don’t want you to stand out and do those things. That’s not Asian per se. And that’s not fucking Confucian, definitely not. I just wanted to make this clear. You are not betraying your society or your values… here’s the deal, every guy who says Confucius values, they’ve never read a fucking word of Confucius.

I dare you to actually study Confucianism. By the way, the world’s experts in Chinese thought with a few exceptions, the world’s experts in Chinese thought for the past 50 to 70 years have been scholars in American or Western Universities, English writing. And primarily English speakers.

Here’s why, because if you think about what was going on in communist China for them to do Chinese philosophy and you know ancient philosophy in Japan and Korea was largely in Chinese characters, for the Chinese what was going on in mainland China with the cultural revolution and greatly forward and just Mao, did not allow for academic freedom or for even just fucking studying. So they didn’t allow those things.

The environment for academic freedom and extensive study and questioning and probing of… is still not open. I mean you can google Daniel Bell who used to teach at Singapore as well. He’s got some interesting things about his time in NUS and ironically he is in China. He’s got some really great works on Confucianism as a governing philosophy, ideology and so on.

So that’s all there and China was not conducive to study of that. So instead, and to point out in most of Asia Pacific, there were world wars, I mean Pacific wars, going on pretty much throughout the period up until the ‘80s and then finally the Japanese came in.

So the Japanese, until recently, until Japan in the ‘80s, you did not have the environment that’s conducive to academic freedom and academic studies. So what happened like in Harvard, the study of Asia flourished, places like that. So what I’m recommending to you, especially if you’re watching this in English, now things are changing obviously, especially in Hong Kong, especially the standards is very high now but it wasn’t always the case.

Understand that the best sources for learning about Confucianism right now that are not ideologically compromised, right now we’re ventured to say even some parts of what you might consider democratic Asian nations are compromising their academic freedom are English sources. And I would recommend, anything by a man named Philip Jay Ivanhoe.

So if you can pick up Confucian Moral Self-Cultivations, a tiny, tiny book based on his lectures. Can’t remember where they were but they’re very readable, really easy read. Great little book and it is a great primer on Confucianism. And then from there, I would take the edX dot com, course edX dot com and look for a course by Edward Slingerland on Chinese thoughts and he’s at the University of British Columbia.

And they are the clearest, more lucid explanations of our Confucian thought, of Confucianism. And they’re also great expounders… Ed Slingerland was a student of Philip Jay Ivanhoe, he did a dissertation under him as did I and both of them are great writers and Ivanhoe especially is a very eloquent writer.

So enjoy your study of Confucianism and find out that these values of like pleasing people, you know pleasing people in itself is not a bad thing. You mean pleasing people at the expense of yourself or at the expense of your own personal values as you pointed out.

Always playing it safe, not standing up for yourself, I would say that there’s this over respect of authority and that is not Confucian or Asian per se. That is the philosophy of the masses. It just happens to be that in Asia, there are a lot of masses. The middle class and the revolutions came about as a result of Western influence on Asia. There were very few, or they were inspired by them.

You know, things like the May 4th movement but like those are all inspired by the West. Because of that, it didn’t go through the evolution to support that. It was just imposed much like MTV in Hollywood was imposed upon Singapore society such that the generation who are now in their 60s is completely, like, 3 or 4 intellectual or psychological generations away from the youth now in Singapore.

So just to point that out, you’re not betraying your culture, you have a misunderstanding, misinterpretation of what Asian values and Confucian values actually are and at the very least what you think are Asian values are up for debate. Back when I was in grad school, there was a very vibrant debate about what Asian values were in the context of human rights. But that’s…human rights.

Human rights is a totally different issue from what you’re talking about, right? But you know, basically what you’re describing as Asian values are the values of the losers. Well the values of the peasant like you want to just toil away and do your thing and not make any trouble, right? Like those are the values of the peasants. The value of the elite which you’ll find in all of the Confucian writings because they are the writings by the elite.

You’d only find writings by the elite because first of all, like a thousand years ago, the only way you could write is if you were elite. The only way you would be literate is if you’re top 0.1% and the only way your writing would still be extent now, it still exists now, is because you had the means to preserve them. And then people found them important enough to preserve. Those are the elite.

And then you got your parents, so this is a practical issue… you say here that you’re living with your parents. You’re saying here… I can’t find the exact place where you wrote that because there was an interesting turn of phrase you used there but… if you live with your parents then tough fucking luck. Power to your parents. Your parents should be able to control you.

You fucking are not independent. Look, here’s the deal, if you’re living under your parents fucking roof, they have the right, I think to call the shots. They have the right to call the shots, they’re paying for it. And if you’re going to be a baby and “no, no, no I want to do it a different way” then too bad. I mean like then you get your own roof. As long as you are not independent financially, I mean like, that’s it.

Grow up!

That’s like a 12 year-old saying “I want to do my own thing”. Well, too bad. Your parents call the shots because you’re living under their roof. And if you want to call the shots, live under your own roof. Go get some of your own independence. As a 21 year-old, if you don’t want to do what your parents want you to do, then get your own fucking place and get some distance. Get to be your own man. Pay your own rent. And don’t give me that bullshit of how expensive Singapore rent. Yes it’s expensive. But it’s as expensive as New York fucking city.

You can eat at hawker centers everyday which is like 3 or 4 dollars for a good meal and the biggest expense is going to be rent. Because MRT is cheap as shit, right? It’s going to be rent. And you can do what everyone else around the world does. Like in New York City, in London, in Hong Kong, you can rent a place with your friends. Watch the TV show “Friends” for a good example how that’s done.

Watch the TV show “Seinfeld” for a good example how that’s done. Though I think for “Seinfeld” these guys were so much older so they have their own places but, yeah, let’s go back to “Friends”. So the TV show “Friends”. Yeah, get your own place. Just go to propertyguru dot com, dot sg or some shit like that.

I don’t know. I mean it’s been awhile since I looked up rentals but I know the housing market is bad in Singapore which means the rents are very favorable so do that. And then spend a little bit more time commuting which is great because then you can listen to more info products whatever, you know, trainings while you’re doing that and everything else you can save.

It’s just sort of bullshit people who have the excuse that it’s money. It’s not money, it’s something else. So look, if you want to be independent, you think you’re ready to go and you don’t want to listen to your parents, you don’t want to do what your parents say then put your money where your mouth is and move the fuck out like everyone else in the world. It’s time for you to grow up.

Here’s a message to all Singaporean men who still live with mom and dad but don’t want to or living with mom and dad and then wondering why their dating life sucks so bad. If a girl had a choice, between going back to your parent’s place at the end of a date or on a date versus going back to your own place possibly with roommates who have other rooms and you’ve got your own room, what do you think she would rather do? It’s just awkward meeting the parents. So like on the first date, that’s just weird and then you’re going to have to drag it out.

And then there’s not that first date romance. Look, here’s the deal, even if you don’t want to take a girl home, just psychologically, the independence that you get from being your own man of making your own way in the world, standing on your own two feet are necessary part of becoming a man. Cut that fucking umbilical cord. I’m going to end with that one.

Alright, so join the private Facebook group. Ask your questions, I really appreciate Zachary’s question. I really do. Even if it was so long, it gave me a lot of stuff to think about. In fact, it is part of my online courses in “Limitless” and in the live events of Total Transformation.

I have a whole separate course or module on Asian values and being a sexually attractive man. So I go through the history, I go through the political philosophy, obviously Chinese philosophy, a lot of it. And show you through like a professor, a lecture on how those two interact.

So there’s a lot more to be said, I was very tempted to actually just give the class over the video but that would be like another hour and a half of just the lecture of that. I’m pretty sure it’s an hour and a half. So I was like, should I do that, should I not. I’m not going to do that. In fact, I’m just going to tell you what I told you now is already a fucking long video and thank you very much for your patience in watching it.

I appreciate that very much. The video is commensurate in length to Zach’s original question. On that note, I’ll see you in the private Facebook group. Until next time, man up!