Kishore Mahbubani: How do you define modernity?

Kishore Mahbubani: Well, in the West, the term modernity is associated with kind of far out things like Andy Warhol and very unique cultural aspects, but with modernity in Asia is associated purely with the achieving the basic material necessities of life. I tell the story of how I felt in my personal case, I entered modernity when they finally installed a flush toilet in my house when I was 10 years old, and believe me it is a huge difference in your life, when you from having a metal bin, that is removed every 24 hours to having a flush toilet. It changes your life dramatically and as things like flush toilets clean water, electricity, a roof over your head, all these things that the West takes for granted Asians haven’t had for a long time and now you see this explosion, but I emphasize that this explosion in material well-being is both ethically good in terms of improving their lifestyle and living standards of hundreds and millions of people, and at the same time produces peace and stability too, because people who have these things no longer…now have a vested interest in preserving the order.

Recorded on: 2/28/08

In the West, it has a cultural connotation, but in the East, Mahbubani says, it only means achieving material success.

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