Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
I have lived in Japan more than long enough to naturalize if I wish. But I do not wish because I don’t see sufficient advantage in it. Sure, I would be able to vote, but what’s the good of that in a ‘democracy’ such as this?
If I criticize Japan in any way many assume - wrongly - that I think so much better of my own country, Canada. I do not. There are predicable pleas to adapt or else; to quit the country if I don’t like it. In many ways living here is easy because it’s exactly like living in my small hometown, only more so. When I tell people back home how long I have lived here they inevitably say “You must love it.” I reply that it’s a mixture of love and hate, which coincidentally is exactly how I feel about Canada. Our feelings about ourselves and the world are a complicated recipe. We all have to livesomewhere and are in need of documents, and so for me nationality is mostly a matter of administrative convenience, not to be twisted by sentiment into an exclusive devotion. I am a humanoid, temporarily sojourning on planet Earth.
But to speak so about nationality and citizenship in a place like America today could conceivably become a crime according to the hair raising picture described in Roger Pulvers’ June 10 CounterPoint article “The self-styled ‘Land of the Free’ nurtures yet another facet of hypocrisy.”
Nation states are a mixed blessing. Eventually every nation state will disappear, even America, although it might be anathema to suggest it there. It is conveniently forgotten that the state is an artifice and in the meantime the veneration of national symbols, the
hagiography of historical personalities and the sanctification of citizenship itself lead to a drunkenly excessive national mythology.
American mythology is more dangerous than others because theirs is a global ambition.
Published on Sunday, June 24, 2012 as “Beware the national mythology.”
This is the first letter in which I deliberately identified my nationality. Now that information is out there. I consider one’s nationality practically irrelevant to these letters. What counts is the quality of the thoughts and the elegance of the writing. But identifying my nationality now seemed to serve some function - part of my rebuttal of criticisms that if I think my own country is so much better than Japan why don’t I go back there.
I regret that the paper deleted my sentence “I am a humanoid, temporarily sojourning on planet Earth.” I liked that.