Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
I don’t have an opinion about the legitimacy of NHK dismissing its French employee, Emmanuelle Bodin, after she fled the country following the March 11, 2011 disaster and is now suing the broadcaster over her dismissal (“Frenchwoman fired for leaving Japan during nuclear crisis sues NHK,” Japan Times, January 16, 2013). But I do have an opinion about how it looks. And how it looks is typically Japanese.
But in his commentary on the matter “Deport the solo ‘fly-jin’ of 3/11” (Japan Times, January 20, 2013) Shigure Tatsushige really shoots from the hip and scatters his fire over such a wide field that I wonder if he knows what he is aiming at? Tatsushige advocates punishing all foreigners who fled the country and then later returned with “stupid” expectations. Well, maybe some are stupid. Everyone is stupid some of the time, and some of us more than that.
Tatsushige is manipulating a false idea of patriotism. Many people have strong feelings about nationality and citizenship, but the reality is that such things are mostly an administrative convenience, and people do not, by nature, owe anything to such an artificial and despicable entity as a nation state. It is commonly supposed that the benefits provided by the state override the right to critique it, but that is wrong. True patriotism demands that citizens challenge their country. The unquestioning patriot is a liability. Our devotion to artificial political entities is best explained in terms of the social compact that operates between the polity and the people. If there is no compact, then the polity does not by rights deserve our loyalty. It uses law with the threat of punishment to enforce conformity, but laws and punishment cannot control the heart. They only appear to.
If Tatsushige wants to talk about stupidity then we should first examine the gross, culturally-informed stupidities that contributed to the disaster, that exacerbated it, and that nearly spelled the end of us all. I think former prime minister Naoto Kan did a great job under the circumstances and it is almost a miracle that we survived. But we survived more by dumb luck than by anything else.
Finally, as Debito Arudou demonstrated in this newspaper, the “fly-jin” phenomenon was not nearly what alarmists painted it as, and I think Tatsushige is dealing in an erroneous model of foreign reaction to the disaster. I did not flee Japan, but my family and I came close to it.
Published on Sunday, January 27, 2013 as `When `patriotism` is a liability.`
Already, last week on Thursday, January 23, 2013, two other letters were printed in the Readers in Council on this topic, in response to the January 20th letter `Deport the solo `flyjin` of 3/11` by Shigure Tatsushige. One was `Many Japanese left town, too` by Greg Blossom of Yokohama, and the other was `Xenophobic nationalist nonsense` by Timothy Bedwell of Tokyo. I was disappointed last Thursday that my letter was not printed. I wrote it and sent it the same day as the Tatsushige letter. But others that the paper favored were queued in front of me, I guess.