The Daily Yomiuri,
Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-8243
In a speech before the U.S. Congress in 1951 General Douglas McArthur said that the Japanese needed to be treated as a nation of 12-year-olds. It is easy to dismiss it as racism, except for the uncannily accurate picture it often describes! Like emotionally immature adolescents, Japanese are mawkishly sentimental despite their reputation, besotted with silly cuteness and distracted by a juvenile comic book vision of the world. (Not to mention a sexual fetish with non-threatening girls in high school uniforms.) Optimistically, the General expected Japan to grow into a mature democracy, under American tutelage, but it is fair to doubt that that has happened or is even possible. Yes, it sounds both condescending and racist, but not so much to long term foreign residents who regularly experience the evidence firsthand.
America is not a great example to the world either, being in a spiral of retarded development itself. Still, we might say that Japan has refined the theatrics of social life because its cultural regard for appearances so far outpaces any similar disposition in other countries. Politicians who weep in public - supposedly as a show of their sincerity and commitment - are a symptom not just of this culture of theater but of a social immaturity so great that it retards Japan’s goal of ascending to more significant international roles - like permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council. That would be a disaster.
Yes, my heritage shapes my ideas of what is juvenile and mature. But in a spirit of love for Japan I want politicians here to drop juvenile theatrics and tackle the issues besetting this nation with a show of reason, not emotion. It is the best way to earn respect at home and abroad.
Published on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 as “Politicians should show reason.”
This was printed as part of the monthly Readers Forum page. There were six Pro letters, all written by Japanese, and four Con letters. Mine was the only letter written by a foreigner on the page. I didn’t think the paper would print my letter because it printed me only one month ago on the previous Readers Forum page, which was on the topic of whether Tokyo should host the 2020 Olympic Games. With my letter printed in The Japan Times on Sunday, September 25th, this makes two times in one week that I have had letters printed in Japan that take shots at the government’s goal of being recognized as a new permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
It is true that Japanese are nice people. After the March 11thdisaster they showed grace and dignity. They are well-mannered and considerate (although not nearly as efficient as their reputation paints). Japan is safe and clean. They have a long history with a unique culture that deserves to be hailed with pride. What I wrote is true also. Truth is a many-colored fabric that, on close inspection, defies easy labels.