Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4 Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
The world appears to be in need of many things if it is to be a better place. Perhaps one of those things is not less discrimination, as many people with a certain social agenda, or of a certain frame of mind, would have us believe, but rather, more discrimination.
For the most part in our everyday social dialogue, people think of discrimination as something practiced only“against” something, or someone else, for a variety of ill-conceived, irrational and prejudiced reasons. In societies where use of the word “discrimination” has been monopolized by those who deal in the malicious, vicious vocabulary of racial, religious, ideological, ethnic and sexual malevolence, people have forgotten that discrimination plays the other way, too. There is such a thing as discrimination “for” things, discrimination which, uses properly, is a high art that exercises intelligence, good taste and gentility, in that order.
This kind of liminality - the practice of distinguishing, drawing lines and boundaries and discriminating between things - is a liberating, freedom-creating virtue, not a freedom-restricting vice. It is what allows us to perceive, digest, and render reality meaningful. We can prioritize, measure value and be active in history - captains of our own ship, masters of hour own house(s). Being discriminating creatures saves us from the paralysis of meaninglessness.
So, for better life and an improved society we need more discrimination, not less. We need a greater display of intelligence, more enlightened social discussion and better-reasoned explanations of our choices and actions.
Published on Wednesday, October 7, 1998 as “The case for discrimination.”
I just grew tired of hearing talk about discrimination - the chronic talk from America where they have a national fetish about racial discrimination, plus talk among foreigners in Japanabout suspected racial discrimination here - in matters like renting an apartment, or being stopped arbitrarily by police. My point is that we practice discrimination every day all around us to no ill effect, and indeed to necessary effect. I wake up in the morning and I discriminate against the briefs in favor of the boxer shorts. I discriminate against the sky blue dress shirt in favor of the white shirt. I discriminate against the striped necktie in favor of the plain necktie, etc. These examples are just as such“discrimination” as negative racial discrimination is, albeit of an entirely different caliber. Of course, some might say that the daily quantity of discrimination that I am highlighting does not compare to the quality of negative racial, or religious or ethnic discrimination, and I agree that may be so. But I wanted to make the point before things go too far and vocabulary is twisted all out of recognition.