Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
Charles Gates critiques my examples of Japanese cultural cruelty as ridiculous (“Most cultures harbor ‘cruel streak’,” July 18). I don’t mind because even if they are ridiculous it does not mean that they are untrue, which is more important. I could have provided many more (and more serious) examples, but the use of the ridiculous and mundane is a strategy to illustrate the commonality of the phenomenon, contrary to the polite fiction we live with that would have us believe differently. I was not saying that, in fact, Japanese culture does indeed harbor a stark streak of cruelty, only that such a case can be made. After all, what do I know? So I accept Gates’observation that cruelty is endemic to the human species and manifest in all cultures
But the theme of cruelty which was featured in my July 8th letter “The Japanese and their feelings” is an anomaly and was the result of clever editing by the newspaper. The point of my letter was to comment on the use of “feelings” as a decoy for avoiding or retarding meaningful public debate of contentious issues and thereby pandering to the myth of social harmony. Because Japanese are extraordinarily averse to social confrontation public debate of issues suffers when “feelings” are used incorrectly and inappropriately as a substitute for “ideas,” “thoughts,”and “beliefs.” We might say that, contrary to the stereotype Japanese are, in fact, surprisingly emotional people, brimming with
But I could be wrong.
Published on Sunday, July 25, 2010 as “Japanese ‘feelings’ often a decoy.”