Friday, 9 October 2009

Why I am so wise

Thoughts on how to save Japan/the World.

Japan needs more pride visa-vi the West and more humility visa-vi the East. Japan needs to assert itself against America and heed to the fears of China and Korea.
I was thinking about fat, ugly white guys dating sexy skinny Japanese girls. This is neo-colonialism. Literally, I swear down. Now, love is subjective, sure. But objectively, these girls are wrong. These guys might make lots of jokes, but they're not funny. They're only here because they can't get girls back home. Obviously, I'm really great, so this doesn't apply to me. But the fact is, as a westerner in Japan, one does, or can, feel like a big shot. People assume you're interesting, you can strike up a conversation with anyone and they'll appreciate it. One gets so much good attention as a white person in Japan. White people who say they experience racism are wrong: they are merely experiencing bad vibes brought about by being bad people.

Now the fact of the matter is that it is wrong to make assumptions about people based on their race or nationality and I fight for a society without the irrational and invented notion of what we call the 'nation state', but within existing perimeters, there is a truism in the fact that most of the white people in Japan think that the Japanese are cooler than them, and part of the reason is that the Japanese are indeed cooler than most of the white people in Japan.

The Japanese are too quick to heap praise on foreign actors, bands, films, whatever, without taking enough credit for or pride in her own cultural achievements (and this is not to talk simply ikebana and haiku, which do get a fair bit of attention, but rather Japan's modern literature, film, music, whatever - her culture which influenced by foreign culture and deserves to influence foreign culture).

But pretty Japanese girls dating fat white guys, cool Japanese kids listening to uncool British indie, these share common roots with the fact that Japanese foreign policy is merely a subsection of American foreign policy. Since Commodore Perry's arrival on big black ships in 1852, Japan has more often that not taken a highly subservient position to the West. This results in the world's second (but-soon-to-be-third-if-not-forth) largest economy having on the most cursory influence on world affairs.

This subservience to the West is closely related to Japan's chauvinism towards the East. Surely at least part of Japan's rough-handed attitude towards her weaker neighborhoods is due to her powerlessness within the old powers. At the turn of the century Japan was told to colonize or be colonized. She has been through periods of both and now enjoys the position of being emasculated from one side while making powerless imperial noises at the other.

Japan is at her worst when she is in this position. Her support for America leads her to aid the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Her imperial pretensions lead her to deny or play down the horrendous war crimes she inflicted on the peoples of Asia. And these positions support each other in a vicious circle. People often talk about the "national conservatism" of the Japanese people. Japanese conservatism is not natural: it is socially and politically engineered. In the Pre-War period, the education system raised generations of soldiers willing to die for the Emperor. In the immediate Post-War period American policy killed the emerging, vibrant Japanese Left in it's cradle by funded the conservative Liberal Democratic Party who were in power (with less than one year's exception) from 1955 until this years election. The LDP consisted of many people in positions of power in the war years. Many of these people's sons and grandsons remain in the party. While LDP members public play around either side of the line of historic sensitivity, many implicitly or covertly support the actions of the out and out Far-Right.

Japan's tight relations with America have fostered a political climate that keeps Japan distant from Asia, while her distance from Asia keeps her dependent on America.

But with the election of a new government things look positive. Though there are many gaping faults in the new government's policies (like their plans to cut the number of seats rewarded by PR, which would certainly reduce the influence of the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democrats) and questions about their ability to enact even their best of policies (calls of change can ring hollow from a party packed with ex-members of their opposition) It seems things are on the right track. The new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times. Conservative commentators called crazy and a communist. He's neither. Within this promising article he asks the key question - "How can we put an end to unrestrained market fundamentalism and financial capitalism, that are void of morals or moderation, in order to protect the finances and livelihoods of our citizens?" - and makes a key, though blindingly obvious, observation - "I believe that the East Asian region, which is showing increasing vitality, must be recognized as Japan’s basic sphere of being". In fact, he's even been floating the idea of an EU-esq Asian Union. Though his plans of monetary union are highly unlikely, great Asian co-operation is clearly at the front of his thinking and, hopefully facilitated of a final exorcism of Japan's imperial ghosts, it is neigh on inevitable

A Japan based around Asia will be one with greater self-confidence and greater liberalism, less imperial hubris. But I also think this has progressive implications for the whole world. While on human rights, democratic rights, workers rights, America is clearly a better place than China, on they key moral, scientific, economic challenge of our lifetimes, China is now a more progressive force than America.

If North Korea is a failed state in feeding its own people, America is failed state in securing future provisions of food for the whole of humanity. America is failed state on climate change. With the vital Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change 58 days away, the chances to get a comprehensive global deal on climate change, one that will prevent run-away global warming and the immense /human/ suffering and death that this would cause, is getting smaller and smaller. (If you want to get involved, a good place to start would be here). America is playing petty politics with (literally!) hundreds of millions of people's lives. China is calling a spade a spade. America with her lopsided democracy gives god fearing climate deniers in Kansas and Wyoming, with their few millions citizens (but two senators each) a veto over the fate of the planet. China, with her dictatorship and reverence for science is ready to push through the necessary Carbon Cutting measures without having to worry about the public opinion of the stupid.

The world needs to start bullying America into doing her part to salvage a planet we can all live on from the wreack caused by her capitalism. Britain should jump ship to Europe. Japan should jump ship to Asia.

(Oh, I spent three days writing this. Which is definitely not an plea for you comment it or anything).


  1. I like the sense of optimism. But, as you say, Japan isn't really a key player in international affairs and would have little to no effect in either an Asian Union or a N.American-Japanese alliance. Sure, Japan may reinvent itself as a less imperial-minded society, but will that have any effect on its Asian counterparts? And will these countries be able to shed their historical rivalries and give Japan a significant voice in Asian affairs? I don't think so.

  2. Japan's actually a bigger player than you might think in some areas. Japan's a major donor nation when it comes to humanitarian works and one of the biggest donors to the UN. She's seeking a permanent seat on the UN security council and her efforts are backed by America, Britain and France. The obstacle is Russia and China, and a more Asian centric, less imperialistic Japan may well get their support. Then there's the fact that Japan's only really a declining power because of her population crisis. The new government is looking to implement more child support and policies that will encourage child birth. Further, if Japan were to take the pro-Asian steps I'm talking about, it could mean the far less restrictive immigration policies Japan's economy drastically needs. It has been Britain's lax immigration policies that have make us a far more influential nation than we otherwise would be.

    So I agree that Japan is simply a poodle in the American context, but I think, with a few changes here or there, Japan could be a influential power in Asia.