Japan and the Next US President

Nakayama Toshihiro for Nippon.com. The title pretty much says it all: Japan and the Next US President: Thinking the Unthinkable

My two thoughts on a Trump presidency:

  1. I wouldn’t be able to move back to the US anytime soon, because apparently all y’all is #^¢*ing nuts.

  2. Staying in Japan might not be a good idea either because, given some of the insane crap Trump has said he would do as President, life could get very uncomfortable for an American.

I guess the best defense in this situation might be humor, but the laughter is feeling pretty shaky already.

It has happened before. It will happen again. And it can happen here

Theodore Gray:

Once the tool exists, it will be abused. I really wish I could say otherwise. I wish I lived in a country where law enforcement acted with the square-jawed nobility of a comic book FBI agent. I used to think I did live in such a country, but in recent years I have been forced to realize that I don’t. I think that, in your heart, you know it too.

And if you happen to like the party in power today, just remember, every tool you give them is inherited by the next guy. Think of the worst possible outcome of the next election, the worst new president, the worst new congress you can imagine (whichever one that might be for you). Do you want those people to have the power to look and listen to anyone they please, anytime, anywhere? To search at will through recordings of our most personal moments? To use a rubber stamp warrant to gather dirt on someone who insulted them? To review the browsing history of anyone who annoys them publicly enough?

An invocation of what I call the “Worst Enemy Test” spotted in the wild.

"Japan complains after China says 300,000 died in Nanking Massacre"

Kyodo News via Japan Times

[President Xi Jinping] called on Japan to own up to responsibility for the tragedy, saying that acknowledgment of the countries’ shared troubled past is crucial to improving relations between them.

The Japanese government told China via a diplomatic channel after the speech that the figure is “different from Japan’s position” and that it is “difficult to determine the concrete number of victims,” according to the sources.

What an utter surprise. This kind of thing has never happened before.

Japan's Creep toward the Right

The Japanese election results were worrisome. Turnout was poor, which reflected both the apathy of the public, and the short lead-up to the elections. The one bright note was that a few right-wingers like Ishihara lost their seats. However, Abe will be continuing in his position as Prime Minister and because of that, Japan will keep steadily shuffling toward rightist nationalism.

It remains to be seen how successful his economic policies will be, but we already know how Abe’s right-leaning orientation has affected the political sphere in Japan and Japan’s relations with the rest of Asia. In an article from 2012, “Abe sticks to 1995 statement on WWII apologies, may review ‘comfort women’ acknowledgements”, Abe and his cabinet did not go so far as to retract acknowledgement for Japan’s responsibility for all of its wartime acts, but he did say that he doubted some of the claims of Japanese war crimes; specifically the forced abduction of women from invaded territories for military brothels. Since then, he has reiterated that position and provided tacit support for conservative groups who are even more outspoken in their denialist beliefs.

In US-centric terms, having Abe in office as prime minister is like having a president who has expressed Holocaust denial beliefs in public and meets with KKK-friendly politicians. A guy like that wouldn’t come right out and say that the thing with the Jews [1] was just a big misunderstanding, but he just can’t believe that all of the camps were death camps. Some of them were just work camps, and heck, the kapos were even volunteers(!) so how bad could it have been?

This is why, despite multiple apologies over the decades, many Asians from countries that Japan invaded during WWII — particularly Koreans and Chinese — have been consistently critical of Japan. Official acknowledgements of responsibility for Japanese actions during the War have been consistently inconsistent. In contrast to the German approach in educating its youth about the Holocaust and Naziism, Japan wavers between glossing over and completely ignoring its misdeeds. Overall, Japanese education tends to emphasize Japan’s status as the victim of the atomic bombs that led to Japan’s eventual surrender.

I’ve written about some of these issues before, most extensively in a post about “comfort women”, and briefly concering texbook references to one of the disputed island territories about a month before that.

In the Japanese middle school and high school textbooks I’ve seen, the Nanking Massacre (more luridly, The Rape of Nanking) — or as it’s often bloodlessly known in Japanese, 南京事件, the “Nanking Incident” — is relegated to nearly footnote status — if it’s included at all — and the language is riddled with weasel-words. If you read Japanese, you can pick up a handful of history texts from the library or a bookstore to verify this. If you don’t read Japanese, you still don’t have to take just my word for it; the Japanese author of a BBC article talked about her experience of the education system’s lies of omission in “What Japanese history lessons leave out” published last year.

Japanese history texts are shallow on all topics. The layout of the texts that I’ve seen is similar to a magazine, with the exception that there simply are no in-depth multi-page pieces. Everything, everything is broken up into 200–500 word articles organized around a larger topic, covering perhaps a total of one page for each major topic. The whole of WWII — and I’m being generous by including the 1931 invasion of Manchuria as the beginning point — is covered in 14-and-a-half pages of the more extensive of the two texts I have at home. There is no room for analysis in the text, and there is very little (if any) analysis or explanation that takes place in class either. In context with history texts as a whole, the short blurb on Nanking is not atypical, it’s depressingly normal.

Contrast that shallow gloss with the full-chapter excerpt of tear-jerking pathos from “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” that I have seen in nearly every middle-school English textbook from the major publishers. Sadako’s story is so well-known that folding paper cranes became The Thing to Do when someone is in the hospital (I received a set in my first year in Japan when I was in the hospital due to an injury incurred at a school) and has made it into, of all things, an English-language Bathroom Reader.

In brief, this is how the Japanese education system addresses these three topics:

  • Girl dying of leukemia: a full chapter with 3–5 class hours dedicated to studying it in English over the course of a week or more, plus an extensive treatment of the atom bombings and aftermath in every history book I’ve ever seen.

  • Hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians shot and bayonetted to death, women gang-raped, children butchered: a 250 word blurb with non-committal language buried at the bottom of a page in only some history text books, that might be briefly mentioned in class, if the teacher isn’t too uncomfortable and doesn’t just ignore it.

  • Women from invaded territories captured and forced to whore for the military: whiplash-inducing statements from politicians over the decades, with “more study necessary” being the perennial favorite, as the numbers of the surviving women dwindle from old age and they still wait for unambiguous acknowledgement from Japan of what was done to them when they were still barely older than the girls who doubtlessly shed many tears over the plight of Sadako during their English class studies.

Expect Japan under Abe to move further right, even though some far-right members of minority opposition parties lost their seats. The overall tone of Japanese politics has already been shifting to the right (the increasing number of visits to Yasukuni shrine by politicians are an indication of this) and Abe provides an aegis for more open nationalism. Earlier last year, his cabinet already effectively abrogated the constitutional provision against war, Article 9.

You can expect an official-official, un-retracted acknowledgement of full responsibility for ianfu around the time the last of the grandkids (or maybe the great-grandkids) of the afflicted women’s generation die off. In other words, you’ll probably die of old age yourself before that happens. Assuming there isn’t another war with Japan in the meantime.

  1. … and the homosexuals, and the disabled, and the Roma, and the other estimated 5-million-plus “undesirables” who seem to get left out in the holocaust count.

Santa Barbara “Shootings”

The first thing to remember about any of these mass killings is: it’s really all about him. Their chosen target group is more or less random, and their victims are seldom actually from the target group. Many of those who are hurt and die have nothing to do with the ostensible obsession of the killer.

These young men — and it is almost always a relatively young man[1] — demonstrate self-loathing, but are at the same time narcissistic. Instead of admitting that they hate themselves, they seek to externalize their pain. They pick a group: blacks, Jews, rich people, poor people, mentally disabled, women — someone they can safely “other”, someone who represents something they fear, or someone who possesses something they covet — and make that group a target for all of their failings, problems (whether real or imagined) and extreme emotions. Then they make grandiose plans.

Mark Sappenfield for the Christian Science Monitor:

… The young men who are overwhelmingly responsible for these shooting sprees fit a very clear portrait: self-obsessed yet marginalized in some way. Their rampages are not fits of senseless rage, but cold, calculating attempts to level the score with society.

In the attempt to become an antihero – to lay bare how they think they have been wronged by others – these men need an audience, and shooting sprees are the ultimate way to get one.

This incident is being framed as a gun control issue, and as a feminist issue, but his first victims were 3 men he stabbed to death. Men, not women. A knife, not a gun.

He attacked those closest to him first; intimates, roommates. This is very common when someone commits violence of any kind. You are most at risk from someone you know well.

According to the timeline of his spree, he was only able to focus himself on his chosen scapegoat group for a very short time, and he was completely unsuccessful in finding a target at the sorority house he visited. He shot three women at random, who just happened to be in the area. He shot another man (who he might have known), and then randomly attacked several more groups of people, both men and women, as he drove around.

Despite the mindshare that mass shootings get in the news, they are a vanishingly small part of the overall landscape of violent crime. Even among firearm murders they comprise “less than one percent of gun murder victims recorded by the FBI in 2010”.[2] Which correlates well with the information in a Pew Research article, “According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics review, homicides that claimed at least three lives accounted for less than 1% of all homicide deaths from 1980 to 2008.”[3]

While #YesAllWomen has shone light on issues that had been ignored or marginalized by too many, and the greater attention paid to those issues is probably a net positive, framing this story as a consequence of misogyny is twisting the facts to fit an ideology. It might be useful for publicity, but it’s not reflective of what actually happened.

The more sad and frightening truth is that women are not in any particular danger from men like Elliot Rodger. Women are most likely to be killed by a current boyfriend or husband, a man who was previously in an intimate relationship with her, or another man she knows well. Serious violence from strangers is relatively uncommon for women.

The reality is that men have the most to fear from men they don’t know well.[4] Women should be most wary of men they have current or prior relationships with.[5]

The violence in Santa Barbara was the product of one disturbed young man’s ideation. It may be reflective of the society itself, but only insomuch as American society glorifies violence in general and dotes on spectacle. Viewed dispassionately, Rodger’s spree has little to do with misogyny; it was a symptom of his pathology, not an underlying cause. His use of a firearm in the commission of some of his crimes may provide an excuse for people to discuss gun control again, but it adds nothing meaningful to the debate. The issues people have chosen to impose on the narrative are mostly spurious.

How do we prevent spree killings? My answer: ignore them. They feed on publicity. But, this hasn’t worked for “celebrity”, so what do I know?

  1. “The average age of the shooters in the incidents identified by CRS was 33.5 years.” Congressional Research Service report, Public Mass Shootings in the United States: Selected Implications for Federal Public Health and Safety Policy
    (PDF)  ↩

  2. Analysis of Recent Mass Shootings (PDF) from the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, pg. 3. (Source via: Journalist’s Resource)  ↩

  3. Gun Homicide Rate Down 49% Since 1993 Peak; Public Unaware The downward trend has started to reverse since 2007, but is still generally declining.  ↩

  4. “Males represented 77% of homicide victims and nearly 90% of offenders. The victimization rate for males (11.6 per 100,000) was 3 times higher than the rate for females (3.4 per 100,000). The offending rate for males (15.1 per 100,000) was almost 9 times higher than the rate for females (1.7 per 100,000).” And later, “Males were nearly 4 times more likely than females to be murdered in 2008”, which was the most recent year compiled in the report, Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980–2008 (PDF)  ↩

  5. NISVS 2010 Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey  ↩

Sweden to Test 6-hour Workday

How will that work out in productivity? Probably pretty damn well. Sweden’s GDP per capita is better than Japan’s. If you were to divide by hours worked — even by the official numbers, which are bald-faced lies — Sweden’s economic efficiency would look even better.

Meanwhile, in Japan: Unpaid overtime excesses hit young, a Japan Times article from last year. (Spoiler: nothing has changed in a year. Shocker.)

This bit is particularly quote-worthy:

It is also hard to get a realistic grasp of the abuse because workers often fail to log their OT for fear of being penalized by their employers, who are leery of exceeding the 80-hour limit and risking litigation.

Bullshit. Workers are explicitly told by their employers not to log their overtime hours, or they are on salary with no overtime provisions and their hours are not actively tracked. I have no source of inside information to draw on, but this absolutely could not happen on such a widespread — nearly universal — scale without government collusion. In my native US, the companies would have been shaken down by the IRS for blatantly cheating on their taxes if for no other, more humanitarian reason.

In addition to forced unpaid overtime, many companies are increasingly using contract workers (契約従業員 keiyaku jyûgyô-in) in lieu of hiring regular employees (正社員 seisha-in) because they can pay them less, and can quickly cut their workforce whenever they feel like it by simply not offering a new contract at the end of the term. While karôshi abuses were typically suffered by regular employees who had loyalties to the companies to exploit, as well as the Damoclean sword of a pension to hold over them, “black companies” are using the dynamics of the job market and the active lack of enforcement of existing labor laws to vigorously and enthusiastically fuck ahem, exploit an entire generation of Japanese in a way that is arguably even worse than the previous generation was abused.

It’s really no wonder that many young Japanese, particularly men, are actively turning their backs on having a career and instead are viewing contract and part-time jobs as a minimal investment to pursue a solitary and frugal life, without the pressures of attempting to gain anything resembling the previous generation’s mostly-illusory promise of lifetime employment. Sôshoku-kei don’t have ambition, families, or a pension as a handle for their employers to exploit, and they’re apparently completely uninterested in acquiring any of those accoutrements of traditional Japanese society.

Oklahoma Considering Throwing out Marriage

It’s being proposed as a bigoted dodge to avoid having to recognize and provide gay marriages, but I think it’s actually an interesting experiment. Ironically, it could end up empirically proving that “marriages” are, in fact, unnecessary if the same goals can be met through other means.

As activist, writer, and fag extraordinaire Dan Savage has often pointed out, the rights of marriage are most necessary at the worst times in your life. Civil partners do not have the same rights as those who are married.

Even with special preparation ahead of time, a civil partner’s asserted legal rights can often be overridden by family, which is not the case in most cases for married spouses. They can be kept from visiting their partner in the hospital. They are not considered next of kin, so cannot make arrangements for a funeral. They do not have automatic and uncontested rights for inheritance, so they can (and have) been kicked out of the home they built with their partner and faced with crushing tax burdens not faced by legally married spouses. They cannot collect social security benefits. And worst of all, their dependent children will be deprived of financial stability at the most stressful time in their lives.

So go ahead, Oklahoma, get rid of marriage. Run an experiment on yourselves. Iron out all the problems in a purely civil system and see how it goes. I honestly and truly hope that it does work, because it will be a precedent for adapting similar measures elsewhere. If civil unions come with the same exact rights as marriage, there will be absolutely no difference between the two except the label. I’ve thought for a long time that there should be a separation between the legal side of marriage and the religious side. This could be the wedge that finally separates the two.

I’m not-so-sorry to say that this trick will probably backfire even if the marriage banning part of the experiment part works out. I really doubt that calling it a civil union, or “breeding couple” or whatever label they come up with will let any system evade the constitutional and legal provisions for equal treatment.

(via @GreatDismal)