Saturday, September 09, 2006

Wading in Deep Waters (reposting from the Cryptic Blog)

Let’s try a thought experiment.

Assume there is a small, though not insignificant, minority of people living in your country. They look, walk, and talk, just like you do. After all, they were born there. The only difference is, after two, three, four generations in Japan, they continue to pledge allegiance to other sovereign states. The relationship with one of these states and yours is especially problematic, to put it mildly. They persistently refuse to take up citizenship in their place of birth and permanent residence, yet many of them demand the right to vote in local elections, and some demand the right to equal treatment in the right to hold public sector jobs. How would you feel? And if that is a difficult question to answer honestly, try imagining how your average fellow citizen would feel?

I do realize that Japan is a difficult society for foreigners. I will accept the claim that some, and possibly much, of the social discrimination that was prevalent when I was a child remains. And yes, I will accept that for a long time it was painful and humiliating to subject oneself to the powerful pressure (now discontinued) from naturalization authorities to officially adopt “Japanese” names. And yes, I am aware that there are many people here who hide behind the Internet cloak of anonymity to spill toxic waste all over Japanese Cyberspace. And no, I will not accept claims that the enormous popularity of their homeland movie stars and TV programs in Japan is proof that discrimination is a dead issue here.

But I wish I could say to the people who did not think my thought experiment worth doing and never got this far in this post: At least here in Japan, there a lot of people actually taking up your cause and siding with you on behalf of your argument. Could someone do the same, back home, whatever that means, in your sovereign state of choice? I for one do not see how a dialogue is possible with people who refuse to ask such questions of themselves.

And yes, I am aware that the fact that so many do not seek Japanese citizenship could be an indictment of Japanese society in itself. So let’s talk. And what did you say your name was?






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