Hugs for Sale

You may be wondering what an odd title like that could possibly be referring to. Hell, I almost don’t believe it myself. However, it really seems to be true. The Shanghai Daily is reporting that a school called Jiangdu District Shangmao Kindergarten in Eastern China is charging parents 80 RMB a month to have their children hugged twice a day. No hug, it would seem, is given for free. While this school is being investigated for unethical conduct, it would seem that making of every aspect of human life a commodity in capitalism just continues. This is also seemingly another example, at least in my opinion of the huge divide in China brought by the resurgence of a brutal capitalist system. For a country that is officially Marxist in ideology, they seem to be working hard to establish an unequal and disgustingly corrupt system of exploitation and downright money grubbing greed. Not surprising then that the members of the Chinese Communist Party are rich as hell, and are raising their children as princes while millions in the country still live on a dollar a day. But before I’m accused of being just Sinophobic, let me say that it’s no different in the US. In the US where you live, how much money you have, and other factors of affluence or poverty really help determine your chances in life. Japan also is one country that has a political and economic elite that lives above and at the expense of the rest of society. The biggest difference I see is that unlike China, Japan and the US don’t have pretenses about being socialist countries. I expect a so called socialist country to live up to better than this. The problem is that China is not socialist. It is socialist in name only, and “socialism with Chinese characteristics” means “capitalism”. That simple. No one should get better treatment for little children at a kindergarten because they can afford to pay extra every month. Every child deserves a good solid education, and if teachers have to be paid extra to give a shit about the emotional and mental well being of their students, maybe they’re in the wrong line of work.

Source: http://www.shanghaidaily.com/nsp/National/2012/12/12/Teachers%2Bhug%2Bnot%2Bfor%2Bfree/

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Japan and the Right

It’s election season here in Japan, and the old two party order looks weaker than it ever has before. The ruling Democratic Party of Japan is hardly even entertaining the thought that it will retain power after this election, as it knows that the public opinion polls show that it has lost much of its support among the Japanese people. The formerly ruling Liberal Democratic Party is looking to retake its position as top dog in Japanese politics, but it still doesn’t have the support that helped it maintain power in Japan for almost 40 years. What other option is there then? What are the issues facing Japan, and who will be there to step in and help solve Japan’s problems? The answer to that question is not one that makes a leftist such as I very much at ease.

The Issues

What is at stake this election? Quite a few things to be honest. The DPJ hopes to solidify its tax hike of 5% on the consumption tax, while other parties want to scrap it. There is the ongoing disputes over territory with Korea and China, that no one seems to know how to handle. The Yen is still too high, hurting exports and tourism revenue, the economy is in recession, and many Japanese citizens are against the restarting of nuclear plants. These are just a few of the issues facing the Japanese this election cycle.

The Parties

Aside from the two aforementioned parties, there are a host of political parties in Japan vying for supremacy. Let’s look at them one by one, in order of their prominence in this election.

The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)

The DPJ took power from the LDP in 2009, ending 40 years of almost unbroken rule by that party. Riding on waves of electoral euphoria, the party then set about making a complete mockery of the electoral process. They were unable to keep a Prime Minister in office very long, running through a list of PM who couldn’t seem to handle the job and would invariably quit after a few months in office. The next prime minister, supposing that it’s not Noda, the current prime minister, would be the 7th prime minister in 6 years, surely a record among liberal “democracies”. They have long lost the trust of the Japanese people, and are likely to take a drubbing in this elecction. They have supported nuclear power, entry into TPP (a free trade agreement with the US and other Asian countries) and have failed to govern with any visible competence. Their days are very clearly numbered.

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)

The LDP is the epitome of the good ol’ boys political club of Japan. They are essentially political chameleons who move whichever way the winds blow, but always keeping in their sights, in their actions the heart of what they work for. They represent the capitalist class wholly and without apology. The old infirm members of this political party are those who are descended from the fascists in WW2, those who wish to maintain the old system of bureaucratic  corruption, the corporatism that has defined Japan’s modern rise to power. They are xenophobes, hateful of China, hateful of Korea, really hateful of everyone and everything that doesn’t fit into their outdated paradigm, their diseased delusions of Japanese empire. They love the US, they support the occupation of Japan by US forces, and are willing to sell their souls to be part of the US empire, as if living vicariously through the US’s imperialism is a substitute for not having their own anymore. This party is, unfortunately, likely to retake enough seats in the Diet to regain the post of Prime Minister.

Nippon Isshin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party)

To explain this recent entry into Japanese politics I must first explain the two major players in this party. The first is Osaka mayor and tattoo hater Toru Hashimoto, who is known throughout Japan as a rabid nationalist, and an 85 year old in a 45 year old’s body. Youthful though he may be, charismatic though he may be, Hashimoto represents the worst of the Japanese right. He is known for his attack on teachers who refused to stand and sing the national anthem “Kimi Ga Yo”, a song that is steeped in Japan’s imperialist past, a clear violation of Japan’s standards of civil liberties. He has attacked city workers in Osaka for having the gall to have tattoos, as if tattoos made them unfit for public service. He even proclaimed, as a response to civil servants protesting his invasive and dictatorial style (he has even advocated for a dictatorship in Japan openly saying “What Japan needs now is a dictator”) he responded by telling them that they have no fundamental human rights.He supports the US occupation of Japan, wants to change article 9 of the Japanese constitution forbidding Japan from engaging in war, and is a supporter of the US controlled “Trans-Pacific Partnership” (TPP) that would expose Japan to the whims of countries like the US. He is far right, he is nationalist, he is anti-democracy, and sadly he is pretty damn popular in Japan.

The other main player in this newly formed party (formed from his regional “Osaka Restoration Party”) is the newly resigned former Governor of Tokyo, the eternal racist demagogue, Shintaro Ishihara. This man had formed a national political party prior to joining forces with Mr. Hashimoto, called the “Sunrise Party”. This man over several terms as Tokyo Governor, left behind him a trail of racism, nationalism and downright batshit craziness. You Americans think your rightwing is bad? Oh it is, but Ishihara tries to even outcrazy the tea party. He has called Africans “unintelligent”, he has, like Hashimoto I might add, been a denier of the war crimes of Japan in WW2. He is pronuclear power, pro-TPP, pro US bases in Japan (Although ironically in his other life as an author became famous for his essay entitled “The Japan that can say NO”, an essay against the US in Japan) he is responsible, partially, for the recent outbreak of hostilities with China over the Senkaku islands, and he is the epitome in Japan of the racist, sexist, homophobic, backwardsness that is the hallmark of the senile geezers who run Japan. A perfect fit for senile geezer wannabe Hashimoto, I suppose. The only ray of light in this horrid party of sick twisted fascism is that the party doesn’t look like it will field enough candidates in the election to be able to secure a majority. Most likely though their votes will go towards propping up another long stretch of LDP dominated Japan, this time with an even further rightward slant.

It would take me too long to go over the many other parties, but I wanted to focus on the major right wing parties that are contending for power in Japan. Instead of really ernestly trying to solve its problems, Japan seems to be retreating to the old haven of nationalism, xenophobia and racism. There is a clear danger of Japan turning towards its old fascist corporatism, and a very real threat it is. I hope that Japan doesn’t make the mistakes of the past. It needs to move into the future, and progress, or ignore that advice to its detriment.

Thanks, but No thanks

Ok, it’s high time I wrote an article on this subject. Japan does in fact, have a problem with racism. Certain shops in Japan exclude foreigners, the media is filled with the likes of Shintaro Ishihara who goes on racist rants, and there are some very outdated ideas in Japan that need to be ejected from the country. I think making Japan more multicultural is a good thing, and increasing understanding of other ways of life among the Japanese is a good thing. However, there are some ways of doing that that are just counterproductive.

I’m talking specifically about Arudou Debito. He is an American born, Japanese citizen, and he is doing more harm to racial minorities in Japan than all the hordes of flag waving nationalist racists. The reason is that Debito is racist himself. Not only that, but he somehow thinks that it is his only goal in life to excoriate the Japanese for any and every perceived slight, whether real or imagined. I’m just going to take his last blog post as an example of what I am talking about:

Hi Blog.  I’m currently researching on the University of Hawaii Manoa Campus, and late last month I found this weird advertisement in the Ka Leo student newspaper (August 20, 2012, the debut issue for the start of the semester for maximum exposure):

“Have you ever wanted to help Japanese people in a way that could make a meaningful difference?  Participating in a clinical trial can be a deeply rewarding way to possibly help advance medical breakthroughs in Japan.

“Volunteers should be:  Healthy, between the ages of 18 and 60, born in Japan, or have both parents or all 4 grandparents born in Japan…

“Think you can volunteer?  Great!  COVANCE, Honolulu, Hawaii”

(Page 66.  Click on the image to expand in your browser.)

Covance is the “Contract Research Organization for Drug Development Services”, according to their website (www.covance.com).  Also, the link they provide in their advertisement above asks three locations (UK, United States (Global), and specifically Honolulu), and has only two languages:  English and Japanese, indicating their strong links to Japan (and no doubt the subcontracting for Japanese-oriented research — tool around the Japanese version for awhile; fascinating reading).

The upshot:  We want healthy “Japanese” for “medical breakthroughs in Japan” (as opposed to breakthroughs in medical science anywhere).  I smell patents, or at least patently racist language of “testing Japanese for Japanese since Japanese bodies are different” that infiltrates Japan’s physical and social sciences.

What I find especially interesting about this ad is the imported racialized conceits about what defines a “Japanese”:

No doubt due to the sensitivities of the English-language audience, there is no mention of “Japanese blood” as a qualifier.  No matter, that’s indirectly stated:  Born in Japan, both parents born in Japan, or all four grandparents (we wouldn’t want a Non-”Japanese” grandparent sullying the mix, after all) for proper thoroughbred status.

I’m a Japanese, but I don’t qualify.  Naturalized.  So wrong blood.  Sorry.  And it still would be wrong, under the paradigms above, even if I had been born in Japan (say, to a family of diplomats or missionaries; they exist).  Imagine Covance making the same stipulations for, oh, I don’t know, sickle-cell anemia research by asking for only “African-Americans” (or bona fide “Africans”) who have been born only to “pure-black” families stretching back three generations?  That would raise some eyebrows.  But not when we transpose it onto Japan-based conceits, where the racism is embedded.

What a pity.  Nothing quite like getting fresh young people to “volunteer” their time and bodies for big pharma’s future profits.  But what a way to do it:  By advertising in a college campus newspaper drawing lines between people under questionable scientific rubric.  I think we need better screening procedures not only within the medical community, but also within the media, so less of this racialized social science leaks into the physical sciences.  Arudou Debito

Dear dear Arudou. NO. Just stop. Just shut the hell up. The Japanese people are in fact a genetic group, with a common gene pool. They’ve kind of been living here a while. You have no idea what they’re studying, it could be mapping the human genome in Japan, or following certain alleles that are common in Japan. Yet you immediately, without proof or reason, accuse them of being racists. Ridiculous. Yes, most likely they would only ask for sickle cell anemia in people of African descent, because you’d be pretty damn hard pressed to find a white person with sickle cell anemia. There are phenotypic differences between different populations, that’s not racism, it’s scientific fact. Every time you open your goddamn mouth, you embarrass yourself. Just stop. You have published racist rants on your blog, you have butchered the English language repeatedly in the Japan Times, you have obfuscated and lied, and it needs to stop. Just stoppit. I am for racial harmony, for equality and respect among all people. I am not for your ignorant idiocy where you malign and slander the people of Japan at every turn. You have nothing but contempt for this country, its people, and its culture.  You think you’re something of a white Jesus, here to save Japan from itself. You fancy yourself and academic, yet you only teach English. You have no experience or training in biology, history, math, science or anthropology. Instead of reaching out to help your country and your people, you attack them with vicious lies and outright absurdities. Just stoppit. And yes, testing is exactly how drug companies are able to make new drugs that improve or even save lives. Nice little conspiracy theory BS there at the end.

If you want to really be accepted as Japanese, then you have to change some things. First, realize this isn’t New York. It’s Japan. You are not going to change the ancient culture of Japan on a whim, and people are just going to hate you if you try. They don’t want your missionary work. Next, you write and speak in English, on your blog, in the Japan Times etc. If your Japanese is that great, start using it. Speak the language, engage in your own country and its language. Get involved in your community, help people out. Do volunteer work, clean up your neighborhood, be a valued member of this society. Actions speak louder than words, so get out there and start putting to work what you supposedly believe in. And for the love of god, shut the fuck up. With every stupid thing you say I cringe, because I’m an expat too, and I think you’re making shit worse for us, not better. Thanks.