Wednesday, September 15, 2004

I'm not having a go, but...

I had a funny one at English club tonight. First of all, the session started off pretty slack because I brought along some articles to read that turned out to be too hard for them. After about half an hour of quiet studying and such, an actual conversation started to roll. The topic of the discussion was the situation in Chechnya. I'd brought a couple of articles about the recent 'events' and I was hoping that we could have a discussion about terrorism in general. Not surprisingly, and quite rightly, the brunt of the discussion centred around the dire situation that the United States' Bush administration has gotten the world into. There was quite a bit of verbal stick given to the Americans, but I noticed that when I slowly started to focus more narrowly on the conflict between America and Japan during the second world war and the charges of terrorism that were made in those days, answers started to get thinner and interest in the conversation seemed to wane. Now, I know that the Japanese don't like to talk about their own national history very much, or at least not objectively, but it just felt a little bit wierd tonight, like everybody could feel a collective discomfort come over them. And there was me, oblivious to the reasons why. (I don't know the first thing about Japanese history, or that of the second world war, apart from the fact that they killed a lot - up to ten million - of Chinese people and god knows how many Koreans). Well, the discussion soon got diverted back to Chechnya.

I don't know, you know. I think the Japanese deserve a lot of praise for the way they have embraced their new peace-loving national identity. And I've always thought that people who criticise them for not contributing to war efforts are short-sighted. But their shyness towards speaking openly about and discussing what their parents and grandparents did in the past is a bit worrying. It's not their fault for crying out loud, so why should they get wierd about it. It's a kind of arrogance, though, that I have found to be quite common in Japan. The pervasive idea (and this is no new observation by any means) that things can be ignored out of fact and reality. Ignored out of existence. If something doesn't suit, then ignore it. It's what we would call pure childishness, but perfectly acceptable here in Japan. Don't deal with difficult matters; Ignore them. It's not conventional ignorance though, and I find it better described as a mild form of arrogance. I don't know. I've nothing original to add to the dialogue regarding Japan's wierdness. I can tell you one thing that's for sure though. The folks in my office think I'm the most immature thing since who knows when. And they're probably right!!!!!!