February 3, 2008
Japan Looks to the Wrong America
For a long time, I've been wondering about the growing anti-American sentiment among Japanese conservatives. I can understand Japanese liberals not liking the sole remaining world super power; they think even Japan is too militaristic for simply refueling and resupplying American warships. But why Japanese conservatives?
Discounting those old (physically or mentally) right-wingers who have still not forgiven us for defeating Japan in the last war, Japanese conservatives are religious (Shinto or Buddhist), patriotic (for Japan), and believe in strong military. They have a lot in common with the American people. So why do they seem to have nothing but contempt for us?
Don't worry, this is not one of those “why do they hate us so” type of posts which ends by demanding that America change somehow to make everyone like us. In fact, I recently realized that the problem comes mostly from them, not us: They're simply looking at the wrong side of America.
There is a word in Japanese; a single word, "ohbei" (欧米), meaning the West. But it doesn't literally mean the West; the word actually means “Europe and America.” It's all pushed together into one word, like EuropeAndAmerica. Just like the word, Japanese really don't distinguish the two hemispheres of the West. Westerners are all "gaijin" (外人), meaning "white foreigners who believe in that strange religion called Christianity."
Oh yes they can.
The problem (you'll be shocked) is the Japanese Left. For decades, they have trotted out the word ohbei (EuropeAndAmerica) to refer to European liberal values as if they were holy writ. Ohbei is a magic word to them: “In ohbei, minority preferences are totally normal. We Japanese are so behind on this. We should immediately incorporate this policy!” I don’t know how many times I heard that when I was growing up in Japan.
I must say there are many things that Japan can learn from the United States. I don’t doubt for even a second that America has a superior quality that no other country possesses (American exceptionalism). However, whenever the Japanese Left brings up the ohbei values or policies, they're never talking about traditional American virtues. Rather, ohbei always means some already-failed socialist policy imported from Europe (or occasionally from the wilder ideas of the American Left -- which by and large come from Europe).
So far, the Left in Japan have forced the adoption of affirmative action, gender feminism, liberal sex education, shorter school hours, and so forth -- all with the expected disastrous results. Japanese students used routinely to score high in International math and science tests; now they're way behind China and Korea. Teenage pregnancy and crime rates are skyrocketing... all the joys and wonders that modern liberalism infallibly delivers!
And now, modern Japan, which has always been controlled by the Left, is seriously flirting with the idea of importing from the United Nations the notorious "Human Rights Commission," as found in Canada and England. You know the ones I mean: The Canadian one that is currently prosecuting Mark Steyn for daring to speak out against militant Islam (in a column in Macleans Magazine) and prosecuting Ezra Levant for daring to speak out against militant Islam (by republishing the Danish Mohammed cartoons); and the British HRC that caused that country to issue an arrest warrant for British blogger Paul Ray, a.k.a. "Lionheart," for, well, pretty much the same crime.
Does anyone detect a pattern here?
On top of this, the Japanese media are very liberally biased and lazy, even more so than here: Their "news" about the United States is generally a word for word translation of American major network news or the New York Times. And of course, that comfort women condemnation initiative that the Democrats pushed through Congress last year didn't help, either; Japanese conservatives were frothing at the mouth that "we" (EuropeAndAmerica) condemned Japan for making sex slaves out of Korean and Chinese (and Japanese!) women... but "we" didn't condemn China for its much more horrendous mass murders and violations of fundamental rights under Mao and his successors, nor North Korea for leaving its millions of citizens huddled in the dark and starving to death.
Don't get me wrong; the Japanese Left hates us, too. The United States is a symbol of military power; and Americans would be astonished how much the Left despises any military, even their own. But on the one hand, they criticize our "war-mongering" ways; while on the other, they worship "us" (EuropeAndAmerica) for our liberalism. Perfectly sensible, yes?
The problem is that every time Japanese conservatives turn around, they're confronted by these radical, new policies and values, which are utterly foreign to traditional Japanese religious and social values. They're shoved down conservatives' throats, and always in the name of ohbei. If that were happening here, wouldn’t we develop an ohbei allergy ourselves?
Oh, wait: It is. And we have!
Since Japanese in general cannot distinguish between Europe and the United States, nor between left-leaning and right-leaning Americans, they look at the narrow slice of the West that the Left presents them -- and they conclude the whole of Western civilization is one big, undifferentiated blob. They lump us up all together; and then they think “that's America,” since we're the largest and most powerful of all gaijin nations. (One Japanese blogger flatly stated that the United States is “too far to the left” for his liking; this from a country that refuses even to fight for its own territory when seized by South Korea!)
I don’t know if there is anything we Americans can do to change their minds. Our media is not helping, oddly enough. And if the next president is a Democrat, we're going to further isolate Japan from us; I can feel it in my bones.
This leads us to the Prime Directive of American foreign relations: Our rivals are never going to like us; they will always find reason to despise us, even if they must conflate us with France and Sweden to do so; therefore, America must cease trying to be liked -- and focus on being respected.
In my Japanese language blog, In the Strawberry Field, I do my darnedest to convince Japanese readers that we're not what they think we are, that we are ourselves and not Europe. Sadly, I seem to be flying solo.
Hatched by Sachi on this day, February 3, 2008, at the time of 2:38 PM
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» 日本の右翼が反米になる理由 from In the Strawberry Field
The English version of this post can be read here. 先日からコメンターの一宿一飯さんのコメントを読んでいて、なるほど〜と思うことがあった。それは日本の右翼や保守派の間でおきている所謂（いわゆる）『欧米アレルギー』のことである。 私はここ数年起きている日本人の反米意識が非常に不思議でしょうがなかった。リベラル派が自由資本主義のアメリカを嫌うのはしょうがないとしても、国土安全保証や防衛などという点で非常に強力な味方であるアメリカを未だに太平洋戦争で負けた... [Read More]
Tracked on February 3, 2008 2:48 PM
The following hissed in response by: MTF
Sachi, can you tell me how Japanese attitudes towards China and Russia across the political spectrum are reflected in views of foreign events and America? Are there incipient fears of American military degradation and weakness that play into your theme? Thanks!
The following hissed in response by: David M
The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 02/04/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.
The above hissed in response by: David M at February 4, 2008 9:51 AM
The following hissed in response by: RBMN
Why is this? Why do so many good people hold bad positions? There are many reasons. I believe that naivete about human nature and about evil heads the list. But high up there as an explanation of liberal and leftist thinking is the desire to be loved.
The most dangerous one is the liberal desire for their country to be loved.
America would presumably be more loved if it abandoned Israel or if it abandoned Iraq. Each case would be morally wrong, but, hey, we'd be loved. Liberals believed we would have been more loved if we had destroyed our nuclear arsenal during the Cold War. Or if we had not pressured West Germany into accepting Pershing missiles. Of course, in all these cases, if America had sought love, evil would have prevailed. But at least we'd be loved. What else really matters? [Prager's answer: what really matters (as with raising your children) is creating the good result--not being loved.]
(from: Column: "Liberals' Desire To Be Loved Is Their Achilles' Heel," By Dennis Prager, August 28, 2007)
The following hissed in response by: Sachi
Contaminated food from China is becoming a big issue in Japan. More than ten people were sickened by poisonous, pesticide-filled frozen food. The Japanese government was quick to ban American beef for nothing during the Mad Cow disease scare. For some reason they are very reluctant to ban any Chinese food. It is possible they are afraid of losing the huge comsumer market in China. Many Japanese are very upset about this.
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