Thursday, March 09, 2006

Racism part 2

Recently over on Saga Blog,

my buddy Jayne described an encounter she had with the Nagasaki police over a parking ticket and why she felt discriminated against due to the fact that she's a foreigner. You have to go and read this brief post which references BBC articles about Japanese attitudes towards foreigners in Japan that were carried out by the U.N. recently. Jayne invited people to comment on her posting and I began to. However, at present word count, my reply is over 1000 words long and is a bit too long to put in the comments section, so I’ve posted it here, in case anyone wants to continue the discussion here on my site, or the SagaJET forums. To the people that normally just read the Feature Wall, click that link to put the diatribe below in context for yourselves.

Yes, I have witnessed recently a pretty bad example of indirect discrimination in Japan. It was bad enough to the extent that I was personally offended by it. While on holiday in Sapporo we went into a late night onsen. In the changing rooms was a sign informing patrons to ‘secure their valuables’ as ‘thieves were around’.

On the poster, in between the text at the top and the bottom of the layout was an image of said thief. Yes folks, you guessed it by now, a Caucasian male, with a beard, like mine but blonde, dressed in a black cliché burglar’s outfit, all in slinky black, with a black woolen cap. He had a black mag-light and a black loot bag. In fact, he looked a bit like James Hetfield.

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To the owners of that onsen:




Never the less at the time I was drunk, and it was late at night so a vociferous protest from me would not have accomplished much as you can bet the top management wouldn’t be around at this time of night, and chiefly would have reinforced the stereotypes that some people like to build around us here. So I let it slide. I bent like the proverbial reed in the wind. However, if anyone who was on that trip kept any of the fliers they were handing out on the street that led us there, I’d appreciate their address so I can send them a U.N. style “We’re very angry with you and this is the letter to tell you so” letter. What’s wrong with having a figure, male or female, dressed in all black clothing wearing a balaclava that covers their face for goodness sake?

Then there was the time I was standing in line behind a middle-aged woman at a convenience store. Quite neutral, zoned out, just waiting in line. I was well outside of the limits of her personal space, especially as I use my own, western limits of personal space, which are somewhat greater than Japanese limits. She turned, saw me and jumped, really, she *jumped* another half meter away with a look of abject terror on her face. I thought to myself,

“What a fucking retard”

And didn’t do anything, again, not wanting to actually provide her with a legitimate reason for her stupid, inbred, banal reaction. Not actual discrimination per se, but certainly an example of the sometimes rampant xenophobia that lurks in Japan’s soft underbelly. But i really wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake her screaming "What did you think I was going to do to you?"

Of course to balance it all out, for every stupid person or thing you run into here, you run into someone who is totally the opposite, here's Joes comments on the website for the reason why the bad ones tend to stand out...

"Most Japanese however, are not racist. The problem is that the 20% or so who are happen to be yelling the loudest. Plus, they have government support, which really isn't a surprise since the LDP founders were mostly right wing war criminals..."

and on a seperate note

"The saddest part is that this attitude will only make Japan weaker in the years to come,"

Joe's probably got a good point with the idea that xenophobia / racism could make Japan weaker in the years to come. With Japan's birthrate in decline, if the current trend continues there will only be 27 Japanese left in Japan by the year 3000. Well, that’s the fancy statistic they've put out anyway.

So Japan actually needs more foreigners to come and live here to keep their labor pools and employment markets at a sufficient level as time goes on.

However, we can but hope that the current generation of students who we have all been educating over the past x many years of the JET program will eventually be able to move things in the opposite direction, as they have been exposed from an early age to foreigners and foreign culture, and thus perhaps be slightly less xenophobic (unless you terrorize your students for fun).

The majority of students who have passed through the education system while the JET program has been in place will still not be as fully integrated into the broader political franchise, in terms of actually holding political power, for some time yet due to their relatively young age.

Maybe over time our students, with their less polarised views of gaijin, will be the ones who will begin to remove some of the more significant legal barriers that can face foreigners in Japan. Hopefully the kids will be alright, and I honestly think they will be.

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But we have to deal with the here and now. Did anyone read Seb’s article earlier in the year on the forums?

The article concerns proposed plans in the name of ‘anti-terror’ legislation that involve placing small computer chips into all Gaijin cards that contain all information about the owner and may even have their fingerprints encoded into it. Biometric data tracking. Welcome to the police state. Sorry to sound like Alex Jones, however, the more I’ve been reading over the years, the more that things are actually starting to resemble what Jones and other people like him have been warning about is a wake up call and it’s time to take this whole thing seriously. Really, biometric data tracking is just stupid and invasive. I am not a violent criminal. Never mind the blatant glaring omission that the only major terror attack in recent Japanese history was carried out by JAPANESE PEOPLE.

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Its bad enough I have to carry an internal passport, it’s bad enough that the government brutally enforces what kind of material I can and cannot put into my own fucking body (Japan’s draconian drug laws), but to enforce computer controlled collection of biometric data based on a persons nationality, or legal status as a ‘foreigner’ is outright blatant racism.

Yes, the U.S. does now collect data on all foreigners that visit the country now and of course, that’s not acceptable either. In fact U.S. tourist numbers have dropped dramatically recently by up to 30%.

So it’s obvious that many people around the world will simply not put up with the bullshit that modern governments are trying to foist on people in the name of anti-terror legislation. Giving up your rights in a time of crisis is the worst possible action for any civil society and is one of the first steps on the ‘granny takes tumble down the stairs’ fall into authoritarian government.

Fight the power!

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