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Friday, March 18, 2011

Insights into Japan

At the Telegraph & American Thinker, they explore the cultural differences that separate Japan from most other cultures.
"The Japanese, in other words, are more rooted and socially connected, and even when they move around, they make an effort to get to know each other. This builds social capital which, as Robert Putnam found inBowling Alone, eventually builds economic capital. What people in Britain generally call “the broken society” is in fact a collapse in social capital, from disconnected neighbourhoods to desocialised children."
"... Anthropologists speak of Japan as a “shame culture,” as opposed to a “guilt culture,” meaning that people are constrained to behave themselves properly by an aversion to being judged negatively by those around them, rather than internalizing a moral imperative. ... most contemporary Japanese have internalized a deep respect for private property, that is manifested in a ritual of modern life for children, one which we might do well to emulate. When a child finds a small item belonging to another person, even a one yen coin, a parent takes the child to the local koban and reports lost property. As chronicled by T.R. Reid in his wonderful book about living in Tokyo, Confucius Lives Next Door, the police do not resent this as a waste of time but rather see it as part of moral education, solemnly filling out the appropriate forms, thanking the child and telling him or her if the owner does not appear to claim the item, it will revert to the finder after a certain period of time."
Interesting stuff! Either way, it has been incredible to see the way the Japanese people have persevered.
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1 comment:

  1. Kathleen, it's funny. We're constantly bombarded these days about multiculturalism and diversity being "strengths."

    With the interpretation I take from these terms, I see these superficial, trendy social phenomena as definitely weaknesses.

    They are anathema to E pluribus unum.

    As James Bennett of the Anglosphere Institute says, "Democracy, Immigration, Multiculturalism -- Pick Any Two."

    The reason Japanese can build "social capital" so easily is because they see themselves as a single people of a single nation. We could do the same, but we don't--we do the opposite by stressing our differences.

    My wife comes from a working-class Japanese family (I'd say bordering on poor!!). But as with almost all Japanese, she and her family consider themselves middle class. It's not so much determined by personal financial situation as by values and mores.

    My wife comes from perhaps my personally favorite socioeconomic group; people from what we would consider an economically working-class background, who thus tend to be very down-to-earth, but who, nonetheless, strive to comport themselves (especially in public) in a very dignified and refined way.

    My wife's usage of one "garaigo" (usually interpreted as "loan words" ... words in common use in Japan which are of foreign origin ... e.g., "ka-me-ra" or camera) was especially of interest to me: "elite," or as the Japanese say, "elite-to."

    Every now and then, she'd say of someone that they were part of "the elite" of Japan. This meant they came from a well-to-do family and usually they went to Tokyo University or another exclusive college.

    The interesting thing always was she never said someone was a member of the Japanese elite with any tone of derision or envy ... it was almost with a note of slight fondness and admiration.

    I quizzed her about this one time. We met the high-school age son of a friend of a friend. He was a moderately spoiled brat whose father owned some hotels. When my wife spoke of his coming entrance into the elite of the Japanese business world, again with no note of envy or bitterness, I asked her if this brat's easy entrance didn't bother her at all.

    She seemed perplexed at my question. She said that his father (or more distant ancestor) had obviously worked hard or wisely to be successful, and that of course the offspring should enjoy that. Then came her reasoning, which I'm pretty sure most Japanese would echo; she said it was obviously easier to be successful if you came from a wealthy family, but that anybody could become successful ... it was just a matter of how badly one wanted it ... how hungry they were for success. She pointed to her own family and how they were happy with what they had and didn't have the drive and motivation to achieve great success. And then she pointed to the brat and said if he continued with his childish ways, he would lose the family fortune. In her eyes there was justice to all this. Life wasn't fair, but having a meritocracy precluded you from bitching about it. Yes, some had an advantage, but it was close enough to being a system of equality of opportunity.

    I realized then that my wife was a bit more conservative than me even though she's not really interested in politics !!

    With this distinct lack of class envy (which, over here, the Dems love to instill in people) it's much easier to build social capital.