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Japanese chauvinism
by Thanos Kalamidas
2006-12-20 08:18:34
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I have personal issues with words like ‘patriotism’ not because I don’t believe that it is good to love your country but because the line between patriotism and blind chauvinism is very narrow and you never when you have crossed to the other side. I do appreciate my home country and whatever I do my roots will always be there and, wherever I go, part of this country will be in my luggage.

I will always appreciate their fights for freedom and democracy, I understand the poetry and the literature better than any other nation’s and most of all I understand the people. But I never thought that these thousands of years of history make us exceptional to the other people, however odd it might sound I always believed that it was a pure geographical coincidence.

In a place where you don’t have to worry for shelter and food, since you can just pick a fruit from the thousands of trees that grow everywhere. Without these worries, it is natural that you invest all your energy into creation, philosophy, arts, medicine, and science. In other places, for example in Finland, people had to fight every second of their life to survive, there was no time for philosophy; the only philosophy that could survive in this arctic climate was the philosophy of survival and that not in extent of time but just for one more day.

And since we are in Finland here is an example of crossing the line, I have often heard Finns saying something they obviously learned from their childhood: ‘It is like winning a lottery to be born a Finn!’ No, it is like winning a lottery to be born in this wonderful world, but this phrase shows how thin the line between patriotism and chauvinism can be.

Some Finns push this lottery idea a bit further than they should, but Finland is not the center of the world and its contribution to world history is no greater than any other nations, such as Estonia or Latvia’s contributions. Every Finn should be proud of being born here, but when you start thinking that you are something above others then crossing that line because it is also a lottery whether you are born blonde, tall, white or with no disabilities.

I used the example of Finland but that doesn’t mean that other countries don’t have it, I always get angry when one of my patriots starts talking about the glory of Ancient Greece and I do admit that the contribution of the Greeks in international history, art and science is huge but as I explained before I don’t believe that this gives us any sense of superiority and talking about the old glories makes me angry because when the known world applied only south of Europe and the rest was either wilderness or desert then of course the Greek empire expanded from India to England but that happened what … over twenty-five centuries ago!

I’m proud of my ancestors’ accomplishments, but I don’t miss it or want to see it again. Since part of it is embarrassing. How do you get to have one so huge empire if you didn’t step over hundreds, probably thousands, of dead bodies, often enforcing your culture or what you thought it is the correct culture?

You see that is the other part of knowing your country’s history, knowing, accept, admit and learn from the mistakes your country did. The British Empire was not only glory but enslaving nations and using their resources for the wealth of the few – since not all citizens of Britain enjoyed the fruits of colonization. Wearing the red poppies on special occasions – by the way, even popular in Britain is originally American - should not be naively a chance to remember and honor the veterans but a declaration of never again because veterans exist even from not justified wars.

How can you justify the attack on the unarmed Indians during Gandhi’s march for the salt and the tens of deaths while India was trying to escape slavery and compare it with the very justified war against the Nazis? That’s the line that nations dangerously cross and Japan who was the reason for me to think all the above is ready to cross.

New Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has passed through the upper house a new bill that approves the creation of a new ministry, defense ministry and requires schools to teach patriotism in classrooms. But that doesn’t say how Mr. Abe identifies patriotism. If he himself is an example of practicing patriotism with his visits to the war veteran shrines that include war criminals from the WWII some of them convicted for crimes against humanity in China or Korea then the word patriotism definitely crosses the line.

The bills have passed as laws since they have already voted in the Japanese upper house and according to the Japanese system can be immediately active. The bill demands from the teachers to teach respect of tradition, culture and loving the nation and homeland. Furthermore, they want to teach moral values, ethics and self-discipline. Sad as it is that sounds just like a dictatorship, in a democracy you learn the moral values by learning respect to others’ needs.

You don’t need a lesson to teach you these things, you learn to love your country by learning history and as I said above learn to accept and admit all the sides of your homeland and most of all learn never to repeat the same mistakes. By forcing tradition, culture and loving the nation the only thing you manage is create a blind and Japanese centered new generation.

After all, it is well known that all the crimes during the 1940s to neighboring countries started from enforcing their traditions and culture that included racism and prejudice and that’s something the Koreans paid most among other nations. Is this what Mr. Abe wants reborn?

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Eva2006-12-23 02:43:37
"It is like winning a lottery to be born a Finn" - I always perceived this sentence used in a context of somebody trying to somewhat desperately convince themselves about this... despite one thing or another.
But yeah I totally agree with you on this one.

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