DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER SEPT 16 2007

mytest

Hi All. Arudou Debito here. Blog is back in business with daily updates, so here’s a roundup:

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER SEPT 16, 2007

Contents:
////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
1) GOJ’S HUMAN RIGHTS SURVEY WITH ODD QUESTIONS
2) NEW JUSTICE MINISTER TO GET TOUGH ON FOREIGNERS AGAIN
3) UN NEWS: UN PASSES RESOLUTION ON RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
4) UN NEWS: UNHCR URGES HUMAN RIGHTS REVIEW OF EVERY COUNTRY
5) TPR NEWS: SHASETSU COLUMN ON SNAFU AT MOFA
6) LETTER FROM GRASSROOTS UYOKU, DISRUPTERS OF AUG 31 MOFA MEETING
7) “ISSHO KIKAKU REP” TONY LASZLO IN COURRIER JAPON
8) FUN FACTS FROM SEIDENSTICKER’S “TOKYO RISING”

and finally…
9) ACTIVIST REBECCA WALKER ON THE “IDENTITY POLICE”

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

By Arudou Debito (debito@debito.org, http://www.debito.org)
Daily blog updates with RSS at http://www.debito.org/index.php

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

1) GOJ’S HUMAN RIGHTS SURVEY WITH ODD QUESTIONS

On August 25, 2007, the GOJ released its latest findings on a human-rights survey it conducts every four years. Entitled the “Jinken Yougo ni Kansuru Yoron Chousa” (Public Survey Regarding the Defense of Human Rights), it is put out by the Cabinet Office. Survey available online in its entirety in Japanese at
http://www8.cao.go.jp/survey/h19/h19-jinken/

Ken Y-N at the Seron Blog has kindly translated the whole thing into English with some commentary at:
http://whatjapanthinks.com/2007/08/27/human-rights-in-japan-part-1-of-3/

The survey had some good news: As opposed to the survey’s results in 1999 and 2003 (which showed a steady decline in the number of people who thought that NJ deserved the same human rights as Japanese), the number rose this time by 5.3 points to 59.3% in favor. Even though it dropped from 68.3% three surveys ago, to 65.5% two ago, to 54% in favor last time. Full report on previous Cabinet Surveys on Debito.org at
http://www.debito.org/jinkenreport0403.html

Of course this begs the question of why the question is being asked at all (as if human rights for fellow humans with extranationality are a matter of popularity polls, something even the UN criticized Japan for nearly a decade ago (CCPR/C/79/Add.102 Item C(7), see http://www.debito.org/CCPR1998.html).

But the reason why this survey is pretty lousy even before the results were tabulated is bad science: The sampling and the questions themselves are skewed.

The goal of the survey, as expressed by the GOJ itself
http://www8.cao.go.jp/survey/h19/h19-jinken/1.html
is “to survey the awareness of citizens (kokumin) regarding human rights protections, in order to apply them towards shaping future policy” (jinken yougo ni kansuru kokumin no ishiki o chousa shi, kongou no shisaku no sankou to suru).

Well, aren’t we thus already biasing the sample? If we are only surveying “kokumin”, we aren’t surveying NJ, even though they too are taxpaying residents, and should have a say in public policies? Especially those which will affect them profoundly as anti-discrimination measures?

Maybe that’s why so few people indicated that they had experienced “racial discrimination” in the survey. See Q3 SQ: 13.9% facing “discriminatory treatment (race, creed, gender etc.)”, behind “rumors and people speaking ill of me”, “invasion of privacy”, “defamation”, “public nuisances (noise, foul odors)”. Nearly half of the 16% who responded that they had faced a violation of their human rights noted “rumors”.

Bet if the GOJ interviewed more people without citizenship or Asian features, who sometimes face apartment refusals or JAPANESE ONLY signs in storefronts, they might get quite different figures.

Also, “human rights” are categorized oddly in the same question: “violence, duress, extortion”, “unjust police treatment”, “unfair treatment at work”, “falling out with the local community”, “sexual harassment”, “stalking”, “false accusations of crimes”, “unjust treatment at public welfare facilities”, “denial of domestic utilities at home” (such as water, gas), “other”, and “nantonaku” (nothing I can put my finger on, but it’s there).

Uh, even with these questions leading the witness, a number of these are not necessarily mutually exclusive categories (gender discrimination and sexual harassment, or rumors and defamation, for example), some are too vague (nantonaku, of course), and some are not exactly pin-downable as examples of “human rights” in themselves (falling out with the neighbors? stoppage of domestic utilities? public-welfare rudeness?)

Bigger issue is that many of these items are what I would call the “crybaby” variety. Items like “people speaking ill of me” and “rumors” are scientifically difficult to quantify (even could be argued as inevitable in human interaction, seen as “perceived slights by the paranoid”), and invite people (myself included) to tell them to develop a thicker skin.

And “public nuisances”? You might have people complaining that a stinky public toilet or a juicy fart in an elevator is a violation of human rights!

No wonder many people have trouble taking human-rights activists seriously, when the definitions is so ill-defined even in official questions! In any case, many of these items would not fall under protection in the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination anyway, as the CERD does not cover interactions between individuals.

But the clearest bias in the survey is where they ask about possible discrimination against particular groups (with examples you may have never thought of yourself provided as leading questions): women, children, the elderly, the disabled, Burakumin, HIV patients, crime victims, the homeless, gays and lesbians, and the Ainu. Okay.

But for foreigners as a group, Q12 and Q13 don’t list any examples. Only some doubt (“it is said (iwareteiru) that discrimination occurs towards resident NJ”) as to whether NJ are actually being discriminated against, and questions on whether NJ have any right to equal rights at all. No question like this is raised towards the other groups.

Again, when even a GOJ survey allows for the possibility of human rights being optional based upon nationality, we have a problem. Especially when nowhere in the survey is the possibility raised that people who look foreign might actually be Japanese; discrimination by race is rendered as a mere subset in another question (see Debito.org blog), and discrimination by nationality is undeserving of its own special question like the other groups?

Still surprises me just how clueless even our government professionals are about the portrayal and promotion of human rights in Japan. This survey is most enlightening when viewed from that angle.

Again, fuller analysis of the survey at
http://www.debito.org/?p=556

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

2) NEW JUSTICE MINISTER TO GET TOUGH ON FOREIGNERS AGAIN

This might be moot, as PM Abe’s pooped out on us, but it’s indicative of the plus-ca-change we’ll probably see in the Cabinet no matter who his replacement is. Following Nagase as Justice Minister is somebody by the name of Hatoyama Kunio (the brother of the DPJ party chieftain), who’s been profiled in the Japan Times:

The Japan Times: Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2007
CABINET INTERVIEW: NEW JUSTICE MINISTER
Hatoyama a hawk on death penalty, illegal immigrants
By JUN HONGO, Staff writer

Courtesy http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20070904a5.html

=============== EXCERPT BEGINS ===================
…Facing reporters later that day, Hatoyama was quick to display his determination to heed Abe’s call, quickly supporting capital punishment and pointing to the threat of crimes committed by foreigners.

…”Cutting the number of illegal immigrants in half is also a goal for this administration. We must tighten up immigration management to achieve that,” he said, referring to the growing perception that more crimes are being committed by foreign nationals…

Regarding long-term policies for accepting overseas workers, Hatoyama said the government could add more job categories for which foreign nationals with skills and expertise can apply.

But he disagreed with some of Nagase’s proposals to open the market and accept manual laborers and unskilled workers.

“Considering Japan’s culture, I must question whether that is a good idea,” Hatoyama said. “This may not be the right thing to say, but that could provoke an increase in crimes by foreign nationals.”

Asked if he intends to reject Nagase’s proposal, Hatoyama simply stated, “I am the justice minister (now).”
=============== EXCERPT ENDS ====================

COMMENT: I don’t think the JT article has it quite right regarding former Justice Minister’s stance on guest workers. It’s not a complete “opening up of the market”. Nagase supported a program in which people would be sent back within three years, regardless of any experience they gained under Japan’s two-decade old “trainee etc” program. It’s not an open-door policy; it’s a revolving-door policy.
http://www.debito.org/?p=402

I agree with Hatoyama that we need to create a brain drain into Japan with encouragement of skilled labor. But he’s barking up the wrong tree (as is the JT article’s claim of a “growing perception” of rising foreign crime, which is unsubstantiated and debatable given last season’s quietly-announced drop in NJ crime)
http://www.debito.org/?p=218
when it comes to claiming that bringing in foreigners will result in more illegals and proportionally more crime. The historical record suggests the opposite.
http://www.debito.org/crimestats.html

The onus must also be placed upon the employer to make sure they are passing skills and employing NJ laborers as they promised to. Up to now, the “researcher” and “trainee” visas have had widespread examples of just employing people (even in violation of even Japanese labor laws) to (famously) pound sheet metal and clean pig sties at ridiculously low wages. In other words, an “unskilled guest worker” program is already in place without calling it as such. Nagase just wanted to call it as such, and cap the contracts.

Sorry, neither plan will work properly and to Japan’s long-term benefit (demographically and fiscally) until you give people a stake in living here. And that is called immigration.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

3) UN NEWS: UN PASSES RESOLUTION ON RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES

Now for some better news: Just received this from the United Nations. Even if nonbinding, this may become a historical event, especially given the indigenous peoples in Japan (Ainu, Ryukyuans) and their lack of official recognition (in 1997, the Ainu received tentative recognition for their aboriginal status from the GOJ, not that it meant they got any money or special favors for it).

=============== EXCERPT BEGINS ===================
UNITED NATIONS ADOPTS DECLARATION ON RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
New York, Sep 13 2007 3:00PM
Courtesy of UNNews@un.org

The General Assembly today adopted a landmark declaration outlining the rights of the world’s estimated 370 million indigenous people and outlawing discrimination against them–a move that followed more than two decades of debate.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been approved after 143 Member States voted in favour, 11 abstained and four–Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States–voted against the text.

A non-binding text, the Declaration sets out the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues.
=============== EXCERPT ENDS ====================
Full text at
http://www.debito.org/?p=573

Surprises on who vetoed it, though. More on the Canadian veto from TheStar.com (thanks Colin) at
http://www.debito.org/?p=573#comment-72736
Japan, by the way, approved it.

Even hotter news:

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

4) UN NEWS: UNHCR URGES HUMAN RIGHTS REVIEW OF EVERY COUNTRY

=============== EXCERPT BEGINS ===================
TOP UN OFFICIAL URGES HUMAN RIGHTS BODY TO BEGIN COUNTRY REVIEWS
New York, Sep 14 2007 12:00PM
Courtesy UNNews@un.org

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour today urged the Human Rights Council to press forward with its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism, which allows the human rights records of every country to be scrutinized.

“We are acutely aware that the credibility of the United Nations human rights system hinges upon satisfactory implementation of the review, since the UPR has the potential to greatly influence and address human rights situations on the ground,” she told the Council which is currently meeting in its sixth session in Geneva.

Under this new mechanism, over the course of four years, all UN Member States–at the rate of 48 a year–will be reviewed to assess whether they have fulfilled their human rights obligations.
=============== EXCERPT ENDS ====================
Full text at
http://www.debito.org/?p=574

About time, UN. Go for it.

Meanwhile, what the GOJ is doing about human rights issues: holding meetings they cannot control.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

5) TPR NEWS: SHASETSU COLUMN ON SNAFU AT MOFA

This is a distillation of my larger report on the August 31, 2007, meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for NGOs, to give feedback on what should go into their mandatory periodic report (now more than five years late) to the UN Committee on Racial Discrimination:
http://www.debito.org/?p=544
up at Trans Pacific Radio as an essay. The conclusion:

=============== EXCERPT BEGINS ===================
What’s next? Dunno. But it’s clear that we are getting closer to winning the debate–enough so that the Rightists feel threatened and need to shout us down. We’re going to have to develop a thicker skin.

And if coordinators don’t take a more aggressive stand at keeping their meetings calm and reasonable, we’re going to see more argument at the bureaucratic level to shut the public out preemptively. Plurality will be used as a weapon to narrow input on the most contentious policy issues, and the will of “the majority”, seen as paramount in Japan’s rather immature view of democracy, will used to justify policy at the expense of “the minority” all over again.
=============== EXCERPT ENDS ====================
http://www.transpacificradio.com/2007/09/10/debito-rumble-at-moj/

As for the “rightists”, here’s their side of the story:

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

6) LETTER FROM GRASSROOTS UYOKU, DISRUPTERS OF AUG 31 MOFA MEETING

A letter from one of the uyoku groups in attendance appeared on a blog called “Japan Family Value Society” (in English–in Japanese it’s “Kazoku no Kizuna o Mamoru Kai”, or “Group to Protect Family Ties”), with LDP member and Hino City Assemblymember Watanabe Tadashi (http://www.watanabetadashi.net/) as VP. Taken from their blog at
http://familyvalueofjapan.blog100.fc2.com/blog-entry-25.html#more

I translated and blogged it here.
http://www.debito.org/?p=563

Of course, they put on their halos and say they were hard done by, even had their constitutional rights violated. Hey, that’s my line! Anyway, this is why we need the media and recording devices handy to avoid the good ol’ he-said, she-said situations. But the Japanese’s bureaucracy’s phobia of responsibility and accountability has this kind of side effect.

Meanwhile, speaking of mizu kake ron:

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

7) “ISSHO KIKAKU REP” TONY LASZLO IN COURRIER JAPON

Fascinating magazine “Courrier Japon” (Kodansha pubs) has in their October 2007 issue an interesting interview with three panelists: South Korean Kim Byon-Gi (Journalist for the Chuo Nippo Daily Paper), Russian tour guide and model Elena Vinogradova/Hino Erena, and, get ready for this:

American Citizen Tony Laszlo!

(Sorry, can’t recreate the accents over the last name as rendered in the article. American text usually eschews them anyway.)

Yep, the person who’s been portrayed as kinda European (his nationality has been ambiguously expressed both by the first Daarin wa Gaikokujin book, and reviews in Rakuten Books et al (http://books.rakuten.co.jp/RBOOKS/pickup/interview/tony_l/), as “Hungarian father and and Italian mother, raised in the US”), finally comes out as a garden-variety American! Howdy, pardner! Not that there’s anything wrong with being American, of course. It’s just good to see your stripes at last.

Excerpts and images from the article at
http://www.debito.org/?p=566

And you just gotta love Laszlo’s Bio there:
=======================================
“Writer, Specialist in Languages, American origin. First came to Japan in 1985 [Daarin wa Gaikokujin pg 41 mentions his unicycle]. Representative of ‘Issho Kikaku’, which thinks about cultural co-existence. Character in the bestselling “Daarin Wa Gaikokujin” books (Oguri Saori, author).”
=======================================

Note the missing “journalist” tag nowadays. And whatever happened to this “Issho Kikaku” organization that keeps finding its way to attach itself to Laszlo’s name? The Issho Kikaku website (http://www.issho.org) has been offline for “website renewal” since December 2005, and years of Issho mailing list and website archives, the work of hundreds of former members, have long since disappeared.
http://www.debito.org/?p=139
Doesn’t seem as if the group even exists anymore.

No matter. And never mind Laszlo’s threat of lawsuit towards another writer on Japan’s internationalization, either (http://www.debito.org/letterlazlawyer.html). We’ll just have a nice, light interview talking about things like okonomiyaki sauce. Clearly, it’s important to keep one’s comic-book-created persona lightweight for public consumption nowadays…

Anyway, as a magazine in general, Courrier Japon is excellent. On your newsstands now.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

8) FUN FACTS FROM SEIDENSTICKER’S “TOKYO RISING”

Been stampeding through the late Edward Seidensticker’s book TOKYO RISING (borrowed from the FCCJ library, but two weeks is simply not long enough for me to get through a book; I like to suck on them over months and am never faithful to one tome unless it’s really good).

I found some excerpts germane to Debito.org on the Tokyo Police’s extraordinary autonomy (inserting a reference to The Beatles’ Japan Tour in 1966), the Zainichi Sangokujin being targeted by police in Shinbashi in 1946, and Japan’s postwar economy being kick-started by Korean War profits. See them at:
http://www.debito.org/?p=561

QUICK REVIEW: All-in-all, in TOKYO RISING Seidensticker has created a book that is okay for those who really know something about Tokyo or Japan already (it’s a work that would thrill academic specialists in the field, but if they assigned it to their students with only incipient knowledge of Japan it would leave them nonplussed). For me, after 20 years here, it’s a decent read–it fills a lot of holes and answers a lot of lingering questions. For anyone else, it would probably be a head-scratcher. It would merely promote Japan as a land of impenetrable exotica (which is the wont of this generation of Japan specialists anyway, IMO), instead of as a land of quirks working under a mostly rational system. It takes a lot of experiences before people see the rationality. I’m sure Seidensticker himself saw it too, but he really doesn’t communicate that at all well. Too much reliance on novelists (with largely boring or uncontexted excerpts from their writings) as primary sources of information as well.

This is one of the reasons I refused to read “specialist” books on Japan for so long, until I had built up my own set of experiences from which to get the hang of this place. Now that I have gotten the hang, I find it amazing how so many books on Japan are written by those who don’t have the hang, or can’t communicate that they do.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

and finally…

9) ACTIVIST REBECCA WALKER ON THE “IDENTITY POLICE”

Friend Michael Fox sent me this article from Heeb Magazine, Issue 13 (http://www.heebmagazine.com/): An interview with Writer/Activist Rebecca Walker. Now, while the focus may be on how one person grew up straddling two cultures within the same country (Black and Jewish), the points she makes about having a healthy attitude towards people who would try to police her identity (and towards activism in general) merit mention. Bonus points for showing us the merits of growing up under joint custody after divorce, something Japan’s divorce laws will not allow, much to the detriment of the children. Great feedback from a person well-adjusted to diversity and adversity:

=============== EXCERPT BEGINS ===================
Q: You are, like both of your parents, a writer and an activist. What do you think is different about being an activist today as compared with the turbulent ’60s and ’70s?

A: Being an activist today means understanding the limitations of the political system and making smart decisions about how you use your finite energy to make not just the world, but your home and even your synagogue, a better place. Our political leaders are not necessarily evolved as human beings, so we can’t expect them to lead us into a world they can’t envision…

Q: How do you think about your identity now?

A: People are constantly trying to tell me I’m not really Jewish. I didn’t go to Hebrew school, my mother’s not Jewish. I wasn’t Bat Mitzvahed and I’m Buddhist. I used to roll out a complete discussion about being culturally rather than spiritually Jewish–like a whole lot of American Jews my age–but these days, I just don’t care to expend a lot of energy proving I belong somewhere. If you get it, cool. If not, go police someone else’s identity… You have to let go of people who can’t love you or who are ambivalent about loving you because of who you represent racially or culturally, even if they are your family members. The risk of letting them in is self-doubt and lifelong confusion about whether or not you deserve happiness.
=============== EXCERPT ENDS ====================
Rest at http://www.debito.org/?p=558

Very insightful. More kids in Japan with differences and diversity should read this and gain some confidence in themselves.

All for today. Thanks for reading!
Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan
debito@debito.org, http://www.debito.org
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER 16, 2007 ENDS

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>