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    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on June 8th, 2011

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    The Japan Times Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    (I just love this cartoon… had to include it, sorry JT:)

    News photo
    CHRIS MCKENZIE ILLUSTRATION

    justbecauseicon.jpg

    ‘English-speaking diaspora’ should unite, not backbite

    By DEBITO ARUDOU

    There has been an ill wind blowing around Japan, and I don’t just mean the fallout after Fukushima. I’m talking about the nasty attitude non-Japanese (NJ) residents have towards each other, even in this time of crisis.

    One would think that difficult times would occasion people pulling together to help. There has of course been plenty of that, but on balance there has also been, as I wrote last month, a particularly unhelpful tendency to bash and badmouth NJ as cowards and deserters (as neatly demonstrated by the new word “flyjin”).

    But this is a mere complement to the perpetually uncooperative nature of many NJ in Japan, particularly in the English-speaking community. Despite its size and stature in this society, this community has not yet fostered a comprehensive interest group to look out for the civil or political rights of NJ.

    Not for lack of trying. I personally have led or been part of several groups (e.g., UMJ, The Community, Kunibengodan, FRANCA), but none garnered enough support to be an effective lobbying force. I’ll take my share of the blame for that (I am more an organizer of information than of people), but my efforts did not stop other people from organizing separately. Yet 20 years after a groundswell in the NJ population, and despite the unprecedented degree of connectivity made possible by the Internet, minority interest groups and antidefamation leagues for the English-language community have been lackluster or lacking.

    Contrast this with the efforts of other ethnic or language groups in Japan. The Zainichi Koreans alone have three different organizations, which over the past 60 years have wrung political concessions from the Japanese government. The Chinese too have powerful information networks, not to mention a neighboring economic hegemon often speaking on their behalf. Even the Nikkei South Americans have their own newspapers, grass-roots schools and local human rights associations.

    It’s an important question: Why are some minorities in Japan less able to organize than others?

    Let’s focus on the English-language community, since this very forum is part of it.

    It might be a numbers or a longevity issue, since English-speaking residents might arguably seem to be comparatively few or staying a shorter time. But the Nikkei South Americans, for example, are relative newcomers (only two decades here), yet they’ve been powerful enough to get local governments to lobby on their behalf (starting with the Hamamatsu Sengen of 2001). Besides, given Japan’s historical “wannabe” relationship with the West, Japan pays attention to nobody else like it does the United States (when the Americans actually bother to get bossy about business or military bases).

    Instead, it might be a class-consciousness thing, as in people not used to being linked by an economic or occupational union. But plenty of English-speakers are from countries with a history of strong labor unions (including Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia), and therefore shouldn’t need to be convinced of the benefits of group action.

    Or it might be due to the type of work done. Generally, English-speakers are in the white-collar industries (education, finance, IT, etc.) while other immigrant language groups are bluer (Nikkei in major export-oriented industries, Chinese in smaller factories and agriculture, etc.). Being “working class” may make organizing easier.

    But I think there is a significant and overlooked factor at work: The self-awareness of a people as part of an “immigrant class” within a country. In other words, a diaspora.

    By diaspora, I mean a group arising from a large movement of people out of their homeland, as in immigration. My definition goes beyond the original meaning of the Jewish Diaspora (since migration science now talks about a Chinese Diaspora, too). The effect is still the same: In the society where people have settled for generations, people tend to clump together by ethnicity to network with each other, even create miniature versions of their “homelands” overseas.

    Case in point: There are Chinatowns worldwide, not to mention the Little Tokyos, Little Saigons, Little Manilas, etc.

    But where are the Little Londons, Dinky Dublins, Mini Melbournes or Micro Angeles?

    English-speakers don’t seem to clump together anywhere merely because they are in the same language group. I posit it’s because they don’t see themselves as a viable emigrant ethnic minority.

    I co-wrote a chapter in a Japanese book series titled “The Global Disapora” (2009) where I question whether, for example, Americans have difficulty seeing themselves as an ethnicity (since “American” is a legal status, not an ethnic concept). I think Americans, even if abroad semipermanently, also have a hard time seeing themselves as an immigrant community — a diaspora.

    This has political ramifications. When a people lack a sense of affinity with strangers despite potential ascriptive commonalities (be it language, culture or nationality), they are less likely to organize and agitate for their common benefit. In fact, given the cultural sensitivity training that is an intrinsic part of Western educations, it is often seen as distasteful and “culturally imperialistic” to lobby, as it apparently foists one’s value system upon a “host” society. Uncooperativeness is thus hardwired.

    Then, as people cleave into an attitudinal spectrum — with “more Japanese than the Japanese” versus “my way or the highway” on opposite poles — we see fractiousness, infighting, bad-mouthing and self-interested rent-seeking. This only encourages further atomization, disenfranchisement and isolation.

    This is not a criticism of how English-speakers live their lives in Japan. It is, however, an observation about one barrier to their organizing on a macro level, becoming effective lobbyists for improved civil rights and conditions. If the immigrants themselves are convinced they are not immigrants but temporary “guests,” it is no wonder they perpetually remain as such.

    The lack of a self-aware English-speaking diaspora means that their voice will be comparatively less likely to be heard in Japan’s policy-making arenas. Long-term, many people will begin to despair at the lack of interest accrued on their promised stake in Japan, pull up stakes and move on.

    Sadly, in Japan’s case, fellow NJ then pepper them with pejoratives (such as “flyjin”) to add insult to injury. This is a destructive dynamic.

    If people ever want to settle into Japan, they had better accept their role as settlers and help each other settle. Cooperate or be isolated. It’s a conscious choice.

    Debito Arudou’s new novel “In Appropriate” is now on sale (www.debito.org/inappropriate.html) Twitter arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community page of the month. Send comments on this issue and story ideas tocommunity@japantimes.co.jp

    ENDS

    32 Responses to “My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column June 7, 2011: “‘English-speaking diaspora’ should unite, not backbite””

    1. Mark Hunter Says:

      Hey Debito, great article. I really wanted to say that some of the negative letters published in response to the ‘flyjin’ article were truly astounding in their sweeping generalizations about things you never really dwelt on in the first place. The personal attacks on your mental state and how you see things were little more than very odd, childish lashing out. Why can some people just not recognise an injustice when they see one? It must be some kind of coping mechanism. I’m all for disagreeing when facts can be used to rebut an argument, but some of those letters should never have been published. I suppose, however, that they do prove the point of this week’s article. Ironic, eh?

      Don’t let the head-in-the-sand types get you down!

    2. Yokosuka Sailor Says:

      In contrast to the other groups, many English speakers arrive in Japan not driven by the need for employment but as a result of a variety other reasons. Whether academic or work related, they seek a new experience and the opportunity to explore a country and culture which fascinates them. For the most part these are independent journeys seeking individual goals. Consequently, there is a tendency to disassociate oneself from those who they resemble and a gradual metamorphosis into a new persona which attempts to emulate and assume the identity of the new culture. They consider other English speakers as part of a group from which they have evolved. They seek out relationships with Japanese and shun English speaking new comers as unworthy. In their view, they become the “Good Gaijin” and render judgement upon those who do not adhere to their viewpoint.

      – Nicely put.

    3. James Annan Says:

      “But where are the Little Londons, Dinky Dublins, Mini Melbournes or Micro Angeles?”

      You’ve not wandered around the Gaijin Ghetto aka Bluff, Yokohama (Yamate/Motomachi area) then?

      IMO there is little politicking because these people are affluent and privileged. And it’s true that they are generally not “Japanese immigrants”, they just live and work here for a while. Of course there is also a mass of short-term English teachers, but they aren’t here for long enough to get involved anyway, and are probably more interested in partying than social progress…

    4. Michael Says:

      Two non-rhetorical questions:
      1. How many of them moved to Japan because they felt alienated from people in their home communities?
      2. How many of them work for rights of other minorities?

      Someone in the first category may not be comfortable working with other NJs. Someone in the second may consider him or herself as being higher on the totem pole (and in less need of help) than other NJs.

    5. Rodney Says:

      The “bluff” still has a few foriegners up there, kind of a strange place. I wouldnt say its full of foriengers. Its residue from another era when the whole area was US military. Negishi base is pretty much a ghost town, I think it will be reclaimed by the J gov someday. There is a huge park next to the base that was reclaimed, used to be US military land. There is an international school and a handfew of foriengers livng in western style homes. You can see many of them at the starbucks there in motomachi.

    6. Rodney Says:

      Anyhow, great stuff Debito. Its something I have often wondered about as well. Many of us come to Japan with the wide eyed fascination that Japan is a wonderful place, only to experience latter blatant discrimination and feel as if you are a 3rd class citizen. To keep your sanity, it would be nice to have a group to communicate/share with, makes life more bearable thats for sure. Assimilate! or Nihongo hanasu! only makes it worse. You can speak Nihongo pera pera and still never be accepted here.

    7. Michael Weidner Says:

      I do agree with your conclusions in some levels, but I think it’s something more basic than that. I think the reason a lot of English-speaking residents don’t form groups is because they are a large group of people competing for a small number of good jobs. Only the creme of the crop are able to get the well-paying, well-sought-after jobs in this nation of declining foreign positions, whereas in the Zainichi or Chinese are not as worried about job security. The other thing to look at is that many people that join FRANCA and the like have that well-sought-after job security. They don’t have to worry about losing what they have, so they are more able to put themselves on-the-line so to speak, to fight for what they want. I know that conclusions are mostly based on personal experience and my personal feelings as well, but looking at the demographics and some of the other comments on this post, they seem to ring true.
      What do you think?

    8. Kaoru Says:

      I think there are a few important issues that as far as the article is concerned were overlooked or not given significant weight as a factor.

      1) Groups of ethnic Koreans and ethnic Chinese who have formed successful lobbies have predominantly lived here for generations, were educated here, speak Japanese as a first language, and generally know no other home. A great many of the English speakers are not only willing to allow a degree of compromise in their ideals as a way of accepting responsibility for what was a personal lifestyle choice to move here as an adult, but also lack some of the subtleties of the language and social context necessary to convert their discontent into positive change inducing action.

      2) English speakers are not a group in the same way that, say, ethnic Koreans are.

      3) We can say “sure, English speakers that agree on certain things may group together, but why do those who disagree have to be so verbally nasty about it? The ethnic Koreans that disagree with their activists views don’t do that…” I wouldn’t be so sure – many 2nd/3rd generation Koreans are indistinguishable from Japanese in every perceivable way, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all surprised to find some of them expressing their views on sites like 2chan. There’s no way to know of course, just like there’s no way to know that some of the English verbal assaults aren’t coming from native Japanese.

      – Thanks for the feedback. But my article never asserted point #3.

    9. Padraig Says:

      I considered myself as an immigrant to Japan but Japanese society just seems to treat me as a transient oddity. If there were a gaijin ghetto I would definitely consider moving into it.

    10. sorge Says:

      That’s an interesting article; food for thought. My own feeling is that linguistic affinity between English speakers is still not strong enough to sustain a diaspora in that particular sense, as there are too many different expectations over policy, interests and expectations than can be resolved at that level; in my own professional experience,for example, North Americans and Europeans have sharply disagreed about trade union recognition, collective bargaining and anything to do with the ‘s’ word. There is also the fact that many white-collar employees identify themselves as transient and globalized ‘guest-workers’ rather than potential citizens of Japan, and avoid politics accordingly. I also guess that one way to escape the (not wholly undeserved) ‘cultural imperialist’ cringe might be to present one’s linguistic/ethnic identity as contingent to one’s work or neighbourhood commitments, and so get involved with Japanese organisations. Easier said than done, I know, but surely the best long term aim.

    11. Al Says:

      I’m thinking it is mostly a numbers thing. Compare the stats of long term residents and it is clear that there are a tiny number of English speakers compared to Zainichi Koreans etc. I don’t think we should bunch all English -speakers together either. I’m Irish and feel very different from American or Australian for example. So to break it down a little further, I don’t think there have ever been 1000 Irish in Japan at one time (not including the world cup )including short-term and long-term residents so it is quite unlikely that a Little Dublin will appear anytime soon.

    12. Rodney Says:

      Something that always puzzled me was why hasnt a foreign developer, or developers, bought up some land say in Chiba and built some foriegner friendly communities? Western style housing, schools, stores, appliances, etc would be great and probably attract allot of foriegn investment. Everything here is sanctioned, because the Japanese dont want it. You can get some food through the FBC but even that is very limited. Put some distance from any Japanese towns so they would go apeshit and blame foriegners for noise etc., but not to far so they could commute to work

    13. Douglas M. Says:

      Excellent ‘food for thought’ article, Debito. Thanks! I myself have been here…cripes, 15 years! Yet I have never considered myself an immigrant. Why? As you mentioned, there are things like never being really accepted by society and the glass ceiling career-wise.

      I have never gambled all my chips on Japan because it does not seem like a good investment long term. I do not want to spent my next 40 years in a country where I am so strongly labeled by my background and appearance. I do not see myself living here permanently, yet I have no other plan ‘B’. No wonder we are so disenfranchised!

    14. richard Says:

      @ Kaoru, surely the ethnic Koreans do have violent disagreements, its Chosen Soren versus Mindan for a start.

      @ Douglas-its never too late to try and get a better job in a neighbouring Asian country; as someone said on the thread that turned into being about ALT dispatch companies, the situation will only get worse in Japan as standards of living in other East Asian countries continues to rise. Just look at gaijinpot, it even advertises jobs in China and South Korea now.
      At least you d have a vote in the latter.

    15. dude Says:

      Good discussion.
      Many diverse comments. I think ‘Yokosuka Sailor’ summed it up quite well.
      My 2 cents:

      1) The diversity of the English-speaking community in Japan makes it very difficult to agree on group action.
      2) The age and temporary status of many residents means they are not thinking of long term solutions – they are leaving soon anyway.
      3) The vast majority of native English speaking residents in Japan have college degrees. They are more likely to think about academic solutions to a problem, rather than ‘brut force’.
      4) The Brazilians you mentioned were mostly working class, packed together in a tight community. They came to work, not for the culture.
      5) Just looking at how Japanese have done overseas: In Honolulu, the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce was formed many decades after the first wave of Japanese emigrants arrived in Hawaii. The founders were mostly fluent in English, born in Hawaii, and were tired of their “2nd class citizen” status. They helped each other because they knew nobody else would. Still, as the HJCC was forming, they faced the same problems that you mention in your article. While some members wanted to protest loudly against discrimination, others wanted to keep their jobs, and affect change quietly… sound familiar?

      6) The groups you quoted: Chinese and Koreans in Japan – are communities in which both parents were Chinese, or Korean. Thus the children are ‘pure’ foreigners. Nearly 100% of the children of (English speaking) long term residents are half Japanese. This changes the equation. They either identify with Japan enough to not feel like an outsider, or have absorbed enough ‘don’t rock the boat’ Japanese culture from their mothers to affect their approach to problem solving.

      7) The majority of native English speakers in Japan don’t have first hand knowledge of the struggles of minorities in their own countries. They come from ‘enlightened’ college campuses, where everyone is treated equally, and fairly. They reject the tools available to force change.

      Many native English speakers in Japan do not share your sense of injustice. I read a comment on your stalker site, commenting on your ‘zero tolerence’ for “Japanese only” signs. The commentor said “the places that have Japanese only signs are mostly bars with ugly women and expensive booze. I don’t want to go in there anyway.”

      Obviously, this person is missing the point: ALL discrimination is bad. But the kind of anger needed, and the level of energy required to change things may take a while to grow. I have met several older Japanese Americans in Hawaii who are still angry that 60 years ago golf course “X” was whites only – as protest, they still won’t enter. Now THAT is anger.

      I agree with your analysis, that consensus would better serve the English speaking community. But the kind of anger at injustice that you need to harness will take a long while to build. In the meantime, with the majority of foreigners marrying Japanese, producing bi-cultural children, maybe ‘critical mass’ will never be reached? Perhaps the numerous inequities in Japanese society will be addressed/rectified by the Japanese citizen children of the English speakers in need of help.

      To understand how the English speaking community in Japan can make progress, I suggest you look at how similar groups in other countries changed their situation. The situation (of minorities) is often more similar than it initially appears.

      In similar cases in other countries, affecting societal change is a lifelong project. You’ve been in Japan 20 years? Expect it to take a few more decades.

      Food for thought.

      –Good stuff. Thanks for it!

    16. Moses Alucard Says:

      >Something that always puzzled me was why hasnt a foreign developer, or developers, bought up some land say in Chiba and built some foriegner friendly communities?<

      There arent any "foreign developers" in Japan with the funds, connections, and personnel to pull this off. The large scale is out of reach for individual developers, while bigger players simply cant get be bothered and would never be able to overcome the official and administrative obstacles in their way. There is no way that both the public and private sectors would sit back and let it happen– even the zainichis with their above- and under-the-table juice cant do it. This is doubly impressive since foreigners are not legally prevented from owning property in Japan unlike other countries with such legislation.

      – There are of course Gregory Clark’s housing investments in Chiba. But I would just say no to that.

    17. IGOTCHU Says:

      Its interesting Debito that you would say no to Nakadaki (http://nakadaki.com/), why? I thought it was a very courageous investment by Mr. Clark. I’ve often wondered what his original ideas were on such a large piece of land. Although, I cannot speak for him, I have to say, if the land is there and he has the building permits, why not put a fund together and look for foreign investors to develop the property.

    18. Norik Says:

      I read your article, and one thing left unclear (for me).Could you specify what do you mean by “English speakng community”-people from countries where English is spoken as native (US, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, NZ, South Africa), or all NJ living in Japan and speakng English, even as a second language(there are many Koreans, Chinese and Brazilians, who speak English too)?

    19. Joe Says:

      >Something that always puzzled me was why hasnt a foreign developer, or developers, bought up some land say in Chiba and built some foreigner-friendly communities?<

      Sounds like the very definition of a ghetto to me. The cops would have a field day: "What are you doing round this part of Tokyo at this time of night, white boy? Get your ass back to Chiba!"

      or the bar owners: "No, you wouldn't like it in here. There are special bars for your sort over in Chiba, though. Shall I call you a taxi?"

      or the hospitals: "Well yes, you do appear to be bleeding quite severely, but the doctor's busy with Japanese patients. You can be at the special foreigner-friendly Chiba Hospital in half an hour if you hurry. They're used to your kind."

      No thank you.

    20. adam Says:

      Personally, I am not interested in Japan because it’s just like the west; I wouldn’t move into a “little America” if there was one. I think most of the American and Commonwealth foreigners probably have similar thoughts – it isn’t like Japan is a golden city on a hill, so we aren’t going to Japan for money, it’s more because we are interested in some aspect of the culture. Otherwise, why not go somewhere else where the pay is better, or has a more relaxed culture? If I liked America so much, why wouldn’t I stay in America?

      That said, if I were to move to Japan permanently, I would want to be treated like I live here. I think to some extent even many English speaking long term residents are hesitant to put down roots, but after so many years you should admit you live somewhere and demand rights.

    21. Rodney Says:

      I think the nakadaki development is more of a resort, but appeals to foriegners. @joe…I can understand your concerns about a ghetto, but I think your missing the point. Many of us here get alienated or isolated, I for one sometimes go to Okibou or other foriegner enclaves just to clear my mind. Without the right direction, true, a ghetto might develop. It would need to be more like a gaijin economic zone…with all the vendor support like food, accomodations, latter perhaps a school etc. You see something like this on bases or embassy compounds here, but thats all controlled, funded by appropriated funds. This would be different, private sector investment would be more attractive. Most Japanese would shun from such a zone to live in, but perhaps would shop there. US type franchises might consider setting up there as well. There would have to be some distance from any Japanese who might blame the area for trouble.

      – Same arguments might apply to Chinatowns, but we hear few people arguing against the existence of them — especially Chinese residents, what with the benefits they provide both minorities and non-minorities.

    22. Rodney Says:

      Finally-
      I think that minority people across nations suffered for so long because they accepted their fate. Here in Japan, when I see another foriegner, I can often see somebody who is experiencing the same stresses I am going through. We dont approach each other about it, however, because we are part of Japan Inc., not individuals, we stay in our safety zones. There seems to be something taboo about acting “gaijin” We can put up this front at work etc, but I think most of us need a place to show our other side.

    23. Loverilakkuma Says:

      I think the challenge that faces English-speaking community in Japan today mirrors the problem with the state of liberal democracy featuring individual consumption and materialism. In a western society, especially the US, people are losing their citizenship–or a sense of their well-being– due to an overwhelming impact of hyper-consumption culture–Starbucks, I Phones/I-pads, SUVs, YouTube, TV/media, giant shopping malls, etc. In a book titled “Consumed,” Benjamin Barbour, for example, suggests that such trend in materialistic obsession is a serious problem with American democracy because it undermines the civic engagement. Europe also faces the crisis of democracy due to cultural transgression of materialism upon local and national communities. Although Europeans may share a different view from Americans upon global capitalism and free market, they are dealing with a similar democratic challenge today. And, Japan is no exception to such cultural transgression.

      Having said that, there’s no doubt in my mind that English-speaking community in Japan has taken its position as somewhat exceptional or prerogative to particular group of people– similar to bourgeois public sphere in the 19th century Europe. To those who share the materialistic aspects of cultural consumption as usual, it’s quite challenging to reach out to the minorities and other non-Japanese because they are blind to the power of their own sphere(s) that filters out the voices of other non-Japanese. Besides, those within English-speaking community are vulnerable because their view toward social and economic injustice in Japanese society is varied. I wouldn’t be surprised if they become disengaged in the Japanese public just like what America saw in the 1950s and 60s. They have quite a lot of work to do for their citizenship and democratic engagement no matter where they live.

    24. Blackrat Says:

      Rodney (post # 12) wondered why there are no “foreigner friendly” communities built. I feel this would only worsen the situation and make foreign residents ever more isolated. When Japan was opened up by foreign pressure in the 1850s, there was such a situation where foreigners were only allowed to live in designated areas. This endured until 1899 and the end of the “extraterritorial areas.” I don’t think returning to this would be a positive step. In the UK, we have immigrant communities who live in what are effectively ghettos. They isolate themselves from the wider community this way and many speak little or no English even after being resident for decades. Sound familiar?

      It is said they have far higher unemployment and worse health than for the UK as a whole.

    25. Dr. H Says:

      @loverilakkuma…I haven’t read “Consumed” (I will now), but that sounds right up the alley of “The Narcissism Epidemic” by Dr. Jean Twenge and Dr. Keith Campbell. Hyper-consumption, emphasis on the self, lack of community involvement and engagement. Tellingly, in their book they point to this “epidemic” showing up in many other countries. It may be that it’s just a by-product of the technological age.

      From what I’m reading here, most everyone likes having the chance to “take off the mask” that they have to wear to be involved in Japanese society. A “Little London” or “LA town” might be such a place, but I do agree with Blackrat that such a place could lead to more isolation than not. I guess that begs the question though….why is such a “mask” necessary in the first place? Even Japanese themselves have to deal with something similar, right? Public face and private face? Perhaps it’s just more difficult for NJ who haven’t been raised with this cultural concept to deal with.

    26. Rodney Says:

      @blackrat:
      Again, I must disagree. You can see Filipino and Thai community cneters here where they will have a small store/resturant combination with karoke in back (Meguro) and many live nearby. Its a place they can go and be themselves. I think if a forienger friendly housing became more available, you would see these small enclaves grow. Multichannel TV access, shuttle services to the airport, grocery vendor, immmigration lawyers and other services would follow. We already have this in some Filipino communities, but its very limited and scattered. The FBC is another example of a service offered but its way south. The ghettos like Okibou or Isezakicho are old school with bad history and reputation with Japanese. A more intelligent design and approach must be considered.

    27. Rodney Says:

      Also,

      There are many companies that offer products trying to access the Japanese market. Many are blocked, or only offer to U.S. military installations due to the excuse “Japanese wont buy it” If a foriegner friendly community would develope, there would be more of a voice, and demand, for these products. This in turn would expose the Japanese citizentry to more choice and the demand would grow. Look at Costco and Krispy Kreme. Its not that Japanese wont buy it, they have been denied the opportunity to buy it, except through some sanctioned “international store” within a dept store.

    28. Loverilakkuma Says:

      @Dr. H:
      “Consumed” explores into the series of whacky phenomenon driven by a global free market that highlights overproduction of goods and child-centric consumer trends (the infantilization of adults—a.k.a. “Kidult”). The book discusses how the capitalism undermines adult as a citizen through the impact of megachurches, declining voting participation, culture jamming, branding, 24-hour shopper, etc. It’s very fascinating.

      Speaking of decline in civic participation, Dr. Robert Putnam also makes a thought-provoking study through the book titled “Bowling Alone.” It features Americans’ disengagement from traditional activities such as bowling clubs, church communities, PTAs, voting, etc.

      PS: The author’s last name is “Barber”(Benjamin)– NOT “Barbour.” My bad.

      – Please relate comments back to Japan, or at least to this blog post.

    29. Loverilakkuma Says:

      Debito:

      I intended to do but I forgot. Actually, I have a question for you. Regarding a couple of key words I mentioned in my previous posts –”Consumed” and “Bowling Alone”(the book titles by Benjamin Barber and Robert Putnam, respectively), do you see them having some connections or references to Japanese society/democracy or NJ with respect to civic disengagement/disengagement?

      – Don’t know, sorry. Haven’t read them. If you can make an argument that they don’t, I’ll delete comments relating to this thread.

    30. Gwynnie Says:

      Hmm, there are “English pubs”, Irish pubs, Australian bars and American “style” bars dotted around the place, for sure… Hamamatsu has quite a large foreign population, so I suppose your views on this will depend on where you’ve been.

      Here’s what I think… as some people commented, we don’t identify with others just because we’re “English speakers”. We might identify as employees of a certain company or school, and we might identify as “gaijin” but there does seem to be something shameful about only hanging out with other foreigners… I don’t know why, I’ve met some of the most interesting people I know in the expat community. Personally, I feel a sense of connection with them because we share a language, scenario and general cultural values, but there is always the contradictions within those groups between American, British, Australian (etc) ways of saying and doing things. We create sub-groups within our English communities. For example, I’m one of perhaps 5 Welsh people that I know of in Japan.

      I’d say most English speakers come here, originally, to teach English – and most are fresh out of university. There are a lot of wide-eyed Japanophiles who will refuse to find fault with their dreamworld. Some of my friends have commented with things like “if you don’t like the way Japan does things, then leave” and other I’m-so-nihonjin comments that baffle me a little. I do think that a lot of people come here to escape things that they don’t like about their home countries, and that could include a dislike of political ideals or of the people.. so perhaps the last thing they want to do here is act like an invading gaijin force, determined to change Japanese society to be more like the west.

      Those who see what’s really going on here might be more inclined to leave after a couple of years, meaning that you’re left with a few people who care and want to make a change, but also a surplus of the “Wanting rights is soooo gaijin” gang who – for some interesting psychological reason – want to become Japanese, and dread being the nail that sticks out. Those people usually avoid other foreigners like the plague… have you heard of “My Japan” syndrome? Also, I find a lot of people who’ve been here a while develop the honne/tatemae, しょうがない way of thinking.

    31. dwayne2d3d Says:

      I like what you wrote, but my take on it is as followed…..
      Most diaspora migrate due to economic reason, persecution and the likes…
      I do believe that the current groups of Americans,Canadians,Australians and so
      forth do see themselves as guest. They didn’t come to Japan under any negative economic
      constraints and the likes as such they don’t readily seem to see the need for cohesiveness..
      that just my .02cents.
      take care and keep fighting for your cause..

    32. debito Says:

      Here is feedback on the article from the Japan Times HAVE YOUR SAY column:
      http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20110705hs.html

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