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Hi Blog. There is a person out there (one of many, no doubt) who takes a dim view of what we do here at Debito.org. To the point of saying things in a published column we did not say. Have a read of this. Comment from me follows.
EFL News, October 29, 2010
A candid look at EFL life and lessons from a university teacher’s perspective.
By Mike Guest, Miyazaki University
An “interview” with controversial human rights activist Orudo Debiru
Categories: Amusement/Fiction foreigners in Japan
Today- a Uni-files interview with the controversial activist and newspaper columnist Orudo Debiru
(For those who don’t know, Orudo Debiru is a naturalized Japanese citizen, originally from the U.S. His main claim to fame is his activism for human rights, especially the rights of non-Japanese in Japan. He is also wholly fictional and if he happens to resemble some actual person from say, Hokkaido, that’s because you, dear reader, made an unwarranted connection. Today he joins us with one of his most ardent, and equally fictional, supporters- Jay Newbie).
Uni-files: Debiru, in a recent newspaper article you argued that even non-Japanese living outside Japan, including those who have never set foot in Japan, should have the right to vote in Japanese elections. You also argued that they should be eligible for all the public and social services offered by the Japanese government, including pensions and welfare benefits. This seems to be a bit radical don’t you think?
Debiru: No. Otherwise you’re discriminating between Japanese people and non-residents. Why should only Japanese have access to the benefits of ‘Team Japan’?
Newbie: Japan owes something to the world. It can’t just always be take, take, take. Japan has to give in return.
Debiru: Japan is the only ‘developed’ county that doesn’t provide the vote for it’s non-citizens who live elsewhere.
Uni-files: Really? No country in the EU does that, nor do Canada, U.S., or Australia.
Debiru: What other countries do is irrelevant! What’s right is right! Are you saying that it is right for Japan to be discriminatory?
Uni-files: Debiru, you and your supporters often mention that some attitudes, policies, or states of affairs occur ‘only in Japan’ among developed countries. It seems that you buy into notions of Japanese uniqueness or exclusivity. Do you?
Debiru: Not at all! The notion of Japanese uniqueness is a nationalist myth!
Newbie: Of all developed countries, only the Japanese think of themselves as being unique. It seems to be part of the Japanese mentality. They believe whatever the government tells them. You won’t find this type of belief in Western countries anymore, only in Japan.
Uni-files: Ok. Let’s move on. You’ve also blogged about “how the Japanese authorities plan to incarcerate all foreign residents as a precaution against the foreign criminals”. I haven’t come across any such policy statements. Can you ground this?
Debiru: Well, I was scouring the internet looking for anything that might prove my preconceptions about the ulterior motives of the Japanese authorities when I came across another blogger who talked about how his upholsterer in Inaka Prefecture thought he had overheard a conversation at a vegetable stand about the local district council becoming more vigilant about registering foreigners for social services and helping them with securing housing. And I can substantiate it too- with a link to the blog. Anyway, to me, being told to ‘stay in your house’ in this manner is equivalent to incarceration. And the registration is clearly a way of rounding up the foreigners- just like a crminal [sic] dragnet.
Newbie: In any civilized country this would cause mass rioting in the streets. But because the Japanese are such compliant sheep, not to mention the blatant racism here, no one will stand up for us. The Japanese just pretend that foreigners don’t exist. They stare at us like we’re from another planet.
Uni-files: That must be tough for them to do, both ignoring your existence and staring at you at the same time!
Debiru: This is just the start of the whole racist process. Next thing you know, your pension is declared null and void and your ‘ha-fu’ kids are kicked out of school for not being Japanese enough.
Newbie: Wow, Debiru. That was your best answer yet!
Uni-files: Let me ask about these racism charges a bit. For example, I know that you oppose the fingerprinting of non-Japanese at airports but can this really be called racist? After all, it is based upon citizenship, right? For example, Debiru, you are racially Caucasian but, as a Japanese citizen, you don’t have to be fingerprinted. And someone who is racially ‘Japanese’- although Japanese isn’t even a racial category- but doesn’t hold a Japanese passport still has to be fingerprinted. So while it may be other things, how can you say it is ‘racist’?
Debiru: Don’t feed the troll, Newbie. Don’t feed the troll.
Uni-files: Ok, nect [sic] question. Regarding a specific recent blog entry of yours… You recently criticized the city of Sonzainashi for exploiting non-Japanese. Apparently, the city authorities had developed a ‘Welcome Foreign Guests’ plan in which selected hotels, hot springs, eateries, bars and so on offered English information and services and had started a promotional campaign that actively encouraged non-Japanese to visit. So, what was the thrust of your criticism?
Debiru: When they carry out this facile, deceitful put-on for non-Japanese they’re only doing it because they want their business. “Let’s take the foreigner’s money away from them” is the real motivation. ‘Yohkoso Japan!’- Yeah, right!
Newbie: I consider it a form of robbery; another way of victimizing us, the weakest members of this society.
Uni-files: You guys seem to be very negative about anything to do with Japan, even when Japan scores an apparent success.
Newbie: That’s because Japan places everyone into an us and them paradigm. They do it all the time. They have institutionalized the formula. They use it to justify oppressive policies. We would never do that in the U.S. We have laws that forbid it and an education system that teaches us not to do so.
Uni－files：So, given that Debiru is Japanese, would you put him among that number?
Newbie: Well, I mean, he’s not really a Japanese in the same way they are. (Debiru stares at Newbie). Well I mean, like, he’s not exactly Japanese like them. So to speak. He’s a different Japanese from all the other Japanese. (Debiru continues staring at him). Well, of course he’s just the same as them in that he’s a Japanese citizen. But Debiru is more…ummm… progressive. (Debiru smiles).
Uni-files: OK. Back to the point. Wouldn’t you at least agree that public order and efficiency here is quite excellent?
Debiru: Japanese public order is maintained by coercion and implicit threat. It’s fifty years behind most other countries in this regard.
Uni-files: OK. How about robotics? Or even toilet technology?
Newbie: Robotics here is 36 years behind every other country in the world. And Japan is 23 years behind as far as toilets go.
Uni-files: On what basis can you make such bold claims?
Newbie: Three months ago in the U.S., before I came to Japan, I visited another state for the first time. And their toilets were better than here. Not as xenophobic.
Uni-files: Ok. How about manga and animation? Surely Japan’s ranking in these…
Newbie: You sound like a Japan apologist, acting as if racism never occurs here. Like nothing ever happened in Nanjing!
Debiru: Speaking of which, China has overtaken Japan as the world’s #2 power so Japan can’t possibly be leaders in those fields and therefore must be on the decline in all catgories.[sic] And it is this frustration at being a washed up, has-been society that it causing Japanese to lash out at foreigners.
Uni-files: Really? How so?
Debiru: It happens all the time. Read my blog.
Uni-files: I don’t doubt that there are individual cases but I don’t see it as systemic.
Debiru: If it isn’t systemic, why would I have so many blog posts? That’s all the proof you need! Anyway, just on our way over to this interview the taxi driver spat at us, called us ‘Dirty foreigners’ and told us to ‘Get out!”.
Uni-files: Wow! In twenty years in Japan I have never even come close to experiencing anything remotely like that. Can you elaborate? He spat at you?!
Debiru: Well, he was making disgusting sucking sounds with his teeth so that you could hear the saliva washing around. To me that’s spitting.
Uni-files: I wouldn’t call that spitting…
Debiru: Stay on topic! The point is he would never have done that if the passenger was visibly Japanese.
Uni-files: I see. And he called you a ‘dirty foreigner’?
Debiru: Well he called us “gaikokujin no kata”.
Uni-files: But that’s a very polite way of just saying ‘foreigner’! Where’s the ‘dirty’ part?
Newbie: Well we already know that the Japanese are racist and xenophobic so we can safely assume what he must have been thinking.
Uni-files: And the ‘Get out!’ part?
Newbie: He asked us where we wanted to “get out”. (awkward silence). It’s semantics.
Debiru: Not only that but I am not a foreigner. I’m a Japanese citizen. (starts sniffling) I was… racially profiled!
Newbie: (patting Debiru’s slumping shoulders) There, there. Now you are a racial profiling survivor!
Debiru (brightening up): If Japan had an anti-discrimination law with any teeth he’d have his ass hauled off to jail.
Newbie: Exactly. And you know what, you’ll never see the weak-kneed Japanese media or the history textbooks pick up on stories like this either. They don’t want to hear about these high-octane truths.
Debiru: This is precisely why we need laws against racism, xenophobia, being opposed to immigration, questioning multiculturalism, and other wrong and hateful thoughts.
Uni-files: So you’re in favor of more state authority and policing over what people think?
Debiru: Are you kidding? The police and judiciary here are totally inept and corrupt. They should stay out of people’s lives… ummm…except for the lives of those people who hold unhealthy views.
Uni-files: One more thing about this case. You say that you were racially profiled because the taxi driver believed that you were a foreigner, which by the way, is a mistake that most non-Japanese would probably make as well. But how do you know that the driver was in fact Japanese. Couldn’t he have been ethnically Korean or Chinese? In other words, didn’t you profile him equally?
Debiru: (closes his eyes) Don’t feed the troll, don’t feed the troll.
Uni-files: Ok. Last question. I’m wondering how you chose your Japanese name.
Debiru: It’s the closest phonetic approximation to my previous name. In fact, I asked to have a different, more suitable name first but was refused by the [iyami deleted] Japanese authorities.
Uni-files: And what name was that?
Debiru: Martin Luther King.
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Author’s Profile at ELT News
Mike Guest is Associate Professor of English in the School of Medicine at the University of Miyazaki. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, he has been living, working, and researching in Japan (not to mention lounging in the professors-jacuzzi and taking lengthy, fully-funded research trips to 5-star beach resorts in Bora-Bora) for almost twenty years.
COMMENT: What a card. Well, for those unfamiliar with Mr Guest, he is a columnist at ELT News and the Daily Yomiuri (I even wrote about one of his DY columns here at Debito.org, favorably). However, what inspired a column of this caliber and tone in the ELT News (under the heading of “a candid look at EFL life and lessons from a university teacher’s perspective”) is a bit beyond me. Its fallacious attributions (these statements are not quotes from me; if Mr Guest had critiqued actual quotes — and lordy knows there are years of my words online he could have referred to — that would have been better, no? Better yet, why not just interview me?), the presumption that people who support or comment at Debito.org must be malinformed Newbies, the general mean-spiritedness of it all, et cetera — are quite unbecoming for a person aiming to be a respected opinionist by taking puerile pot-shots at people on professional educational fora.
Especially in the Comments section where, amongst other obnoxious ripostes, he had this to say:
Alright, since Mr Guest decided to compare academic credentials, I decided to research his. Here’s what I found at his university website, where he has a one-year contract as an English teacher:
This looks okay, until you do some research. Aston University is a distance learning school in Birmingham UK that does indeed offer his degree (probably this one here). Fine.
However, Regent College is NOT the University of British Columbia, one of Canada’s top universities. Regent College is a Christian Studies school next door to UBC. As was confirmed with Regent College the other day:
Subject: RE: Degree
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 2010
From: Regent College Admissions
Thanks for your email. Regent College is a completely separate institution from UBC. We have some partnerships/affiliations with UBC, but a degree awarded from Regent College is solely from Regent and unrelated to UBC entirely. [emphasis added]
I hope this helps – please don’t hesitate to ask if you have further questions! If you are interested in receiving information about our MDiv degree, I’d be happy to send you our MDiv materials.
Amy Petroelje, Inquiries and Housing Coordinator
5800 University Blvd Vancouver, BC V6T 2E4
phone 604.224.3245 toll.free 800.663.8664 fax 604.224.3097
So when I asked Mr Guest about his qualifications last week after his presentation at JALT Nagoya, here’s what he claimed:
SOUND FILE: mikeguestUBC112010
Reconfirmed. No possible misunderstanding about (putting UBC in parentheses) on his school katagaki. He says UBC only, no mention of Regent College. He has misrepresented his educational background.
Now, some might say that this might just be a form of shorthand, for an audience that might not know what Regent College is — as Mr Guest argued shortly afterwards:
SOUND FILE: doctorguest112010
but as even his alma mater acknowledges, a degree from Regent College is not a degree from UBC. It’s like saying somebody who graduated from Ithaca College, or Cornell College for that matter, graduated from Cornell University. Not an ethical thing for an educational professional to do, especially when he wishes to establish himself as a credible critiquer of educational matters.
So if Mr Guest wants to scrutinize others, I hope he will accept the same public scrutiny. Sadly, I’m not sure he will. The following, written shortly after our first meeting at JALT Nagoya on a site called “Tepido.org” (an interesting choice of venue; it’s a website devoted *solely* to trashing me personally and people who contribute to Debito.org, run by blogger Mr Ken Yasumoto-Nicolson and toy store employee Mr Lance Braman), indicates that Mr Guest’s antagonism, dismissiveness, defensiveness, and blame-shifting continue unabated:
Mike Guest Says:
November 21st, 2010 at 7:51 am
It’s funny that this discussion about credentials should come up here now. Yesterday, Debito attended my presentation at the JALT Conference in Nagoya and confronted me afterwards. I wasn’t really surprised. First, during the Q and A session, he asked what my credentials were. A left-field question to be sure and I knew that he was up to something. Later he came to the front as I was packing up, with a bit of a manic gleam in his eye, a voice recorder in his hand, looking like an intrepid young reporter who’s ‘gonna take yer ass downtown’, and began a prepared spiel, trying very hard to be intimidating (but looking me to me a bit more like a caricature).
He said (among other things) that I was a fraud because I had misrepresented my academic credentials (I imagine this will be up on his site soon if not already). For the record, the crux was this: I have a BA from Simon Fraser Univ. (Canada) in Philosophy, an MSc in Applied Linguistics from Aston U. (U.K.) and a Masters in Theology from the graduate theological seminary on the UBC campus, Regent College. Regent issues its own independent degrees because of its religious affiliation, despite sharing the UBC campus and facilities, some teaching staff, plus several credits and classes (many of which I took for classical languages and linguistics). I also did an ESL teaching certificate course at UBC but whatever….
Anyway, when I mentioned a ‘Master’s from UBC’ in answer to his credentials question, Debito reacted like he had just found a photo of me in a compromising situation with a goat, thererafter harping upon my misrepresenting myself as having graduated from UBC.
Of course, way back when the personnel at my current university wanted to know my academic background I naturally went into detail about the relationship between Regent (the theological seminary) and UBC. Why hide anything? But when some guy asks you this from a crowd at an ESL presentation you’re not going to go into great detail. People don’t know what the theological school at UBC’s name is. It’s like if someone abroad asks where you live in Japan- you live in Chiba but you work in Tokyo. So you say Tokyo. No one expects the interlocutor to start suddenly playing prosecutor.
Debito also added that “we” (who?) had contacted Regent in Canada to find out about its relation to UBC and had also checked out my U of Miyazaki database in advance. So this underscores what I wrote in my parody, about his habit of scouring about in search of ways to find any potential striking point in any perceived adversary and then blowing the results out of proportion as if this credentials quibble constituted a weighty riposte to my earlier criticisms of him.
The upshot of this seems to be that Debito took umbrage at a comment I made here on Tepido about us having the same credentials. My comment had been in response to someone on his site saying that Mike Guest is in an isolated university bubble (or words to that effect), arguing that if someone wants to devalue my opinion based upon the claim of being an out-of-touch egghead, the same must apply to Debito. Instead, Debito seemed to take this as an invitation to an academic pissing match, and when confronting me in Nagoya, duly informed of his Ivy League school pedigree, which apparently trumps all: “So, we don’t have the same credentials do we, Mike?”
Well, I guess that’s true in a sense. For example I have two masters degrees whereas… oh, wait a second. None of this has any bearing on the validity or non-validity of my original criticisms of Debito does it? It’s just a sad attempt at rank pulling- arguing from assumed authority. I don’t know where Regent ranks in terms of thological seminaries, but even if my education was limited to Uncle Peter showing me how to bait a hook, my criticisms of Debito remain. Fishing for quibbles in how I answer an awkward question on-the-spot from the audience at an ESL presentation is rather pathetic But you know he’s going to do stuff like this.
I tried to talk with him after this, seeing if he might pull out of Debito mode but what followed was basically stonewalling on his behalf (plus a few choice words aimed in my direction) and eventually I gave up. I just look at it this way- it’s Debito being Debito. I expected a reaction from him at some point- after all, I took a shot at him and he’s trying to take one back- but the fact is that I just lose interest in these kind of one-dimensional people. I’ve already spent too much time writing about him…
(NB: I might add that Mr Guest suggested I “switch to decaf” during those four allegedly unantagonistic and disinterested attempts to talk with me. Again, what a card.)
Clearly, Mr Guest doesn’t seem to understand the gravity of what he’s done. I have no truck with someone’s right to hold opinions about someone and express them in public. But there are limits, of course — as in, are those opinions accurate? If not, there should be scrutiny to make those inaccuracies clear. However, it’s hard to scrutinize someone hiding behind “parody” to claim somebody said something he never said (it absolves Mr Guest of the responsibility of providing evidence or doing verifiable research). Makes one question the professionality of the ELT editors, who should be offering better safeguards to preserve the integrity of their forum.
However, scrutinizing someone’s alleged professional background is much simpler. You don’t say you graduated from a place you did not graduate from and expect to be treated as an honest professional.
And you don’t pick on people like this (misrepresentation of the record is definitely a pattern in Mr Guest’s world) without expecting some scrutiny yourself. Now face the scrutiny. Like an adult.
That’s why I decided to go ahead with this expose on Debito.org. People can make their own decisions about what kind of future relationship they wish to maintain with Mr Guest as a columnist, scholar, and professional. Arudou Debito
UPDATE NOVEMBER 27
The deceptions continue. Mr Guest writes:
“Regent is a Theology School located on the UBC Endowment Lands. Many facilities are shared. If you want to do a Master’s degree in Theology you go to Regent, because UBC can’t offer Theology courses. Several credits I took as part of this Master’s I took at regular UBC classes (mostly linguistics) since some courses are cross-transferable. I also did an EFL teacher training course at UBC.”
“Regardless, if you want to do a Graduate degree in Theology at UBC you have to attend Regent or Vancouver School of Theology. Both are on the campus but are required to issue their own degrees as religious institutions. At both you can take classes and get cross credits from the standard UBC curricula and have full access to all UBC facilities. I used this to take linguistics courses- which were not offered at Regent. I also did a further ESL certification course at UBC.”
COMMENT: Let’s cut through the fog. Nowhere on your degree from Regent College, the one you cite as part of your academic credentials, does it say “University of British Columbia”. They are not the same institution. Claiming UBC on your employer’s website and at JALT, and insinuating as such online, does not change that.