Silly Grins

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Japan: The Small Print

i never bothered to read the small print before coming here. but something seemed mighty odd. all the wincing smiles, the bowing, and the tweaked stress levels. 

there was something more than just a few Polite Lies being told. no, this isn't about that book, but the comments are worth a read. if you've got a moment to skim, you'll probably see why. 

Some Japanese and japanophile readers could be offended by the revelations about Japanese culture. -MoTisch

oh yeah, there was compassion, but that seemed to happen on very rare occasions and usually between the elder and the young, between the innocent and the retired, the newly arrived and the soon to be departed.

what was skewed? something was funny...

in one of those what's-it-like-to-live-in-japan conversations, it happened:

“Oh, you’ve just described something that sounds remarkably familiar.”

“What? Excuse me?”

“Read this book…it might help you in at least understanding what you see. Try out this lens. Here...”

“Thank you.”

so began the journey. the well-worn book. couldn’t put it down. and had to mark the pages that whacked me across the face. by the time it was finished, an ego had suffered a thoroughly refreshing beating.

when i first started asking people questions about this place, having a straight conversation was extremely difficult. the locals i was surrounded by were more focused on praising my chopstick abilities while in some kind of silent agreement with each other, an entire town maybe, an agreement that they don’t talk about the invisible high school, just like that junior high, the one with all the problems.

“Like the drunk, the Addictive System is fundamentally dishonest; it is just more subtle about it.” (50)

yeah, subtle or polite, but not always...

Here’s a set of three… Levels of Lying: to ourselves, to others, and to the world. (51)

while reading this next part, it was too easy to replace family with country and community with world.

“Often, the alcoholic family is perceived as on of the most stable and upstanding in the community. They put on a good front even though chaos reigns at home. Meanwhile, family members are expected to support the lie they live. They get confused and crazy and gradually come to distrust their own perceptions. They lose their ability to distinguish between truth and lying, and the potential for honesty becomes even more remote.” (51)

and about that tatemae facade, yeah, there’s something there too that rings a bell.

“Asking a question when one does not want to know the answer is dishonest.”(56)

at one point, i had to put the book down and ask myself. is this just a case of my seeing patterns in the noise, making connections where there are none? apophenia? damn, so it does have a name after all.

Distorting reality requires that we deny our own experience, the messages our bodies send us, and our inner selves. Our behavior gets progressively crazier, but we think we are behaving more logically and rationally.” (63)

okay, so the denial thing, that i can relate to. and i do think that i have witnessed some crazy behavior. no, not in the stark-raving-mad kind of way…a little more subtle, sometimes just

feeling confused? me too.

The Role of Confusion”

“Confusion…plays an important role within [the] system. First, it keeps us powerless and controllable. No one is more controllable than a confused person; no society is more controllable than a confused society. Second, it keeps us ignorant…Third, it keeps us from taking responsibility for our own lives…Fourth, it keeps us busy.” (65)

and so it goes.

yeah, not only do we got us some confusion here, we got some denial to go along with it.

“Denial allows us to avoid coming to terms with what is really going on inside us and in front of our eyes…When we refuse to see what we see and know what we know, we participate in a dishonest system and help to perpetuate it.” (67)

dropping down through perfectionism, effortlessly falling through forgetfulness, slamming through dependency…and not even halfway down that hole…

“As long as we refuse to see what we see and know what we know, we can accept the system and actively support it. When we lower our defenses and start trusting our own perceptions, we become a threat.” (81)

nothing to fear but fear itself...temperature's starting to drop now

well...after having dealt with isolation that comes with trying to have a simple conversation, a simple dialogue maybe, about what i thought i saw, the day has finally arrived. 

only a few years ago, i would have been seriously confused if someone told me that technology is not really welcome in japan. 

so, back to the opening statement. no, i never read the small print before coming here. probably because of all the beautiful and oh so subtle lies that were being spread.  

 All quotes provided with page number are from When Society Becomes an Addict, by Anne Wilson Schaef. 


  1. Oh man.... most of the Japanophiles are the reason i created my blog. Back when JapanSoc and shit gathering holes like it existed there was about 1 acceptable image of Japan and that was that everything is just fucking most places it's not....and unlike most places it's terribly terribly fucked up in some ways and blind allegiance to wishfull myths keep it that way.

  2. Chris: The myth-machine seems to be plugging along, but I do sense that over time that will change. In part, it's may already be happening due to the communication technology allows for (so far).

    Once in a while, I do get a blip on the screen in terms of what is going on here that isn't always advertised in bright neon. I'll be doing what I can to work that into the posts. Some of it is cool and some of it...some of it I'm still trying to get my mind around. I don't want to believe it, but I'd be a fool not to.

    With regard to Japanophiles... I may have learned the hard way that they are not entirely harmless. It's not that I've ever gone looking for fights, but I'm not about to drop my light and keep it from shining on truth.

    And thanks again.


  3. I think the hardest thing for me is to see the brainwashing happening from the earliest ages. You can hear it in the insincere ways parents and teachers explain things to kids or see it on the signs put up everywhere to remind people to be safe, healthy, etc... Constant programming, constant maintenance and upkeep.

  4. Billy: There's a lot of stuff that seems almost impossible to ignore... the constant see this kind of thing as requiring constant attention... people just kind of shut down and go into drone mode, at least during the daylight hours.

    An acquaintance of mine related a story of how he'd met up with a buddy he hadn't seen for a while. The guy was married to a stereotypical brand conscious housewife who lived through their kid. The buddy was so stressed from work, he had to hook himself up to a CPAP (one of those respirator-looking mask things) just to get a decent night's sleep. Oh...and that was somehow considered par for the course for the city dweller. Constant attention...constant programming.

    I started to sort of wake up this last spring after a few years of thinking that aiming for a seven-day workweek was somehow okay, something to be proud of.

    That fact that it is hard for you too see this kind of stuff is a good sign.

    Thank you for stopping by.

  5. It's a delusion, or maybe illusion, that shrouds the whole world, not just Japan. The west is just as affected. The lies are different ones but the result is the same -- who nations of lunatics, who think up is down and the sky is mustard yellow.

    This is why I think more people should travel, because it's difficult to see through your own brainwashing. Easier to identify it when it's being done to someone else.

  6. Verity: Yeah... kind of amazing how well what Schaef labels as the 'white male system' or 'the Addictive system' seems to describe what seems to be going on over here.

    I'm just starting to recognize yet another level of the cultural brainwashing I've gone through... and it has me feeling a little odd because I can almost put my finger on it.

    Mirrors still are not something I am comfortable around.

    More people should travel...

  7. My hubs is what I would call a japanophile... when we first met he was really excited at the idea that I would like to visit Japan sometime. But his excitement turned sour when I didn't hop on the kawaii blinders mentality. I think I have helped his view as I like to learn about the goings on not just what comes from Japan. Sure I love manga and anime.... but it doesn't mean I am going to blindly love Japan. That's just asinine... Japanese are human: they rape, kill, lie, cheat and steal like the rest of us.

    "No one is more controllable than a confused person; no society is more controllable than a confused society." - I recently watched Zeitgeist and it was quite thought provoking in terms of the US as a whole. How we are kept in constant fright of the big bad terrorists to keep up confused, scared and ultimately controllable. I am so glad I take my head out of the sand to get a breath of fresh air from time to time.

    1. One of the levels of dishonesty that emanates particularly loud from this addictive system over here is that of the lying to the world... or the refusal to let go of Japan's version of the Great Man theory.

      Running around confused, scared, and in an agitated state that lends to controllability... it ain't for me. Takes a lot of work though.

      Here's to keeping heads out of the sand and breathing all that fresh air while we still can.

      Thank you.