Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Fascism by Consensus

It is well-known that in Japan, there seems to be an ingrained tendency in society to put the squeeze on people. As someone who has lived here for 14 years now, this blog finally gives me the chance to vent about it. It is not going to be the last time either. I think I will have to keep writing about it and writing about it till I get it right.

If this squeeze was merely a case of the rich oppressing the poor, or the strong oppressing the weak, well, I could intellectually deal with it. It has been the central ebb and flow of Western culture for the past few centuries right now. Colonialism, independence struggles, communism, fascism, wars both cold and hot, politics, philosophy, art, sex, the workplace, relationships, you name it. The struggle between the powerful and the powerless - not to mention struggling to know in which camp you stand from situation to situation - is part of our very life force.

Japan is unique in that it is the common people who are oppressive. It is not the politicians or the greedy corporation. It is the average working person or the average housewife.

You do not hear people talk much about oppression. Instead, typical conversation centers more on clamping down on he who is causing a nuisance. Nuisance is not what we think it is. What we may see as a small transgression or inconvenience is often viewed as a major disturbance.

Some examples: A foreigner in an apartment building puts out his garbage on the wrong day, a male office worker goes home early because his kid has a cold (“Is his wife incompetent?”, they whisper behind his back), a female office worker presses for greater accountability from her managers, a flamboyant wealthy young entrepreneur tries to buy a majority stake in a moribund but famous media company…

Nuisances all. But no worries, the average middle-class paragons of mediocrity who make up the vast majority of this country will put these people in their place, and good!

I hate to use this old saw but nothing describes my current sentiment better – in Japan the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.


Seppo said...

I think your analogy is good, in terms of evoking the proper sense of conformity and oppression, but it misses on one issue - that it's not the nail that sticks *up* that gets hammered - that is, it's not the nail that's not set *properly* - it's the nail that's set *differently*. So you might have a series of totally bent, crooked, fucked-up nails, and one straight one - that straight one will get mangled into conformity, even though it was actually the one that was properly functioning. :P

Arka Roy said...

Yes, that is more like it. The one that is "different" is seen as the problem, even if it is mediocre.