The past month or two has – whether I want it to or not – been a time for stepping back and reflecting on things. Primarily: why am I doing the things I’m doing in my life? What do they accomplish for me? With that introspection comes a lot of other kinds of introspection as well, and one cause for introspection is this: what makes me uncomfortable with the Japanese culture?
Because, I’m not gonna lie, I’m really freakin’ uncomfortable with it.
After some thought, I think it comes down to this: their culture is far more group oriented than mine. One might think that was a positive – and it does have a lot of good things to say for it – but it has one, huge, honking, glaring thing that makes me not really want to explore their culture firsthand.
See, in my culture, people are very self-actualized. In practice, what this means is, people are empowered to be jerks, but they are also empowered to be really nice, too – even if that goes directly opposite of where society (or authority) wants to go. Groupthink is a factor, but as a culture, we are empowered to be able to easily pull ourselves out of it if necessary. So, in my culture, if one sees an injustice, one feels a reasonable safety in stepping up and correct it.
True, we get the question of “what is an injustice” wrong more often than not, but that’s not the point. The point is that I feel like there are people in my culture that I can trust to do the right thing, just as I know that there are people in my culture that I can trust to do exactly the wrong thing.
I don’t feel that kind of safety in the Japanese culture. Yes, they can be very nice, gracious, and polite people, but they don’t or can’t often question the things in their culture which are questionable or dangerous. So I fear that if I were to go to Japan, that I would not be able to rely on people to help if I needed it. For example, if I were to have a medical emergency of some kind. The groupthink would be too strong, and I”m a scary gaijin.
Is this fair? Truthfully, I don’t know. It may be, or it may not be. The point is not whether it is fair, or even whether it’s correct. It’s how I feel. I’ve heard many scary stories about how Japanese people can just kind of ghost you if you step out of line, or worse. I’ve heard scary stories of their hostage justice system. I just don’t feel safe in their culture.
That may surprise some of you. How could you feel safe in Texas, you might say? You have guns and trucks and and and… and I say, that doesn’t make me feel unsafe at all. Those who legally have guns can almost to a one (almost) be trusted to do the right thing. But can those who have been brought up with extreme societal pressure to defer to authority – in whatever form – be trusted to do the same?
I… don’t know. And the fact that I don’t know is enough.
That is most of the source of my discomfort.
Feel free to tell me how wrong I am. *Shrug*. You might even be right. But introspection doesn’t often care about correctness. It is about identifying what is and then figuring out where to go from there.