Logan Paul: An Apology on Behalf of my People

I’m a bit late to the party on this one, I think the kerfluffle happened before I even started blogging.  But I want to chime in on this anyway, because I think it’s really important for me to.

Logan Paul is (or, maybe, was) a YouTuber who was known for his over-the-top style of videos.  That’s fine.  Logan Paul went to Japan.  That’s fine.

Logan Paul managed to get himself in so much trouble he’ll likely be arrested if he ever sets foot there again.

He took a video in the famous “suicide forest”, found an actual dead body, and treated that with a complete lack of respect.  This is what got him in trouble.  But he did something else that I find a hell of a lot more disrespectful.  He desecrated a Shinto shrine.

I am a Christian.  That means that I believe that Jesus Christ is lord over everything.  Fine.  But I have come to have a great respect for the Shinto belief system, and I think that while they are subservient to Jesus, kami actually may even exist, and I’ve come to respect the respect that Shinto has for nature, balance, and peace.  If I were to go to Japan, I would even consider going to a shrine and following the rules for purification, etc., there.  It’s a matter of respect for the Japanese people, their beliefs, and an ancient belief system that I think very highly of.

And Logan Paul marched in there, threw coins in the water, polluted their harae water, talked loudly and disrespectfully, and basically just pissed everyone off.  I guarantee you any Japanese that were there at that time (and there were quite a few) left with a really bad impression of Americans because of that one…  baka otokonoko.  He probably didn’t even know that a priest probably had to spend a lot of time afterwards purifying the shrine because of how badly he polluted it.

This is not how I want my people and my country to be seen.  Yes, there are a few assholes in my country. I’ve even met a few.  But many of us are decent people who, while maybe being ignorant, generally want to do the right thing.  Some of us even took some time to read about your belief systems and have a great respect for them, even as we may find them mistaken in some ways.  But it may be that someday I go to Japan, and I really don’t want people to look at my thick beard, cowboy hat, white skin, and American accent, and think “oh, great, here comes another one”. And Logan Paul set my people back in that regard incalculably.

So.  To my Japanese friends, especially those I haven’t met yet.  I apologize sincerely.  What he did, how he treated your sacred places, as well as your places of greatest shame and how he just generally comported himself, was utterly inexcusable.  I am unable to make it up to you – frankly, that is his responsibility – but I want to tell you that not all of us are muchina baka no kodomotachi and some of us actually spend a little more thought than desecrating your sacred places for attention.

Anyway, I thought that needed to be said.  I’m done here.  His name will not be spoken here again.  I hope.

Kami

Spiritual content ahead.  I won’t make it a habit, but I want to take this blog where my linguistic and cultural explorations take me, and I found this fascinating.

A few days ago, while I was reading up on Shinto, I learned something very interesting.

See, Japanese nouns have no concept of singular or plural.  It’s something that’s simply not encoded into the language.  I mean, you can use the “tachi” suffix to specify plurality, but in general, when a noun is specified, you don’t know whether it’s singular or plural.  It could be one or the other, or conceivably even both.

That last one may seem nonsensical, except there is one situation where that question is completely germane.

The Japanese word for “God” is “kami”.  “Kami” is a noun.  Nouns are neither singular nor plural.

We in the west (at least we Christians in the west) have a concept called the “trinity” where God is three in one.

This is a concept that would be utterly uncontroversial to the Japanese, at least based upon their linguistic structure.  Kami can be many, or one, or even both, and the word makes no attempt whatsoever to make that dinstinction.

This makes me wonder if part of the struggle we have with the concept of the trinity in the west is that we have one word, “God”, and it can only be singular.  If you attempt to add a plural aspect to it, it becomes “Gods”, and the idea that “Gods” could then be singular is nonsensical.  I could, however, easily see the Japanese saying “meh”, and just moving on with it, not necessarily accepting it but having no real reason to reject it either.  Essentially, the ambiguity is built into their language where it is a complete impossibility in ours.

If the trinity were true, of course, it’s no less of a contradiction when expressed in Japanese than in English, but this seems one of a few places where the vagueness and contextuality of Japanese seems to offer a way to see the world that we in the west perhaps have not considered.  It’s certainly making me rethink how I see God, or Kami.  As with Japanese nouns, perhaps he is singular or plural depending on how you look at him.