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Let's face it: the chain of discrimination is unbreakable

The dendritic projections are like muscle tissue. They grow more the more they're used.
- Arnold Scheibel, former professor of neurobiology at UCLA, re-quoted from a New York Times article titled "New Evidence Points to Growth of the Brain Even Late in Life"

Chen Tien-shi appeared on the
Education channel of NHK
on February 26

Me discussing emergency
measures at a meeting in
Switzerland in the wake of
the burst of Japan's bubble

Me awaiting the midnight junk
dinner at a shabby eatery
Lara, Chen Tien-shi wears two hats. She is known as an assistant professor and senior researcher at National Museum of Ethnology. At the same time she is a dedicated activist working for the cause of the reduction of "stateless" persons as they are vaguely defined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

I do know she is an extraordinarily intelligent and compassionate person from her biographical book titled Stateless and our personal contact in the last three-plus years. But to tell the truth, I know very little about her academic accomplishments simply because I haven't had a chance to read her research paper. I can't tell for sure, but I suspect she's had a hard time to unequivocally define the problems facing stateless people living in Japan. Here's the reason.

The Japanese legal system, if ever there is such a thing at all, is just a jumble of many incongruous elements. The country first imported the judicial system from the European Continent, particularly from Prussia and France, while it essentially remained a feudal society. After WWII, it has single-mindedly introduced the "Anglo-American" system to blend it into the Franco-Germanic one in an extremely unprincipled way. Once again, Japan has failed to transform itself into a modern civil society.

Let's be reminded that law doesn't change people. It's always the other way around.

Japan's Nationality Law, for one, is based on the MacArthur Constitution. But the problem is that in the 66-year-old Constitution, you will find the definition of "the people" only after you read through the first nine articles devoted to the absurd definition of the Emperor and the manifestation of "renunciation of war." Article 10 says: "[By the way] the conditions necessary for being a Japanese national shall be determined by law." That means in this country, there are at least two extra-legal entities, the divine Emperor and the false pacifism, on which the obscenely incongruous U.S.-Japan alliance is based -- and certainly many more. That way, the rule of law to be reciprocally applied between the state and citizenry is hollowed out from the beginning.

This really hinders Lara's studies as an ethnologist specializing in nationality issues because in reality the subject of her studies is neither law nor ethnology, but theology or mythology, or worse yet, psychiatry.

Lara was wryly grinning when the Japanophilic moron named Donald Keene acquired Japanese citizenship despite the fact the former professor emeritus at Columbia University met none of the requirements of Japan's Nationality Law. Fortunately, though, she has been quite successful in her pursuit as a human rights activist, thanks to her admirable optimism, tenacity and down-to-earth approach toward individual cases with stateless persons who are seeking Japanese nationality only with great difficulty. She is an exceptional person in that she hasn't lost the life-size view of herself, and of others either.

The way she spoke in the TV program of February 26 somehow reminded me of Spielberg's film Schindler's List. Toward the end of the 1993 movie, the German businessman blames himself because he thinks he could have saved more than twelve hundred Jews he actually saved. In this sequence, his old accountant Itzhak Stern gives his boss a gold ring as a token of appreciation. Stern explains about the inscription in it: "It's Hebrew. It says, 'Whoever saves one life saves the world.'"

Lara launched a "Stateless Network" several years ago. Now it's been authorized by the Japanese government as an NPO. An authorized non-profit organization is a funny thing. If lawmakers or bureaucrats think something has to be done to solve a problem, it would be natural that the government, itself, takes corrective measures. Instead, however, it often helps set up an NPO and grants it a tax-exempt status and a small subsidy only to leave it struggling with the hot potato. In this tricky arrangement, what an NPO can do is quite limited.

I don't know if Lara has previous experience in managing an organization. But even if she has some know-how in running one with profit orientation, it's a totally different task to articulate goals for her NPO, and establish the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) accordingly. So it's not her fault at all if the members of her group can't envision their missions very clearly. It's all the more important for each one of these volunteers to understand the spirit of volunteerism that calls for his/her own principle on which to determine what to do and how to do it.

Last week a couple of my friends who watched the TV program gave me their feedback. One of them is a person who heads another NPO working on TIP (trafficking in persons.) She said: "Do you think they (members of Lara's organization) are aware of the fundamental fact that all types of discrimination are deep rooted in one and the same problem: pathology of the Japanese? Just between you and me, one of my headaches is that not a few volunteers in my NPO have lost touch with this reality."

I said, "I don't know exactly, but you are right about the Anti-Prostitution Law. It was enacted 57 years ago. And yet, prostitution, now subtly legitimized and highly institutionalized, is still flourishing across the nation. Likewise, Japan still remains at the bottom of the ranking in gender equality among industrialized nations 27 years after the Equal Employment Opportunity Act took effect. In short, discrimination is at the very root of this false statehood. This should mean that the Nationality Law, and rules and procedures related to it, are only part of the problems facing our Stateless Network."

Another friend, who is an American teaching English in my neighborhood, pointed out: "One of the things that drew my attention is that most stateless persons who appeared in the program seemed to have fallen into the trap of the subjunctive mood. It's always if...., if...., if..... And yet they never used the past perfect subjunctive, like 'What if I hadn't settled down in such a shitty country?' Why are they so sure that they would get a decent job only if the Immigration Office gave them nationality? I don't think their assumptions are very realistic."

He went on: "For instance, that guy, who fled his home country in Eastern Europe all by himself because he lost his parents at the height of the civil war, was saying, in what he thought was English, something like this: 'I love Japan. If the Immigration Office changed its mind and gave me the nationality, or at least a work permit, I would be able to teach English or Russian to Japanese kids.'" He added: "As you once pointed out in your blog, practically every Japanese takes it for granted that any Caucasian can teach him English. As you wrote there, this is one of the reasons English proficiency level of the average Japanese still stays at the bottom of the list despite their greatest exposure to the language here among non-English-speaking nations."

The English teacher said the same thing about another stateless job-seeker who insisted to the interviewer that only if the Immigration Office gave him the nationality, he would be given a decent job he has been applying for, to no avail thus far. The stateless person added that the human resource manager at the company said, "We can't employ you because you are not a Japanese national."

I said to the English teacher: "Who knows? We should all take a chance in an uncertain world like this one." In a sense, though, he had a good point. It doesn't seem to have crossed the mind of these stateless persons seeking the nationality and a job that Japan Inc. is already broke.

No sooner had the Liberal Democratic Party come back to power, new Prime Minister announced a "bold" stimulus package to revive the Japanese economy with a drastic quantitative easing, artificial weakening of the currency and beefing up public works projects. The learning-disabled general public once again jumped on the bandwagon of "Abenomics" as if artificially blowing up GDP by boosting business and consumer sentiment this way isn't the surest way to another bubble. You can't expect a different outcome from repeating the same thing you did in the past. Against this backdrop, I suspect the human resource manager might have used the stateless status of the applicant just as a pretext for turning down his application.

In my post titled A big what-if about the years 1853-1868, I wrote that asking a what-if type question sometimes sheds light on the future because what did not happen in the past can be more indicative than what actually happened. Although this holds true only with the fate of a nation, I think I should also be allowed to go hypothetical, at times, about myself.

In her book titled The Fountain of Age, Betty Friedan, anti-sexist bias activist-turned anti-ageist bias advocate, called man's ability of contextual thinking "crystallized intelligence." She explained:

"It seems that 'fluid' and 'crystallized' intelligence show different aging patterns. 'Crystallized' intelligence, which involves experience, meaning, knowledge, professional expertise, wisdom, increases throughout adulthood." (Emphasis mine.)

Friedan wrote this in 1993. This is even more relevant today because "fluid intelligence" is something that the computer is better at than humans.

So I write an application letter to a company in which I say: "My biological age is 77, and I suffer hypertension and some other illnesses. Admittedly I can't do muscle work. But I don't think I'm used up yet. As you can see in the attached resume, my forte lies in contextual thinking. I am sure if you hire me, you can get rid of a couple of empty-headed young employees from your payroll. Remuneration is negotiable, though. Best regards. P.S.: I prefer telecommuting to traveling in the packed train."

A week or so later I get a reply from the company. In essence, it reads: "You must be crazy. Go to hell. Best regards."

I joined a Japanese auto-parts manufacturer in 1959. Since the high-growth era had yet to come, my starting salary was a mere 12,600 yen. Subsequently, I was contributing to Japan Inc. throughout all these pre-bubble, bubble and post-bubble years, at the Japanese subsidiaries of three foreign companies. Aside from my contribution with crystallized intelligence, I paid premiums for the national pension and healthcare programs that totaled at least 100 million at present value. Now the government and the people owe me much more than I owe them.

One of the reasons for their ungratefulness is because they don't keep their books using the double-entry, accrual-based accounting system invented by Luca Pacioli more than 5 centuries ago. In Japan, all government entities at local and state levels are still using the archaic single-entry, cash-based bookkeeping method which was imported from Prussia in 1889. For one thing, they reluctantly give us the asset-side of the data for the national pension program, which is basically contributory type in this country. But they never disclose the liability-side which should represent their fiduciary responsibility to the beneficiaries. They just forgot people are their creditors.

In the last couple of weeks, I was working on an essay under the title of The Pacioli Revolution is long overdue everywhere but in Britain. But now I had an urge to discuss another issue, the chain of discrimination and reverse discrimination, before completing the Pacioli piece.

I am not writing this essay to say ageist bias is a more urgent issue than discrimination inflicted on stateless people. Some of my fellow members in the Stateless Network may think I am departing from the cause of helping the stateless living in Japan. But on the contrary, I'm now committed to it more than ever.

I just wanted them to know that when they work within human and financial resource constraints, it's crucially important to prioritize things, and in doing so, it's equally important to use criteria which reflect the reality, instead of weak hypotheses, that there is no such thing as a case of statelessness which is isolated from other types of discrimination in this country.

I hope most key members of the NPO, including Chen Tien-shi, will readily agree with us. ·

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Let's face it: the chain of discrimination is unbreakable | 6 comments | Create New Account
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Reverse discrimination in Japanese style?
Authored by: Diogenes on Wednesday, March 06 2013 @ 04:54 AM JST
When I was in my teen age, a friend worked at a tool rental store. The manager was 80-years-old. He looked and acted like a much younger person and was quite competent. So I don't think too much discrimination based on age is present in the U.S., although it probably exists and is under-reported.

Canada, on the other hand, changed their laws in the late '90s to actually force workers to retire or quite their jobs at the age of 65. This is clearly age discrimination, but this may have been challenged in court, and is likely a violation of the Canadian constitution. Also in Canada, if you start receiving the two pensions available at age 62, you are forbidden to work again. In the U.S., this draconian measure with Social Security was changed some years ago, allowing for a certain amount of employment income to be received.

To me there is a lesson here. If people were educated at an early age that the government pensions are enslavement tools and can be cancelled at any time, that real freedom can only come from engineering your own income sources for retirement, then retirement won't look so dire. How to accomplish this...I don't know, but it is a topic that young people need to at least consider.
Reverse discrimination in Japanese style?
Authored by: Y.Yamamoto on Wednesday, March 06 2013 @ 09:07 AM JST

Thank you for the information about the U.S. and Canada. I know very little about Canada, but a Canadian friend of my American friend living in my town once said his country is the 51st state of the U.S. (which downgraded Japan to the 52nd). If he is right, we will see the differences between the two countries narrowed, rather than widened, over time, even with respect to the status of the aged.

If I remember it correctly, a 1977 ruling (or legislation) in the U.S. said it's unconstitutional to have a mandatory retirement age at all - be it 65 or 100. I was suspecting that in recent years corporations in the U.S. are drifting apart from the Constitution in this respect, but now you have taught me that is not the case. Thanks for educating me as usual.

Japan is lagging far behind North America, especially when it comes to extra-legal matters. I don't want to say anything that would make me look a paranoid, but the social milieu here is awful. Just for instance, the media, including social media, spend 99% of the time and other resources for the young, while those over 65 account for almost 25% of the total population.

And reverse discrimination is a different issue, of course.

Yu Yamamoto
Let's face it: the chain of discrimination is unbreakable
Authored by: samwidge on Wednesday, March 06 2013 @ 01:16 PM JST
Mr. Yamamoto,

As always, you give me thousands of things to consider. Today you leave me with many things I wish to learn.

Today you posed several ideas that are not immediately understandable to all;

a) "... the 'Anglo-American' system to blend it into the Franco-Germanic one..." Are you proposing that there should be something uniquely Japanese or Asian that would work better? Where can I learn about it?

b) Your term, "false pacifism" speaks volumes. This expression has many possible meanings and I think that the Western World needs to know what you think about this.

c) You pose Lara, Chen Tien-shi as many things, ethnologist, human rights activist, researcher, Assistant Professor. As such she is obviously a great resource and a good person to have as a friend. Skills in ethnology alone should be very lucrative anywhere. Her status as a human rights activist concerns me as the title has fallen upon severe disrespect here. The people in the U.S. who claim the name are extraordinarily divisive, dishonest and they push people toward violence. The Montana Human Rights Network, for instance, labels people like you and me, "dangerous, racist, anti-government patriots." Such odd claims are of deep concern as our human rights activists are extraordinarily wealthy and unreasonably powerful. I will be interested in your comparisons.

d) In many cases you refer to famous people as "morons." We seldom use the term here not because we wish to be more polite but because the term is vague. I know that you mean disrespect and that is probably acceptable but I think that you can communicate with the U.S. better with other words.

e) You speak of Lara's NPO as a weak thing. In our country such organizations can easily become extremely powerful and wealthy. One of the things they do is to ally with other types of profit-making institutions. They also get government grants and give their leaders large wages. Though this does not happen frequently, it does happen and is usually the result of skilled manipulation of media.

f) Your observations on gender equality and prostitution are very interesting. I think that this is one place where you could establish a powerful Internet presence of your own. Though you would be doing something of value, you might also pay yourself a large wage. I know that you will think that it is too late... but it is pleasing to daydream about these things. In any case, help is needed.

g) You have indirectly mentioned a fundamental problem with our own illegal immigrants. These are troubled people wherever they go and now have created new and difficult burdens we have not faced before. Here again, is something where you may share wisdom we lack.

h) Japan already broke?!!! Bingo! We are saying the same thing about this country. We are financially and morally broke. The best of us are entirely without solutions.

i) You mention the "Stateless Network." This has powerful relevance here if only you can find words that work in both places.

I have very little time today. My apologies if I have not edited this submission as well as I might. I want to be sure that you know how very valuable that I think your article is.
Let's face it: the chain of discrimination is unbreakable
Authored by: Y.Yamamoto on Wednesday, March 06 2013 @ 03:07 PM JST

Thanks for many relevant questions. I can’t field them all today but I’ll try to answer some of them.

a) All I’m saying here is there already is a homegrown legal “system” which dates back to the 7th century. As I have told my audience many times before it’s called Shotoku Prince's 17-Article Constitution. You can find several posts if you search my blog using “shotoku” as the keyword.

d) My understanding of the word “moron” is that people with an IQ of 51-70 fall on this category, whereas IQs for imbeciles are in the range of 26-50, and idiots’ IQs are 0-25. I don’t know the figure for the Columbia professor, of course, but as a matter of commonsense, I don’t think anyone with an IQ higher than 70 wants to go on board a sinking ship.

f) I have no plan to launch such an organization on the web or anywhere else because I define myself as a man of words, not a man of deeds. I think there are too many people who claim to be doers whereas in fact they just keep talking.

g) Hispanics who have flooded your country without the proper visa are not stateless because they have nationality in their home country.

h) Yes, Japan is already broke. So is America, perhaps. So many people talk about sovereign debt, most of the time in comparison with GDP. According to IMF, Japan was indebted as much as 230% of its GDP in 2011, while the sovereign debt of the U.S. was 103%. People are constantly misled to swallow everything they hear from the media, but actually these figures mean nothing.
Reason 1: Sovereign debt is only part of nation’s indebtedness.
Reason 2: It’s the government that borrows money, but it’s NOT the government who is supposed to repay it. It’s people who are supposed to repay from their income which is called GDP. Now I’m too tired to complete a post I’m writing to reveal the secret of this gimmick, under the title of The Pacioli Revolution is long overdue everywhere but in Britain. But hopefully I can upload it in a matter of weeks. In the meantime, believe me I'm not one of those innumerate crisis mongers.

Suppose you are rich enough to repay your neighbor's debt on his behalf only if you were in a position to have to do him a favor. Now some outsider comes in your town for inspection of the financial situation there. Would he say, "Hey, this town has no financial problem. Because Mr. Samwigde is rich enough to repay his neighbor's debt"?

Yu Yamamoto
Let's face it: the chain of discrimination is unbreakable
Authored by: samwidge on Thursday, March 07 2013 @ 07:20 AM JST

Mr. Yamamoto,

As usual, you are more than merely perceptive. In the short paragraph of your question, you hit upon a way to demonstrate the common feeling of exasperation with socialism all over the world.

You asked, "Suppose you are rich enough to repay your neighbor's debt... Now some outsider comes in your town for inspection of the financial situation there. Would he say, 'Hey, this town has no financial problem. Because Mr. Samwidge is rich enough to repay his neighbor's debt?'"

Exactly! The current upheaval here and there is rooted in the idea that people with ability should pay for people who are without ability. The words are different here and in Japan but the feelings are the same. The Soviet's idea of taking from those to have and giving those who need is the same as America's Occupy Wall Street movement. It looks like outright theft.

President Obama's socialism hurts our capable people in that way, stealing from the "rich" to give to the poor. Our intelligent, hard-working entrepreneurs who risk everything to build businesses are being forced to lose what they control. Contention is made especially difficult because those business leaders naturally create and give generously to charities, all without being forced to do so. They do so in secret so the poor retain their dignity. Dignity encourages the poor to try.

Some of our business leaders give everything they have. In fact, our tax system allows few to have the wealth that outsiders imagine.

Now, the feeling is that public, government-mandated charity causes poor people to expect and demand free gifts. Such demands are sometimes violent. As a nation we, like the French, are far less productive than we used to be. Many believe that things will only get worse.

Americans are a nation of freeloaders. Soon our rich will have no choice but to become freeloaders, too.
Let's face it: the chain of discrimination is unbreakable
Authored by: Y.Yamamoto on Thursday, March 07 2013 @ 10:54 AM JST

I found your response to my allegory very intriguing in two different ways.

1. Both in the U.S. and Japan, the rich normally claim to be patriotic and/or altruistic, but when it comes to actually footing the bill for the poor, they start to complain they don't like the socialist idea.

2. The U.S. President actually forces the rich to shoulder the cost of keeping the poor alive. As a result, ideological war between "socialism" and "capitalism" is fought until the end of time. Recently, capitalists have recaptured Wall Street. Who knows what happens next? But I'm reasonably sure it's a matter of time that empty-headed Wall Street occupiers are back shouting the same stupid slogan about 1% vs. 99%. Now your country is bogged down in a perpetual tug of war between imaginary 1% and imaginary 99%. In Japan, traditionally harmonious, homogeneous, classless society, this hasn't happened before, and will never.

Every Prime Minister is obsessed with the idea that "income redistribution" through taxation and welfare programs is his primary role. Actually he constantly redistributes the nation's wealth but not from the rich to the poor, but the other way around. Now we are seeing a landscape where an endless "battle" is being fought between 0% and 100%.

These are why I'm now writing a piece about the "Pacioli Revolution" which has absolutely nothing to do with ideologies.

Thanks again for your invaluable input.

Yu Yamamoto