Do me a favor, dear cherry-pickers

Saturday, August 03 2013 @ 07:54 PM JST

Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto

The true problem of bad faith (self-deception) stems evidently from the fact that bad faith is faith.
- From a chapter titled The "Faith" of Bad Faith of Existential Psychoanalysis by Jean-Paul Sartre


I'm still on a writing binge in the middle of a funny survival game between the dying PC and the dying me, whose rule says whichever survives the other is the loser. Actually I was working on something to be titled Burning desire for international recognition or collective narcissism of the yellow Hottentots. But I suspended it, because as usual I felt it would be useless to come back over and over to my audience trapped in a perpetual mauvaise foi with such a no-nonsense argument. Now, for one last time, let me tell you what the real implication of cherry-picking is for our online interchange. Sorry for my nasty curveball. I'm not good at tickling your ears.

I launched this website solely for my Han-Anpo (anti-security treaty) advocacy. To that end, I was focusing on political issues in early days of my blogging. Then I realized I had to talk more about social issues underlying them. When I learned that didn't work either, I shifted the focus to cultural issues. I talked a lot about art, especially music, but again to no avail. Finally it belatedly dawned on me that our fundamental difference lies in philosophy although I was reluctant to resort to it. When I was young, I studied philosophy a lot. But I knew a retired businessman could be nothing more than a lay philosopher.

Still today the way(s) American visitors to this site view the U.S.-Japan partnership remains unchanged. They don't think it's an essential issue. They think, "Let's keep it there until the problem solves itself; it can't be helped if the ambivalent feelings grow on both sides of the wrong partners. The same thing often happens in our families."

All along I have tried to share my first-hand observation and experience because for better or for worse I am the only one in this community who knows the politics, society and culture of this country inside out. Most of the time you said you understood me, by and large. In fact, though, you didn't, at all.

Not that you were lying

In 1936 Billy Mayhew wrote a lovely song titled It's a Sin to Tell a Lie. But the Civil Rights Act of 1964 imposed a new rule that said: It's a Sin to Tell the Truth. For an intriguing reason, however, the new rule has never superseded the old one that all boiled down to this notion: "Honesty simply means not telling lies." That is why the American people still keep singing the same old tune about the sin. Now it's a sin whether you tell a lie or truth. Actually, you are totally at a loss over what to say to remain innocent. All you can do is to engage yourselves in incoherent talks over invented issues.

Unfortunately, the same intellectual and moral vacuum has spread over the entire Pacific-rim region, from which I'm inclined to exclude China. This epidemic has left Japan in the most disastrous situation because the country is where the East has met the West in the most unfortunate way. Now Japan has turned into a cultural wasteland.

If the climate in the European cultural sphere is a little different, it must be attributable to the fact that unlike the Pacific-rim nations, European countries, including Russia, were immunized against the fake culture reimported from the "New World."

Amid WWII, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote an essay on phenomenological ontology titled Being and Nothingness. The French philosopher devoted its Part 1, Chapter 2 entirely to the topic of mauvaise foi (bad faith or self-deception.) Ten years or so later, he wrote Existential Psychoanalysis to elaborate on this point in which he detailed the essential difference between falsehood, i.e. lies, and mauvaise foi.

Sartre argued that although you may say nonchalantly that bad faith is "a lie to oneself," there is a subtle but fundamental difference between the two. There, he almost sounded like saying that lies are far more benign than bad faith, although being an atheist himself, he never implied bad faith is a sin, either. According to him, "a man does not lie about what he is ignorant of." In other words, an ignoramus will never lie.

This really clicks because Hitler wasn't a liar. He was a legitimate leader of the nation who was elected by the German voters under the Weimar Constitution just like the Black Kenyan Monkey was by their American counterparts 76 years later.

Don't take me wrong, however; this is not to say there's anything categorically wrong with your habit of cherry-picking. Apes don't cherry-pick because they will never be in bad faith. The ability of cheating self is inherent only to a creature in a more advanced stage of evolution. Since bad faith is a double-edged sword, you can use it effectively if you have a certain amount of creativity. But if you are one of those change-resistant people, you will end up cutting conjoined twins into two dead pieces.

Let's assume you have two candidates from whom you are going to pick one as your girlfriend, you certainly select the one who falls on your type. But once you've made her your girlfriend, you become aware she has too many shortcomings to be an ideal mate. Now you are prone to developing ambivalent feelings toward this woman. Most likely, you choose to stay with her. Are you not cherry-picking by doing so? Although you are unwilling to admit it, that's exactly what you are doing, a little belatedly, and without success.

Likewise, you often develop a love-and-hate relationship toward something, e.g. the country you live in, the political party you vote for, etc. Here I'm not talking about a business decision where a quantifiable tradeoff between benefits and costs, or opportunities and risks is all that matters. Like Sartre, I'm talking about life.

The former yakuza member I mentioned in my previous post has chosen to stay with his home country he thinks should perish, primarily because he can't live without the welfare benefits and tax-exempt status granted by the nanny state. It's a vicious circle; the more he becomes dependent on the nation, the more his grudge flares up, and the more his resentment intensifies, the more he is addictively attached to the country. To him the only conceivable solution to what Sartre termed "inner disintegration" was to fence himself in a real or imaginary prison, almost voluntarily, where he doesn't have to face his real self in the mirror.

If you are a skillful cherry-picker, you can draw a picture of a utopia while staying with a dystopia, or vice versa. Basically your dilemma is none of my business. Yet, I don't think you are playing it very fair if you keep floating aimlessly back and forth between pros and cons entailed in the subject at hand. It's counterproductive, to say the least. We always go round in circles because we keep speaking the same ill-defined words over and over. We stop only when we get tired. And every time we resume our discussion, we start at the point where we started the last time.

As I already wrote, it's a different story if you are a Type 3 visitor to this website. Anyone who defines himself as a doer with professional expertise knows how to solve his inner conflict, or better yet, ours, even without discussing it either online or offline.

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