Living in Japan is a delicate balance for me. There are aspects of this society that i find repellant, difficult to cope with, and wish i could change, but know that i can’t. This results in the construction of a fairly complex set of interrelated “justifications” that make life bearable. This set is far from being consistent, not only in terms of my world view, but within itself.
Consequently when events occur that upset this delicate balance the whole lot comes crashing down. This usually leaves me in turn, confused, angry, resentful, deflated, bitter, and finally… well, i don’t really know where i am when i’m back at peace. Denial? I sense a nasty cycle here somewhere…
This process isn’t unique to living in Japan; it was the same in England, and certainly in America. What seems to be hard to cope with when living outside of the anglo-saxon sphere is that the balance of societies actions does not always flow in my direction.
Is this how a black kid in Brixton feels when the police stop him every week for walking down the street? Or how Pakistanis in Birmingham feel when their idea of the law does match up with the reality of the british justice system? A migrant worker in L.A? A North African in Paris? A Turk in Hamburg?
None of those things have ever effected my on a personal level – by which i mean that they have an impact on me, but not directly. They are aspect of those societies that offend my sense of justice, but they are someone else’s battle. This seems reasonable to me, other people are civil right organisers, fighters for equality, etc.
In Japan things get much closer to being personal. Whenever one of these ‘unbalancing’ events happens around me, the frustration drives me to want to get organised, fight back… there is a reason that the 在日韓国人 can get a better deal from the government than other permanent residents – they are organised.
For right or wrong (mostly the later) racial relations in Japan are more complicated than simple racism. There are certainly aspects of simple minded xenophobia, nationalism, racial hatred, and yes, it is institutionalised in the bureaucracy, police, justice system, but my daily experience in Japan isn’t a barrage of abuse, threats of violence, or even prejudice…
This cycle always ends with me thinking that i could always leave and start again somewhere else… but that’s eventually going to lead me to a similar but different set of justifications as i understand a new aspect of man’s behaviour towards man.
And here we are, back to constructing the structure of stupid generalisations, and half-truths that let me stop ranting and get back to work.