March 20, 2003. Watching bombs over Baghdad in the high school cafeteria just as the NCAA tournament began. Not believing my antiwar friends’ predictions of the future, which would indeed come to pass over these ten years as our messianic dreams died by the sword. I’m sorry. I wish for peace for our servicemen and the people of Iraq and ready to advocate peace for the rest of my days.
Categories: Politics, USA
Categories: Japan, Politics, USA
Tags: burakumin, ghettos, microaggression, ta-nehisi coates, the warmth of other suns, yakuza
Ta-Nehisi Coates’s latest column-post-comments combo is worthwhile reading.
The thread explores two ideas I’d like to say a little more about:
1. Microaggression and microinequity – that is, the constant little events that underline someone is different or of a lower status – fuel bad feelings and inequality and have a corrosive effect on the person on the receiving end, even if the person on the giving end has no intention to hurt.
Microaggression is a really common talking point in the English-speaking expat community in Japan. Here’s one example.
I’ve had friends tell me they couldn’t stay in Japan or Taiwan anymore because they couldn’t handle never being fully accepted. It took me way longer than it should have to connect this frustration with the feelings American minorities have in their own communities. Then the little things that happened here felt really small. In fact, it became clear that Western foreigners in the East are a privileged minority.
James Baldwin describes the way the disrespect of others can poison one’s spirit in his essay “Native Son”, which I also happened to read this week:
This isn’t just a macro (societal) issue, though. Little differences in treatment are in my opinion a major cause of family rifts. Anyone who feels looks down upon (say, for having less “success”) resents it and things quietly get worse and worse.
2. We need to be more aware of how systemic inequalities created the world we have today and how we ourselves contribute to the perpetuation of suffering.
This sort of thing also happens in home life, too. Say you have an overweight family member, and everyone’s always telling him he needs to lose weight…and yet when there’s food left over after dinner, everyone shovels it onto his plates. The people complaining about the problem are themselves perpetuating it!
Likewise, social ostracism fuels antisocial behavior. For example, yakuza membership is largely made up of (1) children of yakuza (2) graduates of teenage biker gangs, who mostly come from broken homes (3) the burakumin, or untouchables (4) ethnic Koreans and other ostracized Asian groups. People that society rejected find their best opportunities are in crime.
One thing I’ve learned this month is that “the ghetto” is the result of public policy. From The Warmth of Other Suns: “The story played out in virtually every northern city – migrants sealed off in overcrowded colonies that would become the foundation for ghettos that would persist into the next century. These were the original colored quarters – the abandoned and identifiable no-man’s-lands that came into being when the least-paid people were forced to pay the highest rents for the most dilapidated housing owned by absentee landlords trying to wring the most money out of a place nobody cared about.”
Black neighborhoods got the worst of everything from city hall in infrastructure and services. (Hello, broken window theory.) No one was allowed to move out, and government housing authorities redlined/hugely undervalued their holdings as owners even as they paid out the nose as renters – which meant their wealth was being constantly devalued.
More Ta-Nehisi on how ghettos were created by elite discrimination:
Since inequitable urban policy reaped so much destruction, couldn’t equity go a long way to solving problems? Couldn’t city halls take a much more active role in identifying addressing inequalities?
I’m wondering now why the demographic differences between Indy’s Marion and Hamilton counties have always been so stark and thinking my own hometown is a place where there is much legitimate urban renewal to be done.
There’s much to do here, as well. Immigrants from Southeast Asian countries in particular deserve more equitable treatment. Personally, I’m resolved to never look down on anyone. I admit I’m not there yet. To never feel contempt, I’ll have to examine my conscience daily.
Categories: Art, Japan, Literature, Politics
Asahi Shimbun Obituary
When Keiji Nakazawa was 6 years old, the Hiroshima atomic bomb vaporized nearly his entire family.
He portrayed this experience in a comic book.
As far as I know, Barefoot Gen is the most famous anti-war work in Japanese history. Search for it in Google Images and it will imprint itself in your mind as well. The art style, typical of fun adventures, makes what is depicted inside feel even worse. Perhaps if a book like this were required reading in American junior high schools, we would not declare another war of choice. Irrespective of America, Nakazawa’s work has doubtless been monumental in Japanese culture. My junior high school there had a student performance of it every few years.
Read the New York Times’ obituary. It’s one of those that’s so astonishing you wonder why you’ve never heard of this person before.
Beate Sirota Gordon introduced women’s rights to postwar Japan, writing the clauses specifically guaranteeing them into the Japanese Constitution, emancipating 40 million people, when she was 22 years old.
Gordon studied other nations’ constitutions and drew on her childhood experiences in Tokyo and wrote the articles in a week. A sleepless week. Imagine all your learning and moral training and ethical thought suddenly being put to the test, now, and you have to lay out the future legal status of millions of historically marginalized people.
And then she kept her role a secret for decades.
All she did in the meantime was introduce the West to every kind of traditional Japanese art and every style of Asian performance art she could find. It’s amazing to think of how little even Americans in the highest reaches of power understood of Japan when they began ruling the country after the war. And pre-WWII cultural globalization mostly meant Westernization. Ms. Gordon was very important to turning on the East-to-West cultural flows and contributing to the cultural relations between Japanese and Americans today.
With her parents and Kosaku Yamada in Tokyo in 1928 (source: http://www.shinyawatanabe.net/atomicsunshine/ny/beateintroduction.html)
Mr. Nakazawa, Ms. Gordon, rest in peace. May our generation, too, have people as amazing as you.
It’s a rare beautiful winter morning in Taipei, but after checking my feed, my first thought of the day is, “May God have mercy on our souls.”
The last time this happened, many people asked me what it is about America. Generalizations are never Gospel truth, but my opinion is we have a widespread Mental Health epidemic, abetted by unnatural medication and environmental and dietary contamination but ultimately caused by family and community breakdown.
I believe only a one-man island, someone without any healthy people close to him, caring for him and knowing his activities and state of mind, could do a thing like this. And almost every town in America, from Newtown, CT to Carmel, Indiana, is full of one-man islands.
Even those who never attack another person suffer alone daily. They fall and no one hears the sound.
This story, and the additional detail that Lanza’s own brother hadn’t been in contact with him since 2010, following a 2009 divorce splitting the family in half, tells the tale of Adam Lanza in very broad strokes:
“A relative told ABC News that Adam was `obviously not well.` Family friends in Newtown also described the young man as troubled and described Nancy as very rigid. `[Adam] was not connected with the other kids,` said one friend.”
Lanza’s brother called him autistic. In reality, due to the explosion of home entertainment and the Internet in recent decades, all of us are more autistic than ever. We interact with other people face-to-face less frequently, and it’s easier than ever to avoid other people for a long period of time. Independence is part of the American ethos, which is why we’ve gone this direction faster than other countries, but we’ve also seen troubled, isolated killers crop up in more communitarian societies like China and Japan.
Here’s what we can do to make things better.
1. More love, more connections, more community organizations. This is what we can all do personally, do passionately, and do right now. We should reach out especially to estranged family members and people we find disgusting or troubling and bring everyone into the fold and into positive lifestyles. We should try to ensure no one falls through the cracks.
Let’s try to be as heroic as Donnie Andrews, the original Omar, was:
2. Most people on my wall are discussing gun control. That’s fair. But prior to a total ban, I’d like to look into how these weapons are sold. The killers aren’t going to the corner store to a vendor who knows them and their families well and can use discretion; they’re buying weapons by mail from people who couldn’t care less. A criminal background check tells you much less than enough about a person.
If we want to ban assault weapons, then we also have to disarm our police departments, because they are weaponizing to a terrifying degree. Otherwise, we will make the paranoid more paranoid. Almost every country suffered a mass police or military slaughter of civilians at some point in the 20th century. People don’t buy assault rifles to blow bigger holes in burglars’ heads; they do it to head off a future 228 Incident.
3. As I alluded to earlier, America is physically contaminated, and we need to clean it up. So is the rest of the industrialized world on a lesser scale. Besides unhealthy food and water there are even clothing problems – look up “Greenpeace and Zara and Levi’s” – and ATM contamination – look up bisphenol A. I could go on forever. My parents are part of the vaccine-reform crowd; they say US vaccines are made using tissue from aborted fetuses and some kids react to that. Environmental and consumer protection should be mass movements, not niche ones.
America is also by far the most medicated place in the world. Which makes everything worse. I mentioned our prescription pill plague two weeks ago. Besides that, we’re the Ritalin generation. You must know of others who suffered from this. When I taught in Japan, the number of students on medication for mental health issues was practically zero…and by and large the kids were doing fine.
All these chemicals and tampering are making us sick. And physical and mental health are connected.
Every generation sees evil and suffering. The proper response is not despair but positive reform. Thank you for reading, and God bless you as you move forward tomorrow.
Proportion of Japanese Men That Are Lifelong Bachelors Breaks 20% for First Time; Rate has Octupled in Last 30 YearsPosted May 1, 2012 by jsmyth
Categories: Japan, Translations
Proportion of Japanese Men That Are Lifelong Bachelors Breaks 20% for First Time; Rate has Octupled in Last 30 Years
Yomiuri Shimbun: 生涯未婚の男性、２割を突破…３０年で８倍
May 1, 2012
As of 2010, the proportions of Japanese men and women who had never been married at age 50 were 20.1% and 10.6%, respectively, it was announced today. This is the first time that the 20% and 10% barriers have been broken.
This information is to be included in “Children and Child-Rearing” white paper which will be confirmed by the Cabinet in the beginning of June.
In 1980, the proportions of the single-for-life were 2.6% for men and 4.5% for women. Now, more than 8 times more men are lifelong bachelors, and more than twice as many women are lifelong bachelorettes. The numbers of the unmarried have surged since the 1990s.
By age group: 71.8% of men and 60.3% of women age 25-29 have never been married. 47.3% of men and 34.5% of women age 30-34 have never been married. And 35.6% of men and 23.1% of women age 35-39 have never been married.
Categories: La Vida
Today I began working full-time as a translator and editor for the Executive Yuan of the Republic of China. I doubt I’ll be able to contribute to this blog daily as I did before, but I’ll write when I’m able! Thanks again for reading!
Categories: Science, Math, Technology, Spain, Translations
The Linux Penguin
The Silent Triumph of Linux
Cell phones, businesses, critical environments, and the infrastructure of the Web all function with this system
El País: Linux, el triunfo silencioso
Laia Reventós reporting from Barcelona April 22, 2012
When you navigate the Internet, you use Linux. When you search on Google, gossip on Facebook, or play with your Android phone (850,000 of those are activated each day), you also use this operating system. When you see a movie on an airplane, take money from a teller, or make a long-distance phone call…yes, Linux is at the heart of multiple daily activities, even though you aren’t conscious of it.
The most installed open source operating system in the world and the motor of free software still is not massively installed in desktop computers, where Windows reigns with 92% of the market. That is the same share it had in the 90s, when Linus Torvalds (born in Helsinki in 1969) developed Linux. On Friday, Technology Academy Finland recognized its compatriot for creating a system which has had “a great impact on the development of open source programs, work on the Internet, and the opening of the Web to make it accessible to millions of people.”
Torvalds was a 21-year old student of computer engineering at the University of Helsinki in 1991. In his room, he began “a small project. It was something fun to help my learning, but it ended up having everything an operating system is supposed to have.”
The youth released the first version of Linux on the Internet, and word of mouth did the rest for a system protected by the General Public License (GPL), which permits its use, copying, modification, and free distribution. As opposed to other systems, Linux has improved thanks to collaboration. Close to 8000 developers and 800 companies have contributed to its 15 million lines of code since 2005. The Iliad had 15,000 lines. Every three months, a new version of the core system is released under Torvalds’s supervision.
“Linux was the first modifiable operating system that could be installed and used by anyone,” explains Miguel Jaque, director of Spain’s National Open Source Technology Center (CENATIC). “You could find out how its code worked. The secret was out. And that allowed the peak of free software to begin.”
Twenty years later, the system still has not gatecrashed domestic computing (it has a 0.98% worldwide market share according to Netmarketshare), but it rules mobile phones, businesses, data centers, critical environments, and the infrastructure of the web. 80% of stock transactions have the penguin symbol beneath them. Even televisions and cars use it. 25% of their costs are for software, and in four years the proportion will be 75%. For that reason, giants like General Motors, BMW, Hyundai, PSA Peugeot Citroën, and Renault-Nissan have constructed an open platform for entertainment and information systems (the GENIVI Alliance).
In Spain, the management and education communities have led Linux’s advance. 83% of public organizations have some kind of open software installed for them. Don’t forget that Extremadura took the lead in providing computers for its students with its Linex system in 2003; it just don’t preach about it much. This tide has swept to seven other Autonomous Communities, including Andalusia and Catalonia (Lincat). The Andalusian system Guadalinex now serves 1.8 million students in 5882 schools with a network of 640,000 PCs and 4200 servers.
What are the advantages? “It reduces costs because the license is free; you can change providers without problems, and you can personalize all the components,” says Jaque. Munich City Hall has saved a third of its technological budget (€4 million) thanks to Linux, and now, in a time of crisis, it could save more if its civil services “save and reuse their computing resources.” In 2011, according to CENATIC, 46% of civil services created their own programs, but only 18% set them free.