Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Japan uptight over whaling

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This story would be amusing if it was not so pathetic. Up until now green groups in Australia and around the world have been highly critical of the Japanese for supporting whale killings. I believe there is particular concern for the humpback whale. Recently the Labor party came to power with green issues central to its platform. Does the ALP care about whales? Its fair to say they care to the extent that their are votes in it. The true believer is Peter Garratt, who is well regarded by green groups for his support of the environment.
The Japanese have a point in as much are there are emotive reasons for some Western 'greenies' desire to see whales protected. Its unfortunate that the issue has been reduced to smear because I actually think the Japanese have a point. Why shouldn't the Japanese be able to eat whale meat. Thinking critical about this issue I realised two things. Very few Japanese actually eat whale meat since its so expensive, and most dont even like the taste. I suggest the reason Japanese eat whale meat is for traditional, nostalgic reasons. For Westerners and numerous other cultures, certain animals are placed on a pedestal, eg. Horses, dogs, whales. Green groups are vocal in their opposition to horse racing harnesses as well, but the implications of horse racing are less fatal than the slaughter of whales.
The other issue that comes to mind is that - if whales are so abundant - why do the Japanese have to go 10,000km to the Great Southern Ocean to find them? There is nothing traditional about that. Could it be that there are so few left. The interesting issue is what would motivate the Japanese to invest all these resources in this video? Do some people really care so much about eating whale eat or do they see their culture under assault by Westerners. Given that the great bulk of Japanese dont eat whale meat, I suggest insecure Japanese people are disheartened by their loss of identity and lack of standing in the world, that they feel compelled to lash out at Australia, smearing it as racist. This is not a new tag placed on Australia, so we shall consider it. I have heard similar views in Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.
Japan's economic malaise has continued now for 15 years. Its economic prosperity was an issue of great pride. That pride arose to some extent because of its collectivist values, and a derivative value to teach the West that it was not the 'yellow swine' of the Pacific as they were once regarded by Australians, Britons, Americans under the imperial alliance. In those days the West were very much collectivist as well, closely relating to the 'imperial ideal' and taking great pride in it. The ascension of Europe and Japan played a large part in undermining that pride, reducing them to individuals. This process takes time. It was quickened by the decline of the British Empire. It might have persisted somewhat because of the military ascension of the United States, but certainly the USA rejected that premise on principle. The treatment of Japan during WWII reflected the 'barbarism' practised by the Japanese at that time. There was a great deal of suspicion and contempt that accompanies people with different values and methods of dealing with problems. Today the Japanese are evading the whaling issue by saying their slaughtering is for 'scientific purposes'. Such lies can only undermine Western respect for Japanese interests.

This video is very much biased propaganda. It attempts to depict Australians as barbarians as Westerners labelled the Japanese 50-100 years ago, and based on their current evasions ('scientific slaughter') maybe those attitudes persist. I take the view that there are bad eggs on each side, but the argument is not served by 'collectivist' attacks against all people of a nation, nor is it served by lies or attempts to evade arguments, and by Japanese attempts to buy the votes of every Pacific and Carribean island that has a vote in international fishing treaties. But that is 'democracy' so if you support 'right makes right', you are a hypocrite along with the Australians and every other Western country. I guess lying is part of the democratic process as well. The difficult is that collectivism is a deeper element of the Japanese psyche (identity) than other countries, which is why they are perceived as so arrogant and aloof. They cannot evade the reality that collectivist is the cause of every atrocity caused in human history. This reality is likely to put them on the defensive.

So where is the bias? Well the first scene in the video poors contempt on Australians appreciation of whales. The context which is dropped is that Japanese people are among the most earnest visitors to see the whales and dolphins on both the east & west coasts. Having lived at Port Macquarie - a fabourite whale spotting point - I can't say I ever saw whales and I looked 3 times a day when I took my routine exercise along the coast.
The video producer makes the point that cultures can't agree on which animals are special. But how is agreement possible when the Japanese whale delegation can't speak ernestly about the issues, but have to hide behind lies and smear. Quite apart from the emotional arguments, these whales are also a source of (Japanese) tourism revenue for Australia. Is that the argument made - no - because the greenies are the only ones who care.
Interestingly the video had an 'American' (as opposed to an Australian) saying that Japan was acting in controvention of a global moritorium on whaling. The video does not address that issue. No argument is made. I dare say that is why the 'Sea Shepherd' made some aggressive moves against a Japanese whaling ship. The video producer described this as 'terrorism'. That sounds rather emotional.
That apparently is the argument. For the rest (80%) of the video the producer was dragging up all kinds of dirt on Australian history. It starts by saying that Australian media is racist because Emma Tom, a proud environmentalist & journalist made some disparaging remarks about slaughtering for scientific purposes. Actually she was disproving of Australian scientists doing it as well. This is the producer's own research - not mine.
The producer then accuses Australia 'collectively' of trying to kill Japanese whalers. There is of course no evidence. It rebuffs Australia by saying 'this is not the way to solve mysteries'. Well unfortunately its not true. Japan is evading discussion. Then we have disparaging remarks about Australia, apparently because we are racists. I can recall only a handfull of racial incidents in my lifetime (say the last 30 years). They include:
1. Trying to enter a Chinese-owned disco in Australia
2. Trying to enter a Korean-owned disco in Australia. They eventually capitulated
3. Trying to enter a Japanese restaurant in Australia. They said they were fully booked, the seats were empty.
4. Pauline Hanson's famous remarks about Asians taking over the country. An unpopular opinion supported by certain disillusioned Australians pleased to have at least one politician who was not 'politically correct'. Yes, Pauline was a collectivist. We have them as well, but ours get repudiated. In Japan, everyone closes ranks behind them in defense of 'Japanese (collectivist) pride. Racism is actually caused by collectivism since the collectivist needs to compare themselves by others standards. The declining collective pride of the Japanese is actually revealing the their lack of personal identity, and thus genuine pride. Racism is the unfortunate consequence.
Another historical issue the producer raises is the forced integration of aborigines into 'white homes', whether institutions or households. It might be good politics to criticise this policy by todays standards, but I dont see this as nearly as embarassing as the producer makes out. Firstly integrating a VERY primitive people was always going to be difficult. Second, there is to this day a lack of understanding in politics about how to deal with the problem, just as there is in Japan. I've yet to hear any constructive suggestions or even a documentary come out of Japan. Maybe the producer will be the first one to raise the issue internationally. Or is his theme political rather than humanitarian. The reality is that to this day aboriginal children are being exposed to very infertile parenting models resulting in drug addiction, alcoholism with little in the way of structured guidance. The problem is 5000kms away from political discourse so easily forgotten. The intent was 'not to strip them of their barbaric culture' anymore than it was to undermine it, it was not a culture that was going to stand the test of time. The cultures are incompatible, and the better one overcame the lesser one. Thats progress. There were events that were not as vile or systematic as the 'Rape of Nanking' but I dare say 100 years ago there were incidents just as gruesome. Hard to say who initiated. I can place either race in a position of blame. The reality though is that government policy was to afford them some dignity. Just the pressures of population growth caused conflicts.
True. The Australian government didn't see the bulk of aborigines as a civilised race. To dogmatically assign value judgements to a race is racist. To recognise the facts of reality is not. One would not consider them civilised, when you consider they were living a less dignified and unhealthy life than life prior to white occupation.
So surprising to hear a Japanese producer argue that 'many aborigines were used as sex slaves and slave labour' without reflecting on the Japanese governments forced enslavement and rape of women from many Asian countries. By comparison, there is no evidence to suggest an Australian government endorsed rape as policy. In fact it was religion more than anything else that enabled it. I think there is no evidence that aborigines were enslaved, rather there is evidence of disrespect, where they were underpaid. In fact it was Pacific Islanders who were forced into slavery on North Queensland sugar cane fields. Yep, thats embarrassing, as was a great deal if you go back far enough.
I am just surprised by this concern in Japan for humanity. I have never seen a Japanese government critique another government or people. Why now? Might it be because someone's back is against the wall?
Yeh Australia kills kangaroos because there are 10x more than there was when Europeans settled on the continent. They compete with the cattle, some of which are exported to Japan. Its called population management. Killing them quickly is considered the most humane way of dealing with the problem. Australia is a drought-ridden country. If we dont manage the wildlife it results in desertification.
I truly think Australia gets 'a bad wrap' from Asians. I've know a great deal of Japanese and other Asian people living in Australia. The worst thing I hear is how immigrants from 'other countries' are disrespectful. There are growing pains to be sure. But ask yourself why Australia - a nation of many cultures is able to live in peace whilst other collectivist countries are fighting wars. Historically Japan was a warring nation. It was the West that brought peace there - several times, along with Western technology.
Then the producer, after having disparaged a conservationist, decides to use one of their arguments. I think it saids more about the producer and conservationist. The argument being 'the Japanese will laugh at us as hypocrites' if we treat our wildlife inhumanely. But wildlife are not human. They have no capacity to formulate moral values. Humans do that for animals. Kangaroos are over-populating Australia, whereas hump-back whales are endangered. Sensible policy favours restricting whaling until populations can rebuild.
The final point is 'Any animal that humans kill and eat is beautiful'. I actually agree with that point. Finally got some sense from the producer. So the final argument is that 'Australians are not really interested in environmentalists, we are just racists'. That argument is easily refuted.
1. The producer treats all Australians as having one interest - this is what collectivists do. In fact some want kangaroos killed, others want them to live. Some want horses removed from pristine native alpine areas, others see horses as noble beasts.
2. We need not be racist, its plausible that we just have little respect for Japanese values because they are tied with collectivism and fascism. Sure there is little threat from Japan whilst it plays the victim. But given the chance we might expect the worst of Japanese values to erupt into something dangerous. You will hear the argument that Japan is a modern, democratic country. The reality is the it has a tribal culture steeped in mysticism and collectivism. The judiciary is really just a side show that few resort to. Not because they cant afford it, just because they feel threatened. Japan has learned nothing from WWII. Sadly the West learnt very little either. The lack of intellectualism displayed by both countries is destined to eventually to result in more war. Or will political leaders just turn against their own people? Collectivists can define identity at any opportune moment that serves their cause.
Really racism is insecurity based. I can recall an incident where a Japanese bartender was having a joke with his colleague. 'Oh you are Australian...Kangaroo, koala, emu...he he', as if that was all Australia was. But of course if you show him his total ignorance over a few beers, he starts to look respectful. And at the end of the day, you realise that he just needs to feel important by putting someone else down. Thats how empty he is inside. His loss is his countries loss because he is an obstacle to 'civilisation' in Japan, just as democracy is an obtacle everywhere reason is not the primary standard of value. That comment just went over alot of Japanese heads. I've yet to meet a Japanese intellectual of merit. I'm still holding my breath. Japanese Americans - yes by reputation. If they exist its not because of Japanese values, its inspite of them. The only reason I dont tire of the place is because on a concrete level there is more to know about them.
Andrew Sheldon www.sheldonthinks.com
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