Monday, 12 October 2009

Come, I evolve

I'm thinking that perhaps I'm beginning to be perceived as having specialist knowledge of utility to the organisation. First, the chief solicited my criticism of his ideas concerning the development of a Japanese ethnic identity. Second, I've been granted the authority to make whatever changes I deem necessary to the manuscript of my translation of his policy papers. Needless to say, that's a lot of trust he's placed in me. I won't feel right unless I run the modifications by him for his approval. On the other hand I think it puts me in a position to point out some things that the chief, and directors just may not see.

For example the chief has a real antipathy to one group that advocates for Zainichi Koreans. "They called me an assimiliationist, and a colonialist!", he said. Basically my understanding of the chief's position is that Zainichi should sever their self-concept from the Korean penninsula, and become Korean-Japanese i.e. naturalise.

I pointed out, or rather tried to point out that if you use the word "extinction" to describe how intermarriage (and naturalisation) will "solve" the "Zainichi issue" it could reasonably be seen as problematic. The first is that by framing the problem as a Zainichi issue, and not one of a history of Japanese exclusion and oppression, you may give the message that the social problems are due to to the existence of these people in Japanese society and perhaps implicity that these problems are their responsibility to fix. As opposed to the idea that the Japanese majority has arranged their trouble for them, and therefore the Japanese majority must move to solve the issue. It's kinda like saying, "well if you stopped being/acting gay, people would stop persecuting you", when the onus should be on changing the behaviour of the people doing the persecuting.

Second, the message that these problems will go away once there are no longer any Zainichi again could be seen as framing the issue as being the responsibility of the disadvantaged group, and send the message that once they no longer exist the problem will be solved.

As such it is understandable that such a group would use the words "assimilationist" and "colonialist" in their criticism. As the chief's message could appear bereft of a nuanced understanding of the resistance to naturalisation, and as merely a continuation of the history of Japanese colonial, and post war policies towards its (former) imperial subjects, albeit wrapped up in somewhat more pluralist language.

Another example is that newspaper article from the Nikkei Shimbun. No one in the office batted an eye at the journalist accepting the education minister's rationale for keeping the current nursing exams Indonesian nationals at face value, or the "we Japanese"-centered subtext. I've only had a rant about the article to you lot (my dear readers), and the office lady. The chief was so excited about the support of the Nikkei, I didn't want to rain on his parade. I think however that I'll have to recommend not just looking at the levels of the use of "immigrant" as opposed to "foreign worker" in the media, or stories that support the organisation's position, but also at how immigrants are being framed. The increased use of the word "immigrant" doesn't mean much if every story mentions crime, or concern trolls. Working the media means being media-savvy. I'm about to take a look at all my GLAAD literature to mull over some ideas.

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