Eurocentrism in its extreme form.
Why does the world continue to allow for a lack of respect for diverse peoples and cultures? Comrades, these are troubling times indeed, when the masses embrace the capitalist corruption of the people’s liberation: Eurocentrism.
On a serious note, Eurocentrism is a terrible thing. It makes me mad, for one thing; so much that I wrote a blog post about it ages ago. It also, more importantly, leads to a decline in respect for diverse peoples and cultures. It leads to, for instance, Mitt Romney arguing that Israeli culture is better than Palestinian culture, and thus by extension that generally Western culture is better than Islamic culture. Or, on a rather depressing note, it leads to unnecessary violence like the recent shooting rampage at a Sikh temple. But, on a brighter note, there is hope against Eurocentrism. In fact, it is blatantly obvious hope, even if you only have some basic knowledge in international affairs and history. That hope is Japan.
Japan is the best – and perhaps (currently) the only – counterargument against Eurocentrism.
No, no, I don’t mean to imply that Japanese culture is awesome compared to Western culture. Because it’s not. Yes, I think the phonological structure of Japanese is interesting, and I think the Japanese have the best Asian confectionary; however, Samurai and ninja are overrated, and I don’t give a damn about how spiritually pure they are in their martial arts, and anime is just goddamn anime for goodness sakes.
But Japan is still, perhaps, for now, the only clear argument against Eurocentrism.
Think of it this way. When you think of the “developed world,” or of “modernized” countries, especially those with any political or economic power on the international stage, these would probably come to mind: America, Britain, Russia (sort of), Germany, Japan, France, and so on. Which one’s the odd one out? Japan. Why? Because it’s the only non-European one on the list. When you think of countries that were formerly colonial empires/imperialist douchebags, these would probably come to mind: Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Russia, and America (arguably). Who’s the odd one out again? Japan. Because, again, it’s the only non-European one on the list.
Starting to get the drift here?
Japan shows the white devils that they, too, can be imperialist douchebags by shooting those godless, heathen, pagan Chinamen. (See First Sino-Japanese War)
For the past century and a half or so, Japan has proven itself to be the only successful non-European nation – if we define success as becoming a world power rivaling that of the “Western” states. A number of recent economic powerhouses, such as China, South Korea, Taiwan, Brazil, India, and so on, don’t count because they have only recently rose to power. Japan has been at it since the late 1800s, and not only that, it also has a history of being an imperialist douchebag like former Western colonial powers.
But one could argue that Japan is Westernized: they wear “Western” clothing, eat fast food, and have a democracy that supports freedom and equality. These, however, are relatively superficial. Traditional clothing is still very much commonplace in Japan, though in more limited contexts; and Japan still eats rice; and so on. Even their sort of freedom and equality is not exactly the same as in Europe or America. For instance, while there is freedom, there isn’t on the other hand much encouragement of individuality. Conformity to society is much more important; standing out, playing the unique hero – that’s discouraged. Shy from conflict, cooperate and compromise or even comply rather than “fight for what you believe in.” And so on. That’s not to mention that there’s still a clear patriarchal, even repressive, element of Japanese culture: women still have clear gender roles. Ultimately, the traditional influence on Japan is still extremely pervasive, even if guys don’t go around committing suicide to preserve their honor (as much).
Thus Japan – yes, that very Japan that gave you Pokemon and anime and sushi – proves that Western culture is not fully necessary for success. For Japan did not begin as a white folks’ nation with white folks’ culture, nor did it become one . Nay, even its modernization programme during the Meiji era relied heavily on cooperation between the government and corporate leaders of samurai stock, and it was done so in terms of a Confucian worldview (all honor to the Emperor, etc.); so so much for laissez-faire capitalism. And Japan’sefforts succeeded beyond imagination, flabbergasting the Europeans who watched in shock as Japan beat Russia and China and colonized Korea and Taiwan, proving that Westerners weren’t the only people capable of being big colonial douchebags/dicks/jerks. When Japan was defeated in World War II, they shocked the West once again as they rebuilt themselves into an economic power, without the need to adopt heavy doses of Western individualism, so much that in the 80s Americans feared that Japan would one day take over the world.
Anyone who can explain to me how this is related to the concept of Japanese conformity vs. individualism/playing hero will win free french fries.
My conclusion here is that perhaps culture does not determine the superiority of a nation or people; institutions (as well as historical luck) have a much bigger role. The Japanese developed institutions that kept them going for a long time, and, despite their current economic woes, still keep them going well enough to at least barely float. At the very least, something happened that caused Japan’s standard of living to rival that of America or France. I highly doubt it was because white people have better manners or philosophy. Japanese children are still taught values that adhere, directly or indirectly, to Confucian ethics and East Asian ideals. But this did not, and does not, really produce a culture inferior to that of the so-called “Judaeo-Christian” West (a concept which itself I find problematic, and, yes, you guessed it, Eurocentric).
If Japan, so steeped in its Confucian and East Asian roots, could produce a modern power without heavy doses of Western culture, who are we to day that an Islamic, Indian, or West African culture couldn’t do the same? That’s why Japan is so important. It’s the only clear evidence we have of a successful modern nation that isn’t Western in culture. Japan’s example proves that with good leaders, right timing, and luck, any culture can have the means to succeed and become the imperialist jerkass and/or economic powerhouse it always wanted to be, Western Judaeo-Christian culture or not.
Yes, Japan is overrated in some ways – no, in many ways. But in other ways, it really is the only hope against Eurocentrism, the only good evidence we have that you don’t have to be white to be an imperialist, greedy, violent, ruthless, colonizing douchebag if they try hard enough – and in some ways, that’s good for the white folks too. When every culture is a douchebag, maybe then it’d be easier to have respect for diverse peoples and cultures.
I admit I prefer Japanese rice over Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, or Indian rice. I like its texture and moistness. Also, this rice is white. Is that racist?
(Also, happy one year birthday to my blog. What an imperialist, people’s blast, a truest respect for diverse peoples and cultures:
Happy birthday to the masses, happy birthday to the masses, happy birthday to you all, may we rid the world of dirty reactionary imperialist-capitalists!)