Join 3,417 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Of Whales and Racism
January 7, 2008 3:12 AM   Subscribe

"Australians must not use whales to justify the racist ideology" The Australian government's [proto] stance on Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean has drawn a strong response by an anonymous youtube poster, citing racism as the core reason the Australian Government is taking a stand on the Japanese Whale Research Programme [caution, gruesome video and yet more racist youtube comments]. It seems Steve and Terri Irwin are trying to stop them.
posted by mattoxic (75 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
How dare those little slant-eyed Nips call us racist!
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 3:28 AM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


All the Japanese people I have talked to who favor whaling, which is a group consisting of mainly grumpy old men, genuinely believe that people who are against whaling only oppose it because they want to destroy Japanese culture and oppress the Japanese people. They really can't see that there could be any other reason for it. Most normal people that I have talked to don't seem to care about whaling one way or the other, although I have found some who oppose it because whale doesn't really taste too good. But this issue really seems to bring out the right-wing nutjobs here.
posted by donkeymon at 3:37 AM on January 7, 2008


All right. Okay. We hear you. We promise not to use whales to justify the racist ideology.

Our position doesn't change at all.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:49 AM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


It gets worse; they use puffins to justify a post-modernist critique of concrete poetry and the kittiwake has long served as a prop for Australian cultural hegemony in the field of cricket sledging. Lumpen Ocker bastards.
posted by Abiezer at 3:56 AM on January 7, 2008 [6 favorites]


genuinely believe that people who are against whaling only oppose it because they want to destroy Japanese culture and oppress the Japanese people

That's ridiculous. I oppose whaling because I want to destroy Norwegian culture and oppress the Norwegian people.
posted by demagnetized at 4:10 AM on January 7, 2008 [9 favorites]


I just wish the press would stop using Japan's language. The whales are *not* being taken for "research purposes", unless you define "research" as "serving the overpriced restaurant industry". Every edible gram of the whales killed for "research" will be sold at incredible prices, and it really is irresponsible of the press to keep providing cover for the Japanese by refering to their commercial whaling expeditions as "research".

That said, I'm not surprised that there are racist thugs using Japan's whaling as an excuse to be racist thugs. There are racist thugs using the legitimate objections to the mistreatment of women in the Middle East as an excuse to be racist. There are racist thugs using legitimate concerns over US border security to be racist.

If a legitimate problem involves people of another race, the racist thugs will be out in droves, trying desperately to find some legitimizing hook on which to hang their racism and making it that much more difficult to address the actual issue.
posted by sotonohito at 4:16 AM on January 7, 2008


Sorry, but this is a crap post.

The first link shows a YouTube video by an anonymous (but obviously Australian) poster decrying his goverment's use of the whaling issue to perpetuate racist views about Japan. Considering that the poster is referring to John Howard's goverment, it seems to me not entirely unlikely. The video makes a fair point: whilst opposing whaling on enviromntal/humane grounds may be a valid political ambition, using the matter of whaling as a club to beat the Japanese like slant-eyed baby seals isn't.

But the rest of the post is a plain old post about whaling. Terri and (the decaying) Steve Irwin weren't trying to stop Howard's government. Their well-publicised campaign to save whales from evil Japanes trawlers seems in fact to be helping Howard spread his racist message.

So I take it the point of the FPP is that the Irwins were supports of the former Howard government racism? Crickies.
posted by three blind mice at 4:19 AM on January 7, 2008


Mmmm. Whalemeat...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:24 AM on January 7, 2008


three blind mice,

"Steve Irwin" is the name of Sea Sheppard Ship. Terri Irwin's stance on the current research voyage is in the news at the moment. Nothing to do with how you perceive Howard's views on race.

You suspect that the youtube poster is attempting to inflame the debate by pretending to be Japanese- interesting angle, I suspect you and possibly Andrew Bolt are alone in this.

whilst opposing whaling on enviromntal/humane grounds may be a valid political ambition, using the matter of whaling as a club to beat the Japanese like slant-eyed baby seals isn't I don't think this is the case at all, I think the youtube poster is attempting to (and quite obviously) promote a link between the Australian Government's stance on whaling and Australia as an endemically racist society.
posted by mattoxic at 4:33 AM on January 7, 2008


It could be argued that whaling is a larger part of Australian culture and history, given that it was a significant part of the economy of the early colony. Many towns up the easten coast of Australia simply would not have existed had it not been for the whaling industry. In contrast, from what I understand Japanese whaling was very small scale until the 20th century and only became a significant part of the diet and economy around WWII. This chronology from the Japanese Whaling Association itself seems to back up this assertion, with only net based whaling practiced before 1900 and opening their first whaling station in 1906.

I suspect it is more about the Japanese losing face if they back down, rather than any real cultural connection.
posted by CaveFrog at 4:48 AM on January 7, 2008


Scientific world's position on Japanese whaling research: A Case For Killing Humpback Whales? (pdf).

When the JARPA II proposal was presented to the IWC’s Scientific Committee (SC), it led to considerable controversy. Members from over half of the national delegations authored a paper criticising JARPA II’s scientific basis, further noting that it was inappropriate to review the new proposal before Japan had given the IWC an opportunity to assess the results of the preceding 18-year JARPA program (Childerhouse et al. 2006). That review (eventually held in December 2006 (IWC 2008)), concluded that JARPA had ‘the potential to improve management of minke whales in the Southern Ocean’, but that such an outcome had not been realised, despite nearly two decades of effort by a large and well-funded research laboratory in Tokyo. The review concluded that the major JARPA objectives were largely unachieved, notably:

- The data were not required under the IWC’s accepted method of managing whale populations and assigning catch limits;

- Efforts to estimate natural mortality had produced confidence intervals that ‘spanned such a wide range that the parameter remains effectively unknown’;

- Data on trends in abundance were so imprecise that they could be interpreted as consistent with anything from a decline to an increase; and,

- Efforts to elucidate the role of whales in the Antarctic marine ecosystem had led to ‘relatively little progress, even allowing for the complexities of the subject’.

posted by kisch mokusch at 4:49 AM on January 7, 2008


"Steve Irwin" is the name of Sea Sheppard Ship.

(the decaying rusting ) Steve Irwin.

Thank you for the clarification.

I don't think this is the case at all, I think the youtube poster is attempting to (and quite obviously) promote a link between the Australian Government's stance on whaling and Australia as an endemically racist society.

I think we more or less agree on this. I don't know if it's true or not. Aussies do have a reputation for racism against Japanese (deserved or undeserved, I do not know). The link between this assumed racism and the government's stance on whaling is worthy of discussion - but the rest of the post is about whaling and not racism.

The OP, like the Howard government, is using the whaling links in his/her FPP to promote racist anti-Japanese sentiment on the blue (an endemically anti-whaling society).

And it seems to be working.
posted by three blind mice at 4:50 AM on January 7, 2008


No, no we can't be racist. Our new PM speaks Mandarin and that's an Asian language!
posted by liquorice at 4:50 AM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


You suspect that the youtube poster is attempting to inflame the debate by pretending to be Japanese- interesting angle, I suspect you and possibly Andrew Bolt are alone in this.

Possiby Andrew Bolt is alone. I assumed the poster to be Australian (he/she uses the pronouns "we" and "our" to refer to the Australian government.)
posted by three blind mice at 4:53 AM on January 7, 2008


I don't hate Japanese people because they're Japanese, I hate them because they kill whales. That's no more racist than hating the KKK is anti-white. You're allowed to dislike people based on their actions (and whaling is no more a part of Japanese culture than lynching is a part of white American culture).

So when I repeatedly say, in casual conversation, man, do I hate those Japanese people, it's totally not racist. Honest.
posted by allen.spaulding at 4:57 AM on January 7, 2008


Well I take all YouTube comments with a generous handful of salt to begin with.... however my experience is pretty much the same as donkeymon's - most people are not supportive of it at all and certainly don't feel that not being allowed to do it is destroying their culture.
posted by gomichild at 5:00 AM on January 7, 2008


Oh no! A dingo's run off with my whalemeat!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:13 AM on January 7, 2008


allen.spaulding: I'm unclear as to how that makes it okay to hate Japanese people as opposed to just people who are pro-whaling.
posted by liquorice at 5:22 AM on January 7, 2008


Crikey! 'Ave a go at this 'orrible lil' bugger of an FPP!
posted by fandango_matt at 5:24 AM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think allen.spaulding is being facetious, l.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:26 AM on January 7, 2008


Dammnit, I leave the internets for three weeks and I come back without my humour meter. :(
posted by liquorice at 5:31 AM on January 7, 2008


I find that I am inevitably drawn to wonder "what does well taste like?" when topics such as this come up.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 5:37 AM on January 7, 2008


....WELL?
Clearly I meant Whale.

Another question: Is there a specific name for when someone makes a spelling error and spells a phonetically similar word instead? Besides "stupid" of course.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 5:38 AM on January 7, 2008


I cannot believe that Australians are being accused of being racist. This has turned my entire world view upside down.
posted by i_cola at 5:39 AM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm still puzzled as to why they went with the dingo angle. Firstly, it's not native (albeit it was introduced some five thousand years ago). Secondly, their numbers are thinning out due to interbreeding with other dogs, less so due to any sort of hunting. Be it jokes or politics, what's with dingos being the first Australian animal people go to?

The bilby, now there's an animal I can get riled up over.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 5:41 AM on January 7, 2008


Saying "...but, but Aussies kills dingos and don't even eat them!" is a lame argument at best.

That said, many of the Japanese I know who traveled to Australia (namely the small towns) were shocked to their core the amount of racism directed at them. My wife stayed there for 3 months and had to deal with neighborhood punks yelling at her everyday. Another friend was in a small town said at least one old man approached her and said to her face, in effect, "Why don't you just go home, slant eye?" Not to split hairs, but racism in Australia, in some areas at least, seems to be at about Jim Crow-level, 1950s-America.

That said, I don't really get the connection between hippie environmentalists and racists. Dumb video.
posted by zardoz at 5:41 AM on January 7, 2008


posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party what's with dingos being the first Australian animal people go to?

There was an Aussie had a dog and dingo was its name, oh.
posted by fandango_matt at 5:53 AM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Australia, in some areas at least, seems to be at about Jim Crow-level, 1950s-America.

And in the UK, USA, France, Germany... I've seen some appalling overt racism in the UK and Europe.

Australia is not more racist than anywhere else, it's a beat-up I tells ya. My wife is Chinese, once years ago some skinhead yelled something unintelligible at her. She doesn't detect any racism at all.

Mind you, she is agoraphobic and hasn't been outside since 1995.
posted by mattoxic at 5:53 AM on January 7, 2008


Homophone CitrusFreak12, it's a goddamn homophone!

[not homophonist!]honest!
posted by Wilder at 6:02 AM on January 7, 2008


I don't hate Japanese people because they're Japanese, I hate them because they kill whales.

Assuming you're being serious, I hope you won't mind if I punch you in the face the next time I see you: both my wife and son are Japanese citizens, and are adorable, if not perfect, human beings, like many of the Japanese people I know.

Why not say you hate the Japanese whaling industry, or the Japanese government? Or perhaps this straw man gives you a perfect excuse to spout your hatred of slant-eyed yellow people.

People who say they hate the Japanese generally don't give a shit about whales.

And it's not about "losing face"; the Japanese whaling industry is a poker chip, a pawn in the chess game of international politics.

Japanese people have the right to hunt whales; they just shouldn't have the right to use unsustainable, industrial methods to do so.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:02 AM on January 7, 2008


Im a depressive cynic, but in my experience most fellow aussies are pretty tolerant.
posted by dabcad at 6:19 AM on January 7, 2008


Thanks Wilder!
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 6:19 AM on January 7, 2008


There's an ace exhibition on whaling at the Japanese Maratine Museum in Tokyo... including a big spear gun you can photograph your kids using. Well I presume that's what it's there for... the placed was virtually empty when I was there and I had great fun shouting 'Thar she blows!' and 'Eat explosive death, Moby Dick!'

Oh and there's still plenty of research re whaling to be done... I mean do they die EVERYTIME a harpoon is fired into them?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:33 AM on January 7, 2008


I don't think allen.spaulding is being serious.

This is kind of off-topic, but could we all stop using "slant-eyed"? It's an offensive term, and doesn't become any less so just because you use it in an ironic manner.

For example:

using the matter of whaling as a club to beat the Japanese like slant-eyed baby seals isn't.
...using the matter of whaling as a club to beat the Nigerians like fat-lipped baby seals isn't.
posted by pravit at 6:35 AM on January 7, 2008


Well there are lots of racist people in Japan too. Which proves only that there are racists in every damn country.

You are wrong if you believe the following to be true:

* all Japanese people love to kill and eat whales
* all Australians are racists
* all Japanese are racists
* stupid comments on YouTube are worthy of more in depth discussion
posted by gomichild at 6:38 AM on January 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure all Australians live to kill and eat Japanese people though.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:00 AM on January 7, 2008


Not if they eat whales.
posted by dabcad at 7:08 AM on January 7, 2008


OMG RACISTISM!
posted by Mister_A at 7:09 AM on January 7, 2008


It seem this one anti-whaling groups takes rather extreme measures, but I don't see why it's not easier to disable a whaling ship. Wouldn't a strong chain attached to floaters usually disable propellers? Of course the whaling ship can just send down divers to take it off. But they were tying to do the same thing with rope in one of those.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:14 AM on January 7, 2008


Im a depressive cynic, but in my experience most fellow aussies are pretty tolerant.

They don't seem to like the Lebanese much though.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:30 AM on January 7, 2008


[NOT RACISTIST]
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:52 AM on January 7, 2008


I'm pretty sure all Australians live to kill and eat Japanese people though.

I hear they taste like whale.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:54 AM on January 7, 2008


*shrugs*

Whales aren't cute, but they are tasty to humans. The selective pressure against this combination is extraordinary -- I wonder if any animal life that meets both of these conditions will survive longer than the people on this thread.
posted by effugas at 9:03 AM on January 7, 2008


let's move on to hating other mammal-consuming slant-eyed cultures. what about the ones that eat dogs and cats?
posted by quarter waters and a bag of chips at 9:39 AM on January 7, 2008


I'm not a fan of the Japanese whaling industry, and I agree with sotonohito above; a lot of this comes from their ability to sell meat gotten for "research" to the food industry. There are certain cultural expressions that are harmful to the world around you, and it might be time for everyone to realize that, at least for some of us, condemning people's practices is not the same as being racist.

I like Japanese people, I like whales, and I'd like to know that both will be around in a couple of hundred years. If it seems that enjoying the existence one is predicated on the other not eating it, I'll ask that everyone play nice and stop consuming one another.
posted by quin at 10:05 AM on January 7, 2008


This fpp blows.
posted by humannaire at 10:14 AM on January 7, 2008


Whalemeat has jumped the shark.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:23 AM on January 7, 2008


What if they got a really honking big plexiglass enclosure, put a whale in there maybe with some lasers attached to its head, and a bunch of really hungry sharks. Then they could videotape the fight and put it up on a website.

See? That's what those Japanese were going to do, but they saw reason. So now they are just killing the whales for scientific purposes, totally humane and in the interests of the ever progressing expansion of human knowledge.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:01 AM on January 7, 2008


Funny you should mention that, meatbomb.

Here's the IRC's take on the Japanese Whale Research Program.

What's the IRC? Start with this wikipedia entry here. but essentially it's a phony-science institute funded by "whale processor" to shill for commercial whale killingKyodo Senpaku.

More interestingly, it is led by Seiji Osumi, a gruesome character who I described as "the Sigmund Rascher of whales and dolphins" two years ago on my ecopathic blog. Why? For his plan to create "whale farms" [sic]. So there you go. Just add sharks.

(BTW, no stranger to publicity, Osumi is also well-known for having been turned over the four-finned dolphin captured in Japanese waters as part of a well-publicized/controversial "dolphin hunt;" I was tracking the dolphin at the time to discover what had become of it. It killed me to learn this unique creature was being turned over to the likes of Osumi, scientist .)

Australia has one of the longest-standing, most highly-regarded pro-whale policies of any nation. In the seventies, the initial published policy matter-of-factly stated that whales may be a species of great intelligence similar to our own.

Japan's (or any nation's or people's) institutionalization of whale as a product and food, and arguing whale killing is part of their national cultural identity, is tantamount to any nation's in the past fighting to keep such "institutions" as humans-as-chattel and citizen-rights-based-on-gender.

I say get with the 21st Century and update your cultural identities, Japan/Norway/Makah Indian Nation/et al. Whale killing is an untenable position, and may well be murder.
posted by humannaire at 11:43 AM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


[By the way, this fpp really does blow.]
posted by humannaire at 11:44 AM on January 7, 2008


All things being equal, if you want any hope of whales as an extant species in fifty years, you should probably advocate whale farms. The demand is clearly high enough to support high risk (and high reward) poaching activities -- the only way to stop it is to drop the price using farmed meat. Oh, there will still be some who want the wild stuff -- but there's an off chance the seas can survive such a cull.
posted by effugas at 12:18 PM on January 7, 2008


Now how do we all feel about tiger penis?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:44 PM on January 7, 2008


I was kidding, but KokoRyu's response is remarkably dumb. The Japanese people have no more right to kill whales than White Americans have to lynch. I do hate the whaling industry and there's a lot of other things about Japanese culture that I have significant issues accepting. That's true of all cultures and we should be certainly willing to be criticial of our allies, especially when they are extrordinarily wealthy and have every opportunity to change their errant ways.

Japan has some major issues. Whaling is a big one. I would be happy to see more of a domestic protest movement in Japan. To hate a people is dumb. That's not what's happening here. Crying racism is a red herring by assholes who just want to eat whale meat.
posted by allen.spaulding at 12:59 PM on January 7, 2008


er, KokuRyu, my bad.

I also have issues with parts of geek culture that obsess over Japan especially in regard to particular gender relations. That's another story.
posted by allen.spaulding at 1:00 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


All things being equal, if you want any hope of whales as an extant species in fifty years, you should probably advocate whale farms. The demand is clearly high enough to support high risk (and high reward) poaching activities -- the only way to stop it is to drop the price using farmed meat.

Wrong.

Whatmore, modern people are uninterested in whale meat.

Can you imagine this same argument being applied to human slavery or gender sufferage or children labor laws? Or, for that matter, to another group of humans? ("But we've killing and eating these people for generations, it's part of our cultural identity!"

Did you miss the part that some species of whales may be at least as intelligent as humans? In a different way intelligent? Like, without war intelligent?

Whales have brains that are larger than ours, about 8-to-10 times larger. It has been hypothesized that their bulk is necessary in order to have such relatively enormous brains: With brains their size, any quick turning motion would result in internal injury. Whales have a neo-cortex that is equal in complexity to our own. The brain of the whale has elaborate "brain folds." Whales have complex communication. Other cetaceans name themselves; it is likely whales do, also.

The point is that hunting eating and killing whales may the same as hunting killing and eating another people.
posted by humannaire at 1:01 PM on January 7, 2008


Yeah there really is no demand for whale meat. It sells much cheaper than tuna and swordfish because it's just not popular.
posted by gomichild at 2:46 PM on January 7, 2008


Nuke a gay whale for Jesus!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:48 PM on January 7, 2008


Nuke The Unborn Gay Baby Whales For Jesus

Irreverent parody of trendy political causes; a phrase frequently found on bumper-stickers in Texas. It seems to be a sort of “Fuck the uptight Yankees (hippies/Californians /pinkos/etc.)” expression, but it goes beyond that: it mocks traditionally leftist causes: nuclear disarmament, gay rights, environmentalism, as well as mocking rightist/conservative causes such as “Right to Life” and bringing God back to our Society. There’s something in here to piss off just about anyone. Basically an anti-PC statement.

Right on, man! Fight the power! Stay gold! Wizard!
posted by humannaire at 2:56 PM on January 7, 2008


They don't seem to like the Lebanese much though.

You mean a bunch of privileged Sydney boof-heads don't like the Lebanese? And, conversely, a bunch of Lebanese don't like privileged Sydney boof-heads?

Aah forget it. Almost everyone is racist, it's all a matter of degrees.

And whale hunting is basically a bargaining chip, a political notion. In the case of Japan, it barely even counts as "tradition". As I understand it, it's something old people eat because they grew up in the war. And apparently, the entire "research program" has produced a total of about two papers that were actually scientifically valid and actually required killing whales to obtain the data. sotonohito, I can guarantee you that whenever I hear the press use the term "research program", they do so with barely contained sarcasm.
posted by Jimbob at 3:03 PM on January 7, 2008


there's a lot of other things about Japanese culture that I have significant issues accepting

Heh.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:31 PM on January 7, 2008


Hey KokuRyu, do you care to comment on the Japanese view of gai-jin? After all, Japanese can't hate immigrants that much?
posted by desiderandus at 7:57 PM on January 7, 2008


Interesting question, but I'm not sure what you're getting at. Racism exists in Japan. I just spent three weeks there visiting family for the holidays, and I flew back with a planeload of factory workers destined for a vacation in Mexico. They probably experience racism - it's a problem in Shizuoka and Hamamatsu and Gunma, where there are large numbers of unassimilated guestworkers. Generally, people who work at menial jobs, do not speak Japanese, and who do not have white skin, can have a rough go of it. Myself, I lived a charmed existence until I learned to speak Japanese. People always doing stuff for me, holding my hand. Treating me like a child. Probably because I look like a white American. I got way more breaks than the Russian girl I knew, straight from Vladivostok, who ended up in a detention centre in Toyama. But I got sick of being treated like a child. I learned the language - really learned it - enough to do my own taxes, understand employment and immigration laws, and everything changed. I never really had any hassles, but it was a lot of work. Adapting. Body language is important. Use the wrong body language, and it's like someone's jumping up and down and shouting 'ooga-booga'. So I watched my hands and my posture and my eye contact.

So, I just went back for three weeks, and I spent it in the blue-collar port town where I spent ten years. Sure, people treated me a little different - I'm a big white guy - but I was always treated with respect. I got annoyed maybe once, on New Year's Eve, during the temple visit. Someone asked if I could eat zoni, and it bugged me, because I pay the goddamn temple $350 a month to educate my son in kindergarten (he and my wife are there for several months to take care of my sick mother-in-law). But I stayed in hotels and they never asked for my passport. I went to bars and restaurants during a visit to a dodgier part of Tokyo, and nobody refused me service - in fact, a madam at a massage parlour invited me in. I went to hot spring public baths nearly every day, and people would always talk to me, rather than turning me away. My son, who is a so-called 'half' (though he's just my son to me), has plenty of friends at kindergarten, and we're careful to ensure it's not because the parents want their kids to have an 'American' friend.

However, I have stayed clear of many of the industries such as construction (although I did work as a rigger for a while in 1999), the sex trade/nightclub scene, and temp labour agencies, where low-cost labour is hired out, where the workers are usually powerless, and where racism exists. But, like I said, I tried as best as I could to fit in, which meant learning the language, and acting Japanese. It works.

I once complained to a friend of mine from Dallas who happens to be black that everyone in Japan was 'always staring at me on the bus.' 'Here it's nothing,' he said. 'It's like that every day of my life for me back home in the States.'

You asked, so I told.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:27 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


That was excellent and informative, KokuRyu. Except that I find it hard to believe that your black friend who lives in a major US city is stared at on buses. It's not like seeing a black person is some rare occurrence that happens only once in a blue moon.
posted by KingoftheWhales at 11:38 PM on January 7, 2008


I got stared at a lot more as a white guy living in downtown Baltimore than I ever do as a white guy living in Japan. But at least no one in Baltimore eats whales...
posted by donkeymon at 4:59 AM on January 8, 2008


donkeymon I'd guess it depends on where in Japan you lived. I noticed that in the central areas of Tokyo most people didn't stare much at the gaijin, but I lived in a Machida [1] and around there I did get stared at quite a bit. Currently I live in a predominantly black part of Amarillo TX, and I don't think anyone has ever stared at me.

[1] For those of you unfamiliar with the geography of Tokyo, its a suburb of Tokyo, about an hour by train from the heart of the city.
posted by sotonohito at 8:16 AM on January 8, 2008


rrrr.... not "a Machida", just "Machida". Dunno how that extra "a" got in there.
posted by sotonohito at 8:17 AM on January 8, 2008


humannaire--

I'm not going to disagree that whales are quite intelligent. Personally, I'm convinced cows and pigs are much smarter than they're given credit for. I mean, people deny they even have emotions, and there's no rational reason to assume they don't.

I'm simply speaking to the numbers: The whale population will probably be hunted to extinction within our lifetime, unless we stop the hunting. The best way to stop the hunting of the wild population is to eliminate the massive rewards it brings -- thus, create farms.

You can be absolutist about this. Or you can recognize that whales _will be extinct in your lifetime_ unless you try another approach. Your present path looks like:

1) No whale hunting, whatsoever
2) We're gonna do some "research"
3) Heh, where'd all the whales go?

vs.

1) Whale farming
2) We're gonna do some "research"
3) Heh, where'd all the profit go? Er, nevermind about that whole research thing.
posted by effugas at 8:42 AM on January 8, 2008


Interesting. Humannaire's link implies that Japanese appetites have indeed changed, to the point where the meat needs to be actively marketed. On the one hand, we market everything in the States -- Pork, the other Other White Meat, or Beef: It's What's For Dinner -- on the other hand, it's worth recognizing the existence of an entire industry centered around hooking wild whales.

How do you migrate an entire industry, that's hunting itself to extinction? Seems to be a problem the entire fishing realm has right now...
posted by effugas at 8:49 AM on January 8, 2008


Fair enough, KokuRyu. However, I can't help thinking that Japanese society is fairly xenophobic , given it's very strict immigration policy. After all, immigrants compose maybe 1% of the Japanese population. And from all the foreign news sources, the strict immigration policy seems implicitly designed to preserve Japanese ethnic purity.
posted by desiderandus at 12:45 PM on January 8, 2008


Oh, and I always found gai-jin a rather xenophobic name for foreigners. White devils? No thanks, although I'd be a brown devil myself.
posted by desiderandus at 12:46 PM on January 8, 2008


desiderandus "gaijin" just means "foreigner", not "white devil". Its written: 外人, the first character means "outside", the second means "person". Though, gaikokujin (foreign nation person) is generally considered more polite.

As for xenophobia, I'd say its really more of a remnant of the old Chinese concept of cultural nationalism than xenophobia as most people mean the term. To a large extent China, as well as Japan and many of the other East Asian powers, defined its area of control as the place where people were culturally Chinese, not so much as an area with arbitrary boundaries [1]. The result was that political control depended, to a very large extent, on *cultural* control, and the cultures which developed in that area tended to view cultural purity as being very important.

After encountering European imperialism the East Asian nations adoped the European idea of arbitrary national boundaries, but cultures don't change so quickly as politics do. Which gives us East Asian cultures still possessing a rather large tendancy towards exclusionism and cultural purity. I think that unconsious cultural imperitive was at least partially responsible for many of the actions that Imperial Japan took in Korea that seem puzzling to Westerners [2].

Which gives us modern China and Japan, both cultures with a continuing, culturally ingrained, desire for cultural purity (which doesn't stop people in Japan from thinking foreign stuff is cool, or desiring English language nonsense on their clothing; no one ever said cultural tendencies weren't contradictory), and a corespoding desire to see their culture as being more unique than it actually is.

[1] "not so much" doesn't mean "not at all", just that the European concept of fixed borders altered only by war wasn't the way the Chinese tended to think.

[2] The large push, and expenditure of resources, to eradicate the Korean language and supplant it with Japanese, for example
posted by sotonohito at 2:33 PM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Holy crap, the ignorance level in here is astounding.
posted by nightchrome at 4:11 PM on January 8, 2008


I can't help thinking that Japanese society is fairly xenophobic

The United Nations, it ain't.

But if you learn the language, have some economic autonomy (that is, you don't labour doing one of the 3K jobs, or as an English 'teacher', or in the sex trade, or a 'trainee'), oh what a fabulous place to be. Smiling and having a sense of humour also helps. And being stubborn and persistent.

BTW, doesn't Korea have similar rules for foreigners, such as fingerprinting and id cards and all that stuff? I know that Germany does, as does the US. Of course, immigration rules should probably be relaxed all over the world (we prevent the free movement of people but encourage the free movement of goods and capital)
posted by KokuRyu at 4:35 PM on January 8, 2008


Greenpeace have whalers on the run
posted by homunculus at 2:58 PM on January 12, 2008


Reuters story on Greenpeace pursuit of the Japanese whalers.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:05 AM on January 13, 2008


« Older Most of the news stories about the release of fail...  |  The 50 greatest British writer... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments