Sunday, February 29, 2004
It's not enough

The homeless in New York.

I think what particularly alarmed me when I took this picture was my own reaction. I realized that although I stood behind a glass door taking pictures of them for a good five minutes so that I could post them here and carry their message to others, it didn't even occur to me to give them money. Not until later when I was showing a friend these pictures and he happened to ask "so did you give them money" did it occur to me that even I am completely desensitized. It reminded me of ihath's post where she describes her own surprise at finding out she is racist. Am I classist? Often when a homeless person passes me I will just keep looking ahead, or once in a while I will look at them while feeling sad, or even worse, grateful for my own life. It is only when I travel or when I am in unfamiliar surroundigs that it occurs to me to try to do something for the homeless around me. Have I grown too accustomed to my own surroundings to just take them as a normal part of daily life??

Ihath also describes Nelson Mandela's reaction when he discovers that he also exhibits racist behaviour . He has a panic attack at discovering that the pilot to a commercial flight he is to take is black, and nervously boards the plane. He knows that a black person is just as capable of commanding a plane as is a caucasian person, but he too has been so accustomed to seeing caucasian pilots that he has inwardly grown to believe that white pilots are more competent!!

I would seriously recommend anyone who reads this post to read the letter at the end of this page. It is seriously one of the best posts, and one of the most touching commentaries I have read. Throughout reading it I felt shivers of recognition.

I like to think of myself as a reasonable person, who is skeptical enough to challenge the norms and standards given to me. I like to think of myself as someone who doesn't just take the world for granted as being necessarily organized in its current form, and someone who understands what it means to respect others. To respect others, especially those who have less freedom, enough that instead of pity I would feel a genuine desire to redistribute some of what I have so that they can be enabled to be more responsible for their happiness.

Then why is it that I, too, don't act? I thought blogging was a way to start. I thought that by writing and sharing these thoughts, as I do in my daily life with those around me, or in seminars at my university, I was making a start. And it is, indeed, a start. But it's not enough.

It's not enough to say "at least I do something intellectually, even if..."
It's not enough to say "well at least I care, even if..."
It's not enough to say "at least I have the right intentions, even if..."

Those are all good starts. They are necessary. But they are not sufficient. Genuineness is needed.

Media watchdogs

Thank you atrios for this post on the US media's over-eagerness to follow Washington.

But, what I do know is how, when it comes to foreign policy, it is rather frightening how quickly our American media parrots the official Washington line, even when it quite obviously contradicts our entire foreign policy of the past few years.

It's great to see political blogging at what political blogging does best: watching the media. No wonder it makes some journalists uncomfortable.
Friday, February 27, 2004
This blog entry from Eschaton links to an interesting review of his profile -- or, for that matter, the profile of what a blogger is to many who have not entered the world of blogging. It's interesting to see the not-so-subtle criticism the reviewer has towards blogging. It seems that the reviewer misses the main point -- that blogging can provide an alternative means to the corporate media, and that this is a good thing.
This article on video game violence is great food for thought -- it really makes you wonder just to what extent culture is relevant, and when a cigar is just a cigar.
Thursday, February 26, 2004

Picture I took in a subway in Manhattan. Poignant question, isn't it?
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
This article is quite something...with water quickly becoming one of the world's most scarce resources, MNCs are bothering to unnecessarily put expiration dates on bottled water -- urging unsold products to be thrown away!! Drinking water does not expire, and can be consumed many years after it has been bottled. But in the wake of "survival" kits becoming increasingly popular (helped, of course, by high security alerts issued by the US government), companies are taking advantage of an increased demand for bottled water. Which, of course, makes sense -- but that they should try to encourage further sales by suggesting that water "expires" (and thus that it is rendered garbage after a certain time) means that perfectly good drinking water will be thrown away if unsold.
Tuesday, February 10, 2004
Collective Amnesia: The Japanese Case

I've decided to publish some excerpts from my thesis on collective amnesia and the importance of teaching and disseminating facts with historical accuracy. In other words, the thesis addresses various governments' usage of historicizing as a tool in shaping their nations' perception of the world, with a special focus on the Japanese case.

I was recently checking out the
Interview American Amnesia conducted with Howard Zinn and came accross this great quote:

"We're forgetting the past because neither our educational system nor our media inform us about the past. For instance, the history of the Vietnam War has been very much forgotten. I believe this amnesia is useful to those conducting our present foreign policy. It would be embarrassing if the story of the Vietnam War were told at a time when we are engaged in a war which has some of the same characteristics: government deception, the killing of civilians through bombing, scaring the American people (world communism in that case, terrorism in this one). As for the history beyond Vietnam, that would certainly be damaging to present policy. Because if young people knew the long history of U.S. expansion, through violence and deception, they would not easily believe that we are in Iraq to promote democracy. They would know how many false claims were made in the past to justify aggressive acts..."

It seems so simple. “Eat bread and salt and speak the truth.”[1] Yet if we are not to take for granted that there is an absolute universal truth, we are faced with yet another problem in historicizing: which truth?

Growing up, my Korean grandfather frequently told me stories about Korea during Colonial times. He avidly related stories that depicted the suffering my grandparents and great-grandparents experienced under Japanese rule. At the time, living in a city like Sao Paulo, which hosts one of the largest Japanese populations outside Japan, many of my school friends were Japanese, and I did not understand why the resentment that my ancestors harboured was so strong it was even brought with them to another continent. For our generation, being friends with Japanese or non-Japanese alike had nothing to do with country of origin or nationality. But for my grandparents’ generation, the lack of moral accountability remained an overdue injustice in their perception of the world. The problem with unacknowledged mass atrocities, as Erna Paris describes, is that “the ordinary people will remember, even when they are ordered not to; that the victims – including their children and eventually their grandchildren – will not disappear.”[2]

The truth that they, and other survivors of the colonial empire told was very different from the truth that the media told, the truth that the Japanese government told, or even the view that the Japanese people held. In a survey conducted in 1993 in Japan, results revealed that a significant part of the population actually views Japan as an aggressor during WWII. Interestingly, this figure decreases with age. While 61.7% of those interviewed in their 20s agree that Japan was an aggressor during the war, only 41.1% among those over 70 say yes to the same question.[3] These results suggest that despite the current controversies surrounding moral accountability in Japan today, in recent years the level of recognition about Japan’s past among Japanese has actually increased. While this figure might decrease again in some years if revisionist textbooks are used in schools today, the survey suggests that denial occurs mostly at a governmental or bureaucratic level. It also reminds us that many are aware of past atrocities.

Significant questions remain. Who are the real perpetrators of injustice? Is the Japanese government, or are also the Japanese people responsible? Having grown up with several Japanese friends and being so familiar with Japanese culture (which I admire in many ways), I would find it difficult to simply ascribe them the value of "other" and thus separate myself from them. Eventually my grandfather married a Japanese woman and moved to Japan to live with her, where he spent the last ten years of his life. Perhaps reconciliation is possible. At the individual level, it has already begun to occur even in my grandfather's generation. But much remains to be accounted for at the macro, historical, and political levels. Most importantly, we must not deprive future generations from learning from our past -- whether it be Japanese, German, Brazilian, or American.


[1] Slav proverb, quoted in Erna Paris’ Long Shadows, p464.

[2] Ibid, p454.

[3] Source: Yomiuri poll, quoted in John Dower’s essay, “An Aptitude for Being Unloved,” War Crimes, p315.
Sunday, February 08, 2004
It feels like it's been a long time since I posted...I guess when so much starts happening offline it's hard to keep up here. But it's important for me to still devote a little time to updating my (trivial) views on life, the universe, and everything, so here goes...

Just some food for thought:

-- In Brazil, Lula has included more PMDB (right of center) ministers in his cabinet...selling out in domestic politics? Yet, at the same time, he has become more adamant in his anti-US international position...

-- Ever watch Fox News? It's amazing...I think one's IQ drops a point per minute of watching the show...a report testing out the effectiveness of the "hangover pills" (hey sign me up if it works!) has to appeal to emotion so that viewers will be compelled to watch. "Want reality tv? These men have a drink! for you! to test out this little pill...will it work? this is reality! find out, only on Fox News!!" I recently had watched a similar report in Canada's CBC: "Coming up next, we test the hangover pill; find out our results." Is sensationalism the only way to sell in the US?

-- Have you seen the recent "Join the Low Carb Revolution!" ads on MSN? It's as if we all needed a new fewer carbs, vote for Bush, improve the economy...and keep the wheel fact, it's amazing how in the US most advertisements have to do with weight's all in the name of helping to make America beautiful I suppose

-- And Microsoft's in trouble yet again...this time in Europe, for tying its Windows products to Mediaplayer...yaaaaay go monopolies! So much good the recent encounter with US competition policy did...

Yep, two weeks away from blogging and it's still a lunatic's world out there...but don't worry, as long as we may blog, the sometimes satirical/sometimes documentary-style posts will keep coming to keep us all entertained...not only here, but also in several other excellent sites I have discovered that just keep finding the silver (sometimes electrifying) lining in the current global clouds around us...