June 5th, 2005


Nipposexual 2: Live your dream and stay where you are

As I suspected, our weekend theme of nipposexuality has run and run: at 150 comments and counting, it's had an even bigger response than the piece advising Democrats to leave the United States after the 2004 Bush victory. And weekends are usually quiet around here...

We don't seem to have reached any sort of unanimity on the basic question, though. Is it okay to be a nipposexual? My favourite answer was one of the most succinct: "It's funny that it's acceptable to fetishize someone's shoes," observed Slinka, "but orientation toward their culture is such a touchy subject. Really, what says more about a person?"

There were some attempts to tar the nipposexual with guilt by association: I was directed to a website in which gaijin boasted of their sexual conquests (luckily it didn't load properly and I couldn't read the gory details), and inevitably the noun picked up a nasty qualifying infection: "the Roppongi nipposexuals". An effective smear indeed — I loathe the leering, shaven-headed jet trash that throngs Roppongi sidewalks at weekends!

Luckily a line was drawn between playas and sex tourists like these sleazy Roppongi louts (who mostly pay for their sex) and western men in longterm relationships with Japanese women. The latter category, by the way, (what do we call them, nippocommittos?) includes many of those who comment regularly here, as well as most of the Japan-based gaijin bloggers I mention on this site: Marxy, Jean Snow... and of course me!

If we remove sleaze, promiscuity, and sex tourism from the picture, what we're left with is nipposexuality as a fairly typical consequence of globalism. So I want to make globalism my focus today. I've already declared my position on this: I'm a fairly enthusiastic Phase 1 globalist. I want to travel, to produce and consume the products of global trade (and yes, I want a fair distribution of profits), to pick and choose the best of cultures with fairly clear identities. I realise that it's slightly paradoxical, though. Just as tourists who flock to an unspoiled beach inevitably spoil it, globalists who seek pure and strong alternative cultures surely dilute them, making them pretty much like anywhere else.

That "pretty much like anywhere else" is what I call Phase 2 globalism. I don't think we're there yet, and I think we might never be. If we see the referendum on the European constitution as a verdict on globalism (and many of the no voters in France and Holland last week were concerned by the likely internationalisation of their jobs and the loss of their local identities), it seems that Phase 2 globalism is an increasingly unpopular scenario. People are afraid they'll drown in the melting pot. There were even rumblings last week that Italy might pull out of the Euro and re-instate the Lira. The suggestions were quickly condemned by the European Central Bank (it would be "economic suicide" for Italy), but not before they wiped several cents off the value of the Euro.

I happened to be watching a piece on Arte about the appointment of Roger M. Buergel as the curator of Documenta 12, the biggest German art event, next held in 2007. Buergel's pet themes are autonomy, grassroots initiatives, and the right of the viewer to assemble his own stories rather than have some high concept imposed by a superstar curator. These themes were particularly poignant in the light of the solid rejection by voters of the EU's perceived centralisation and technocratic elitism. During the report on Buergel there was a shot of a piece he'd included in one of his shows, a big photo of a text that said (and I may not have the wording exactly right): "Live your dream and stay where you are".

It's a simple phrase, but the implications are fiercely utopian... and somewhat puritanical. It's difficult to imagine how I might "live my dream and stay where I am". My philosophy is very much the opposite: "live your dream by travelling far away", or possibly even "live someone else's dream by travelling far away". If I try to construct the parallel world where I live my dream despite staying where I am, the best I can come up with is a kind of Alice-in-Wonderland Scotland where I drink little bottles of hallucinogens in order to shrink my aspirations to the size of Scotland, swigging from the Drink Me bottle to make my local surroundings look incredibly attractive when they, frankly, aren't.

So, okay, I stay in Edinburgh all my life, I marry a local woman, we raise children, we consume only local produce (um, porridge? Turnips? Fish and chips? Edinburgh rock candy?), we listen to the radio rather than using the internet or seeing tantalising far-off places on TV... It's a life my grandparents might recognise (although even they fought in the world wars which, some might say, are the true beginning of the globalist era). It's either wildly utopian—it's possible that a Scotland with some sort of cultural renaissance going on would be as magical to me as Japan presently is, although it's hard to imagine a renaissance without a global trade in ideas—or terribly depressing.

So perhaps nipposexuality is just a facet of advanced Phase 1 globalism. The votes that came in yesterday on whether it's okay, like the votes in the EU referendum, represented a complex variety of views on what the subject was about, choc-full of all sorts of completely different, yet passionately-held, pet causes. I've totted up your votes on whether nipposexuality is a constitutional treaty you approve of: 45% said yes, 55% no. I am currently in crisis, considering my future.