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Sat, Mar. 19th, 2005 09:29 am
Racist robots

48CommentReplyFlag

imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Mar. 19th, 2005 10:28 am (UTC)

Well, I think you're also focusing on the media representations. The media reports tendencies and directions and changes and trends rather than underlying solid states. (This same tendency is a real weakness in Marxy's analysis. Incremental changes seem to him like definitive states.)

Sure, I agree with you that current US policies may be just more imperialistic versions of Clinton policies. Surely that just underlines the fact that the US is worrying whoever is in power. Clinton only left a few years ago... you have to go back to the second world war to find your examples of Japanese militarism. Atrocities in Machurian villages is not the reality of contemporary Japan, whereas war and atrocity are the realities of the contemporary US. That is a fundamental reality, and if anything under-represented in the press.

Japan has been at peace for 60 years. The US-encouraged re-armament you speak of is a worrying development. Japan will probably become a permanent member of the UN security council and be allowed to call the SDF an "army" soon. That doesn't mean that its underlying peaceful tendency will be reversed. I argue in my essay that the US acts without understanding of the intentional fallacy. They may be pushing Japan into militarism in the hope that Japan will help them police the world, only to discover that it has quite a different result. Certainly if you look at public opinion in both countries, it looks startlingly like the robots on this page.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sat, Mar. 19th, 2005 11:14 am (UTC)

Hang on, aren't there Japanese forces in Iraq? Oh right, they are only defending the country (Japan).

What I find questionable at least is that much of the pacifism (however real that really is) in Japan seems to derive from the perception of Japan as a victim of WW2, not from a horror in the face of what they themselves, this Buddhist / Shintoist society has been capable of. (Koizumi has no problems visiting both Yasukuni and Hiroshima gembaku dome.)

If you remove the feeling that Japan could always be a victim again and hence should strive for a peaceful world, e.g. by giving Japan access to atomic weapons, or, more realistically, if you trigger it (North Korea having atom bombs), who knows what they would do again to extend their sphere of influence?

Btw.: just because one country (the US) might have slightly more negative aspects (militarism, obesity), that does not mean that another country can not have negative aspects as well (cavalier attitude to repression, ultra consumerism). Not even sure you have to order badness on a scale.

And I don't really see how there is a moral obligation to mention one when mentioning the other.
Demanding of someone to first list all the negative points about the country of their birth before they can criticise the country of their residence is silly. In fact, most everywhere else (including the bad bad US) this would be considered racism. ("Dear African-American, would you please stop whining? Be grateful you're not living in Suda.")

(Note that this is completely independent of whether the criticism is actually correct. That is a factual question, the line of argument you seem to be following addresses not the justification but the authorisation to criticise.)

der.


ReplyThread Parent
polocrunch
polocrunch
Polocrunch
Sat, Mar. 19th, 2005 11:21 am (UTC)

Do you think that Japan's major problem after its defeat in the Second World War could be that it was not invaded? It was, admittedly, occupied, and it did surrender unconditionally, but the chain of events that led to its surrender may well have set it up for a 'victim' mentality afterwards. I suppose it is comparable to Weimar Germany, in that there is a feeling of victimisation. Is there a sense of betrayal by the government of the time, or of a desire for vengeance? Perhaps we have nothing to worry about because Japan did not have an economic disaster as acute as Weimar Germany's.


ReplyThread Parent
polocrunch
polocrunch
Polocrunch
Sat, Mar. 19th, 2005 11:17 am (UTC)

Isn't it fascinating how the Great Powers of yesteryear get resurrected so? India, China, Japan, Germany and India, all laid low at one point in the last couple of centuries, have rearisen like phoenixes from ashes and imperial subjugation. One could almost wonder how the Caliphate will be represented anew in the future - it did, after all, dominate world affairs for a millennium, and there is an absence of a great Power in its old stamping ground, the Middle East.


ReplyThread Parent
polocrunch
polocrunch
Polocrunch
Sat, Mar. 19th, 2005 11:22 am (UTC)

(Apologies for random history-related comments!)


ReplyThread Parent
stanleylieber
stanleylieber
Stanley Lieber
Sat, Mar. 19th, 2005 12:08 pm (UTC)

Sure, I agree with you that current US policies may be just more imperialistic versions of Clinton policies. Surely that just underlines the fact that the US is worrying whoever is in power. Clinton only left a few years ago... you have to go back to the second world war to find your examples of Japanese militarism. Atrocities in Machurian villages is not the reality of contemporary Japan, whereas war and atrocity are the realities of the contemporary US. That is a fundamental reality, and if anything under-represented in the press.

I quite agree with most of this, with the caveat that the very qualities of Japanese society that you praise so frequently render your argument somewhat less substantial, for all its accuracy. For Japan, is laying low for sixty years any more of a 'solid state' than what I'm describing? Observe the behavior of the United States over the last sixty years. Is this also definitive? Damning, as Japan's is redeeming? If you take your own advice and pull back to a wider view, the historical behavior of Japanese society (and in particular, the Japanese governments tolerated by its populace) is less in line with your utopian view of its presumed present circumstances (neither of us speak the language) than it is with my cautionary observation that institutionalized, traditionalized politeness doesn't necessarily equate to enduring political or military docility. See The Art of War, which is still widely studied -- there are entirely different sets of cultural points of commonality bringing a gravitational influence to bear on their social mores. We (as Westerners) tend to see passivity as a 'solid state,' whereas an Easterner knows, feels, within every strand of his DNA, that that all states are transient. Let the big stupid Americans trip over their own feet. All things run their course. Perhaps sixty years is a 'cake walk' in the higher, global stakes.


ReplyThread Parent
stanleylieber
stanleylieber
Stanley Lieber
Sat, Mar. 19th, 2005 12:08 pm (UTC)

Had to extend this to another comment:



I argue in my essay that the US acts without understanding of the intentional fallacy. They may be pushing Japan into militarism in the hope that Japan will help them police the world, only to discover that it has quite a different result. Certainly if you look at public opinion in both countries, it looks startlingly like the robots on this page.

Again with public opinion. Would you say that public opinion itself has a significant effect on policy in either country? I don't mean how policy is portrayed in the news, how they pretend that domestic outrage is responsible for sudden lunging course corrections (read: pre-planned steps in a relatively static plan), but what actually happens. U.S. policy towards managing the world hasn't altered significantly since the 1950s. We are still carrying out the same strategies devised by the last demographically dominant group of ideological dualists (largely to the same effect, it should be pointed out). In spite of the long train of changing faces and fashions, the really affecting politics remain remarkabley consistent from administration to administration, from social era to social era. I think you make a good point above in pulling the perspective back to WWII, positing a sort of B.C./A.D. split there, with regards to Japan. I would agree that much of what has happened since then around the world have been plays in the same ever-escalating game. Perhaps the development of the Internet as an open, world medium is the first significant step towards breaking the hegemony of U.S. intellectual dominance of world politics. On the other hand, maybe it's just the first step towards ensuring that model's success, as the export of our junk culture seems to obliterate everything in its path (from the Soviet Union to radical Islam).

I admire your faith in the influence of cultural aesthetic to corral governments, I even think it is effective at times. What I doubt is that public opinion has much structural effect on how the top 99% of wealth is organized, though I agree strongly that surface fluctuations in how things are presented through media can make for startingly varied television. My contention here is that having a profound effect on the organization of proletarian culture is not the same thing as creating a 'better world for all of us.'

You may even be right that Japan is the best (only?) hope for our future. My mild admonishment is that the light, reflective surface of Japanese society reflects a fully self-aware consciousness that also stares back at you as you gaze longingly into its superflat depths. They are not simply noble savages, though savages they may yet prove to be.

The Buddha is surrender, man.


ReplyThread Parent
bugpowered
bugpowered
Sun, Mar. 20th, 2005 05:50 pm (UTC)

Again with public opinion. Would you say that public opinion itself has a significant effect on policy in either country? I don't mean how policy is portrayed in the news, how they pretend that domestic outrage is responsible for sudden lunging course corrections (read: pre-planned steps in a relatively static plan), but what actually happens. U.S. policy towards managing the world hasn't altered significantly since the 1950s.

Well, that could be why american psyche hasn't changed much since the 1950s.

Sure, some fads and fashions, even ones that marked whole generations,
have passed. But has the inner core of America changed?

We still see the same core in Americans as De Toqueville saw two centuries
ago (the previous millenium, If I can be pedantic).

The more celebrated values in american life, success, money, the american
dream, celebration of self, puritanism, god, the good and the bad things
all have their say on its policy. Is Walt Whitman very different from a modern
american rocker?

Yes, some people protest against Bush. You can protest against something
and still have the same core values as it. Furthermore, a hell of a lot more
people don't give a damn, or support Bush. But, as I said, that is beside
the point.

The idea that political leaders "cheat" the people, and manipulate the
public opinion, etc, while has some merit in the short run, on the
long run and over the course of history it is naive.

We don't use the "cheat" idea or the idea that public opinion and people
have no say in order to understand history (this notion is only in vogue
in certain conspiracy theory circles).

Hitler didn't cheated the Germans. We know what where the historical
currents that made him stand out as their leader. Napoleon wasn't a
smart guy who made the French invest in him. In the long run, people
get what they want.





ReplyThread Parent
stanleylieber
stanleylieber
Stanley Lieber
Sun, Mar. 20th, 2005 10:26 pm (UTC)

You say:

Yes, some people protest against Bush. You can protest against something
and still have the same core values as it. Furthermore, a hell of a lot more
people don't give a damn, or support Bush. But, as I said, that is beside
the point.


...which seems to confirm what I say about there being a disconnect between public opinion and decisions that are made behind the media curtain which ultimately affect the organization of power.

Then you say:

The idea that political leaders "cheat" the people, and manipulate the
public opinion, etc, while has some merit in the short run, on the
long run and over the course of history it is naive.


...which seems to confirm the opposite.



We don't use the "cheat" idea or the idea that public opinion and people
have no say in order to understand history (this notion is only in vogue
in certain conspiracy theory circles).


This is essentially only an ad hominem dismissal.



Hitler didn't cheated the Germans. We know what where the historical
currents that made him stand out as their leader. Napoleon wasn't a
smart guy who made the French invest in him. In the long run, people
get what they want.


So, if there had been no Benjamin Franklin, Napolean, Hitler, history would have invented them?
Are individuals really only manifestations of their times, or do certain individual trajectories intersect with the flowing currents of power, producing results?

My own view is that the contribution of individuals is as important as the cumulative desires which either grind them up or crank them to the top of the heap. The many are, after all, composed of the few. Certainly, America might have still come about without Franklin and Jefferson, but would it have assumed the same character? Would we be having quite the same discussion about its inherited faults? Without Hitler and Goebbels would Nazism have acheived power via the same method, riding the currents of anti-Jewish propaganda? I do think individuals, and the choices they make, matter. Why this is only seen as valid when those individuals act overtly, with some sort of ambiguously phrased 'support of the people' is a mystery to me. Could not these same individuals, correctly positioned, exert influence without being widely supported?

Were the American people at fault for the firebombing of Tokyo and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nakasaaki? How exactly can they be responsible, in a direct way, for something they could not have been aware of until it had already been done? Perhaps someone will suggest that the Japanese were manipulated sixty years ago, and would not have individually agreed to subject Manchurians (to pick a single example out of the hat) to scientific experimentation. Might be a plausible point.

In the larger view, I disagree that people always 'get what they want,' because I don't have that much faith in a human being's ability to control reality. I think things happen, and people make up stories to convince themselves that it was all according to their plan, in the end. To my mind, any other perspective reveals a hidden metaphysical egotism that borders on the pathlogical. Perhaps this is the defining feature of the American character -- this puritanism of will to power -- that is being scrutinized by Momus, above.



ReplyThread Parent