Hello world!

I’m fresh off of a trip to Japan, and there’s something interesting that I took away from the experience.

As probably one of the ONLY countries in the world that was not colonized (occupation after 2 atom bombs in WWII I think is a lil diff) by Western Europe,  Japan, I feel, has developed in an interesting dichotomy of national self pride and a comfortable openness with other cultural influences.

Whats really good?

What's really good?

One thing that truly struck me was their fascination with western culture (ie desiring western “Christian” weddings, using English names for companies and cars, etc)  in a way that bordered obsession.  But, it was their national pride that seemed to eclipse that energy.  Granted, I understand that I was reading this cultural dance – old vs new, western vs eastern, white vs yellow – through the lenses of an American slave descendant.  So, it pained me at times to see how the youth had such a thirst for Western culture just as much as I was in awe of such a proud, humble, and courteous people.

Oftentimes, when speaking of the black American experience with my peers who are not black slave descendants, there is this vacant flash crosses their  when certain topics come up.

Did you catch that flash of blank stare?

Did you catch that flash of blank stare?

They want to respectfully relate – they want to understand, but just can’t.  On the flip side, there is an unspoken depression we are sometimes unable to vocalize (or maybe there just isn’t and English [lol, okay yes i see what’s happening here] word for it.) and maybe it’s unfair of me to expect something else.

In Japan, I felt like something totally different was at play.  My American experience I think sort of colored my ability to read what was going on.  What I do know is this – the egomania (snorts during tours, loud commenting at dinner, and just plain old annoying precociousness) displayed by my fellow Western tourists was more often than not embarassing.  It made me want the Japanese tour guides to point out MORE 6th century cities, explain AGAIN the fact that their royal line is the longest running in the world, and their own colonizing exploits.  I cringed when they joked about how Japanese marketers purposely name things with English names to give products a sense of legitimacy.  On the flip side, I found delight in Japanese hip hop, loved when they donned cornrows, and actually laughed at the b-boy stance I’d get from the school children when I’d say Ohayo!  I have no idea if those sentiments are contradictory…

But what I do know is that I am tired of the US as a cultural dictator.

I don’t like the idea that just because an idea or cultural norm is Western, it is therefore more appropriate.  I recently read this article in the Huff Post.  And, while there are several problematic points in her post, the general sentiment I believe is valid.  Ultimately, it’s wrong of the West to assume that the entire world should adopt the same values.  People overcome oppression – yes through the help of others – but also by defining for themselves what exactly the opposite of oppression really means.  This idea of global cultural conquest/domination I believe is vile.  I would LOVE to hear what others think about the article.  The comment thread on Huff Post is an excellent example of just how delicate, yet necessary this conversation is since we are warring in the Middle East, figuring out what our Trade Agreements really mean in this economy, and trying to figure out to balance our unemployment rate/foreign/immigrant workers.

Go West!(?)

Go West!(?)

In the end, who are we really to save people from themselves?  What is it exactly that we are trying to accomplish in the end?  Global Christianity?  Extreme wealth?  Do we even know?

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