Home > Analysis, aside > A short caricature on politics …

A short caricature on politics …

japans-imperialismIn the lead up to China’s commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in WWII, I thought I’d do a little personal aside … that might explain why Japan can be so delusional about so many things.

Politics … in many ways … especially politics in the democratic sense (i.e. at the level of the people) … is about caricatures … about simplifying (over-simplifying as the case may be) the issues.  Politics is about setting narratives – about burnishing worldviews – through selective highlighting (and de-emphasis) of reality … to present a particular view of the world that sometimes resembles some aspects reality … but that can some times also be completely in contravention with any sane view of reality.

There is a reason why people often avoid talking politics and religion in polite settings.  People can try to use logic and reason … but the problem is that underneath iceberg tip of logic and reason are mountains full of unspoken – and sometimes even unconscious – presumptions.  It’s why reasonable people can disagree vigorously and get so worked up about political disagreements.

Before I get to Japan, let’s take a caricaturist’s view of the most recent “controversy” involving Donald Trump’s latest negative ad on Jeb Bush.   Here is an excerpt of an article from the Huffington Post:

Donald Trump released a video on Monday attacking fellow GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush for his comments about undocumented immigrant families, attempting to associate the former Florida governor with three undocumented men who have been charged with murder.

The video implies that Bush supports policies that allow undocumented criminals — Trump seems to think many, if not most, unauthorized immigrants belong in this category — to remain in the United States. Trump’s attack features a clip of Bush from last year talking about people who come to the U.S. to provide for their children, but omits the context — that he was talking specifically about families.

“Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony,” Bush says in the clip. “It’s an act of love.”

But what Bush said immediately beforehand casts the remarks in a different light.

“The way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally, they come to our country because their families — the dad who loved their children — was worried that their children didn’t have food on the table,” he said at the time. “And they wanted to make sure their family was intact, and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family.”

Trump’s video features images of three undocumented men who were charged with murder this year. The first, Francisco Sanchez, was charged last month with the fatal shooting of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco. He had been deported five times beforehand, but was released after serving prison time under San Francisco’s policies, which call for limited cooperation with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

The second man pictured is Santana Gaona, who was sentenced to 50 years in prison earlier this year for a 2011 murder. Brian Omar Hyde, the third man, was charged this month with murdering his aunt, his pregnant cousin and another man.

“Love?” the video asks in all-caps letters. “Forget love. It’s time to get tough!”

So on illegal immigration, Jeb Bush (and the author of the Huffington Post is definitely with Bush here) would like to paint first a picture of wholesome illegal immigrants coming to the States coming here for economic opportunity.  They are here to give service, to do the work that no one else would, to work hard despite being paid minimum wage.  They contribute to society and pay taxes, and should not be criminalized when all they do is to try to bring other members of their families in to unify their families.

Trump and his supporters would retort: it is undisputed public record that many of these illegal immigrants are criminals.  These immigrants are the lowest of class where they came from and are here to fight for a livelihood.  And desperate people can … and do …. do desperate things.  The country can debate the merits of having more immigrants, and when a consensus arise, the country can raise the quota and allow more immigrants to come in … legally.  But until a consensus arise, let’s not treat illegals as saints and angels … it is disgraceful to presume that for “politically correct” reasons when innocents Americans are being murdered and raped everyday by these people … LET’S GET TOUGH!

Is there an objective political solution here?  I don’t think so.  Which narrative you subscribe to depends on your worldview, your presumptions, and your notion of how the world works, how the world should be…

I personally subscribe to the notion that the U.S. is a land of immigrants, and should look favorably toward immigrants. The U.S. as it is is too white and European.  But that’s my political persuasion…

Which narrative grabs you?  The immigration conflict described above is played out throughout the rich world … from France to Germany to Japan to Hong Kong … and Taiwan.  For a particular narrative to grab you, a constellation of life experiences – presumptions and outlooks – have to align.   How have your life experiences affected how you view the immigration issue?

Compared to the debate between Japanese right wingers and the Chinese people over history, who is right and wrong, the immigration issue – in my eye – is actually quite tame …

But when reasonable people already get worked up over issues as mundane immigration, how can we expect people of two nations to agree on bigger issues as such the historical narrative on WWII, who is right, who is wrong, and what that implication is on today’s … tomorrow’s … world?

What’s my point of all this?

Something simple.  Give those Japanese a break.  The goal cannot be to ask them to apologize.  It’s akin to asking a cow to play flute.  A better goal is to clearly articulate our view of history – to our future generations and to the world, and work for a stronger China such that future generations will look back on Japan of the early 21st century as backward, unenlightened, inhumane, dangerous … and ridiculous.

It has been written that “[t]he notion of zhong [忠], as applied in the Confucian moral hierarchy, comprises a moral theory that focuses on moral duties or obligations, rather than on rights or entitlements. It constitutes a basic tenet of Confucianism, which is an ethics built on demands on oneself rather than on others.”

In the relation among world of nations, China should strive to be loyal to justice, to truth, and to work toward leading a just world order, with or without Japan.  It should not  contemplate on subsisting on rights and entitlements dished out from others.  The best revenge of China’s inhumane suffering is the resurrection of China … not apologies from half-witted politicians and former aggressors.

Politicians can always muddle and obfuscate.  It is the nature of politics. Let’s work toward a future where historical muddling and obfuscation can be revealed for what they are … and become tomorrow’s laughing stock!

Cheers … and go China!70anniversary

  1. September 1st, 2015 at 02:51 | #1

    Writing this post reminded me of a discussion a friend and I had some time ago regarding whether we should embargo Japanese products/goods/services. To make a long story short, my opinion is no. There are many good outstanding Japanese. It’s true that there are bad ones, but what of it? Even if presuming that if I don’t buy that Yamaha piano, I can put a piano maker out of work. What would he do? Would I prefer that he be employed by the government and go make a fighter airplane?

    My hope is that, if I keep Japanese happily employed, that is one less Japanese that can become radicalized … one less that can be employed by Japan’s defense industry. I’d prefer to see a prosperous Japan with most engaged in auto production, or computer production, or piano production… etc.

    Of course, that’s not guaranteed. A more prosperous Japan may also mean more resources to divert to contain China….

    In the end, all things being equal, I’d prefer to buy Chinese than Japanese, and support a Chinese business. Even if the Chinese product is slightly inferior, if my buying Chinese will hasten China’s development, then yes, I’d also buy Chinese. But what if the Japanese makes a clearly superior product, then I don’t see why I should not benefit myself by buying Japanese. If it’s the best product for the price I am willing to pay, then that Japanese has toiled enough for my money!

  2. September 3rd, 2015 at 09:02 | #2

    The biggest problem with getting an official apology from the Japanese government is that the Japanese see themselves as victims too in the war. In school, every Japanese student is taught the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ditto the Pearl Harbor attack but not every Japanese students know of the issue of comfort women, science experiment on live human and massacres in China, Korea etc.

    Japan has only three immediate neighbours, China, Korea and Russia. It has territorial dispute with all three of them. One can argue that the disputes are caused by historical legacy from the Sino-Japanese war of 1895, Russo-Japanese war of 1905 to the Second World War. There is also another “historical dispute” with China and Korea which involved war criminals in the Yasukuni Shrine. To the Japanese these war criminals are simply a long line of patriotic soldiers that contributed to the rise of Japan as a major power in the 20th century. To this days, the 1895 and 1905 wars are subject of national pride in Japan.

    However, in my view all these issues are simply tools of Japanese politicians playing geopolitics in the current world order. Japan is not a country that can live in isolation, in fact no country can prosper without world trade. That applies to China, Korea, Russia and the USA which are the key players in East Asian geopolitical balance. One must remember that Japan was poorer and weaker than UK, Germany, and France before WWII. After the war, it took Japan only 23 short years (in 1968) to become the 2nd largest economy. They wouldn’t be able to achieve that without “the special relationship” with the US.

    In the late 1980s, Japanese MNC in the field of electronics, shipbuilding, automotive, heavy industries etc seems to be on the verge of beating out all their western competitors and take over the world. Japanese politicians started talking of shaking off the yoke of US leadership and take its place as first among equal in the modern world. Unfortunately, the Plaza Accord instituted showed the Japanese that the US was still the undisputed No.1 power. Despite the collapse of the stock and real estate market of Japan in the early 1990s, Japanese MNC proceed to dominate the world market. In reality, other than showing that Japan cannot overtake the US, quality of life in Japan actually increase in proportion to the profits of its corporations. The so-called lost decades are simply term used by westerners relieved that Japan didn’t become the No.1 economical power.

    Fast forward to the 2010s, Japanese MNC in the field of electronics, shipbuilding was now overtaken by the new comers, Korea and China. (Korea’s Samsung revenue now is larger than the combined revenue of the 7 largest Japanese electronic MNC) Its leadership in automotive and heavy industries now also threaten by its two East Asian neighbours. That’s why I have said the territorial and historical dispute with China and Korea is mostly political issue. Those issues never affected the relationship of Japan with Korea or China in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s. Suddenly, when Korea and China become a major challenger to Japanese “traditional corporations”, it was repeatedly used by Japanese politicians. In reality it is a very pathetic attempt on the part of these Japanese politicians to pretend they stand up to the Chinese or Korean threat. By attending the Yasukuni Shrine or instigating islands dispute with its neighbours. These clowns are trying to appear tough to its domestic voters to get themselves elected.

    In reality, would this help Japan’s economic development or standing in the world community?

    Frankly, Japan’s only way toward normalization and independence as a major power is to achieve long lasting peace with all three of its neighbours. It is only then that Japan can came out of the domination by the US.

  3. September 5th, 2015 at 22:12 | #3

    Yes, in this amorphous war with multiple fronts, caricaturing is one of the weapons. So far, the Chinese have been on the receiving end of it 99% of the time. May I share with you a couple of my short stories just for fun?

    “Comfort Woman Eleanor” (http://guo-du.blogspot.hk/2014/02/comfort-woman-eleanor.html) is on the St. Stephen’s College massacre of 1941. The British seem to have forgotten they were victims too, therefore my quote of Churchill’s (yet another?) plagiarised wisdom. This one is kinda disturbing, not so much fun.

    The other one is pure caricature, more amusing: The US President tells the Japanese PM to apologies for WW2. The PM asks if the US would do likewise instead.
    “Apologies” (http://guo-du.blogspot.hk/2012/12/apologies.html)

  4. September 6th, 2015 at 10:38 | #4

    That Apologies piece is definitely fun … and insightful … on many things. I am going to do a follow up post on it. Japanese definitely right to see things the way you portray it. U.s. definitely should be pressed for doing some apologizing of its own … including the mess it has created in the Middle East … which is a cause of the refugee crisis in Europe now…

    Oh … this reminds me of the Germany apology … which the Chinese gov’t seems to be much better than that of the Japanese …

    Is the German apology really much better?

    To my understanding, they only apologized for the Jews they slaughtered, but not the Russians they slaughtered… or all others they slaughtered.

    Is that right … to apologize to only one group of people?

    Also, Germany refusal to join Russia’s v-day parade … and decision not to participate in China’s … the two nations that suffered most at the hands of fascist powers in WWII … speaks volumes about their “apology.” The Western ignorance of Chinese commemoration over Japan’s defeat speaks volumes about the moral aptitude of the political order shaped by the West since the WWII in general.

    As for the Comfort Woman piece … it is disturbing … and heavy … yet human … perhaps too human. I think some time in the future you should write a short introductory post describing the context of the piece before linking to it. It is too heavy a piece for people browsing through the comments… Just my 2 cents…

  5. September 6th, 2015 at 11:31 | #5


    Justice might be in the heart, but only might makes right.

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