Friday, April 06, 2007

Nostalgia Must Not Lead to Xenophobia

It has been quite clear to me, after more than seven years abroad, there are people who suddenly “discover” their homeland and become “patriots” either out of politically-based nationalism or pure nostalgia. I count myself as one of them. In my case, it is more of nostalgia rather than exclusive nationalism.

What is repulsive is the sort of feeling can lean towards xenophobia. It is one thing that people calmly discuss the benefits and scars Japan left behind and the historical backgrounds of, say, the Japanese colonisation of Korea or occupation of Singapore while it is quite another if one justified the barbaric acts prosecuted by our fellow men. It should not be denied that Japan, as part of its colonisation policy, contributed to the infrastructure development of the Korean peninsula, no matter how vehemently Koreans oppose the view. A Korean-American student I met in Albany, NY, about 15 years ago said that Japan had converted the whole peninsula into a rice field to feed people in the Japanese proper. This is ridiculous and untrue. We must not see historical facts from the point of view of the present day. We must try to understand what happened from the contemporary viewpoint. It was an aspect of power politics of the time that led Japan to decide to annex Korea and come down to Southeast Asia.

I feel very uncomfortable when a Korean or a Singaporean talks about personal stories of the war time because as an individual I possess the capacity to be empathetic. Those who have suddenly become aware of their own identity based on their nationality seem to lack or not to try to have the attitude that places themselves as persons, not as a member of a certain group, and looks at history from the opposite direction. For example, Korea may have developed materially thanks to Japan, but were they happy?

With these fellow Japanese, I also feel uncomfortable as some of their comments are just too much, displaying their ignorance, prejudice and inhumanity. This is a strong reason why I think that at times I feel better surrounded by non-Japanese. In that environment, I can be an individual who happened to be born in Japan and who even loves the country. Xenophobic nationalism is only malefic.


RNSANE74 said...

Dear Koji,
You are so articulate and your writings stimulate so much reflection and pondering in me. I regret that oceans separate us and that we can't sit down for some good interactions in person!


KJND said...

Carmen, thank you for your comment. My blog entries are just yatata with no sophistication or polishing...
It is a real pity that we can't spend time together for nice talks. And Jo too.