I didn’t ask for this power, but I didn’t refuse it, either.
Once you get your first taste of this power, if you’re like me, you get a little tipsy. And before you know it you’re FUBAR, just shit-faced with it.
This power is illusive however and limited- in most cases- to sex and money. Of course, having the power to scare the bejeezus outta someone without even trying is very useful if, say, you want to manipulate them or control them. Ask P.T. Barnum. I wrote about my game “Ningendo” where I unintentionally discovered that I could use their irrational fear to make them crash into one another. But, that’s just a light example of how a predictably terrified person can be manipulated, if one were inclined to do so. Their fear makes them predictable, and there’s great power in knowing what’s ahead. Lucky for me (and for Japanese) I wasn’t inclined to use this power to my advantage (well, not too often, anyway…)
As for the others types, thanks to the power of the inflated premium placed on my mother tongue I could line my pockets with Yen rather easily, and thanks to the power of certain stereotypes (hip hop, well-hung, dangerous, athletic, etc…) I could line up more than my fair share of lovelies with little effort.
So, sure, this power made Japan almost palatable. It’s part of the reason I’ve stayed here longer than I’d intended, that’s for sure. But I gotta tell you…if I ever do gain any kind of deserved notoriety or fame I’ll be better equipped to deal with it thanks to the good folks here in Kawaiiland. I can totally appreciate why some celebrities and people with power and influence often develop contempt for fans, groupies, and constituents, and a special level of hate for the press and paparazzi. For aside from my Japanese friends here, it seems virtually no one is without a judgment based on some preconceived notion. There’s no neutral on this Japanese-built engine. And, predominantly, that judgment tends to lean towards the negative. A judgement elevated to common sense status.
And, this is something I virtually have no power over, at the whim of the witless.
Whenever I find myself in the degrading position of explaining or trying to exemplify that ethnicity or skin color shouldn’t be a formula or a factor for figuring out who is dangerous and who isn’t for people here, afterwards I want to blow chunks all over the person. The necessity, in this day and age, combined with the humiliation would be enough to turn MLK’s stomach. Even Ghandi would say, “Oh, you guys won’t ever fucking get it, will you? Somebody get me some steak and eggs and a two-by-four!”
But, this power trip, for a while, allowed me to ignore the glaring issues that abound. In my power stupor, the elephant in the room was pink.
After I sobered up a bit though, or rather after my experience with Aiko sobered me up, and that pink-skinned mammoth turned grey, I began to focus in on what was really going on around me.
And, I was perturbed (to say the least).
So, I set out on a mission. To keep my promise to Aiko and not only put my thoughts and feelings into words, but actually share them with people. Something I hadn’t done in a very long time. I don’t think changing things was part of my motivation. I’d accepted the fact that this was not my country, and NEVER would be. Bringing about change just wasn’t within my purview. A defeatist attitude perhaps but that was my position. I figured I’d get some real discussions started and perhaps learn something useful.
My first blog, Ain’t no stopping us now, got me back on the writing track. The Obama presidential campaign turned out to be just the inspiration and positive stimulus I needed and gave me a running start into Loco in Yokohama.
And, right from the start, I started collecting dividends. Through blogging about issues pertinent to life here in Japan I was able to learn many things. One was that I was not alone, that what I see every day is not a figment of my overactive imagination, hyper-racial sensitivity or paranoia, unless it was a mass delusion shared by a solid half of my readers. Reader after reader offered up their interpretation of rules of the game for a satisfying and successful life in Japan, and I was enthralled.
Really fascinating stuff, and some of it quite practical and useful.
But, some of it…
I think I’ve been really fortunate. I hypothesize it’s because of the nature of Loco in Yokohama. Most of my posts are comprehensive (as opposed to long-winded…I hope), conscientious (I like to think), and provocative, so it’s been prone to scare off the average blog reader, and I’m ok with that. I put in the extra effort because I wanted to build a readership and that’s just what I got. The people who stuck around tend to be really sharp people (and I’m not yanking you guy’s chains either. Y’all are the bomb!) Mostly thinkers, some even scholarly, well-read, experienced individuals who come expecting issues to be addressed and prepared to engage- whether they agree or not.
Some in the past had made rather persuasive arguments against my assertions…arguments that made me sit back and wonder what, if anything, am I up to. Why am I still here? Why do I hold such bias views against our hosts? Granted, some of these people are Weeaboos, Japanophiles, and others who would apologize for and defend Japanese on their death beds.
But I have readers I respect and I would never use either of those epithets to describe. These folks are not obsessed with all things Japanese, and will even criticize aspects of life here. It’s only the race question that ruffles these guy’s feathers and brings out the prosecutor in them.
These guys (and gals) intrigued and plagued me. I began to feel like they knew something, that they could see something about Japanese people that my life experience had forged a blind spot which prevented me from seeing. I wanted them to be right, you see. I wanted to learn that my thinking on this subject was anachronistic, that times had changed, for the better, and I was just a poor soul too stuck in the 20th century to see it. I secretly wanted to be wrong about Japanese, wanted to learn that the nonsense I see all around me was the result of some profound or even simple misunderstanding. Some quirk in Japanese culture or deficiency in my Americanized worldview of which I was unaware. Something that would allow me to look at the same masses I looked at with pity and disgust, with renewed optimism, with something more akin to brotherhood, a shared humanity.
I wanted to believe, as Agent Mulder would put it, that the TRUTH was still out there.
And, like Mulder, albeit much more clumsily, I began an investigation of sorts. Not of Japanese people. I’d put in too much work in that area already. No, I investigated myself. Some might say, how can one investigate oneself? Won’t the results be tainted? Hell, if I trusted anyone else wth the task, if I thought that anyone could give me an untainted report, I probably would have considered it. But, I think we’re all capable of honest self-assessment, if we’re so inclined and properly motivated, and I was nothing if not that.
Slowly, painfully, I began to understand why and how some foreigners here can remain so obtuse.
In order to do this, like some kind of method actor, or Las Vegas magician, I endeavored to make the elephant disappear, to see Japan through the eyes of those others, the ones I believed to be suffering from selective vision.
And, believe it or not, though my efforts were laden with relapses, I was somewhat successful.
And, I’ve come to believe that that success is how I succombed to racism.
…to be concluded!