Monday, August 25, 2008

Gaijin = N-word? Erm....

So I'd heard the name Debito Arudou a few times before and it was kinda bothering me that I didn't know who he was and I kept intermittently hearing about him. After reading about him, his history, his past, what he claims to be "fighting" for -- he seems like a walking contradiction as well as a loudmouth misanthrope. His attitude, or an approximation of such summed up by this article, seems to call up something akin to Fox News' parade of brazen idiot "pundits". Much like them, he seems to want to justify his own half-baked career path and keep bitching for a living so he doesn't have to do anything relevant to anything for money. That being said, Debito Arudou is an American from California that had back and forth flirtations with Japan, post-collegiately and eventually wound up in the employ of a small trading company in Sapporo that he describes, "would be a watershed in my life." He indicates that he was the object of racial ridicule and went on to found a "gaijin human rights organization" more or less. In 1996 Arudou became a permanent resident of Japan and in 2000 he obtained citizenship. My question, as well as one of his critic's questions is:

People, including me, are fascinated by Debito Arudou because we wonder why he wanted to become Japanese in a country where he finds so many wrongs.
—Robert C. Neff

Why would someone who starts an organization based around how "racist" the Japanese are, want to become Japanese (to the point of legally changing his name) himself so badly?

My other issue with him, and this is where my original gripe above comes into play, is that he goes around saying that "gaijin" is the equivalent of the "n-word" and seeks to actively push it into obsolescence in Japan. That article is here. Rather than regurgitate it, I'll just let you read it because it's rather succinct. In today's saber-rattling overly-PC world, taking a term that's associated with an entire race of people being enslaved and killed for centuries and comparing it to something that is barely offensive to most let alone not associated with any real strife or anything of the like is not something someone should do on a whim.

You'd be naive to think if you are moving to a homogeneous society in which you will stick out like a white thumb, that you would be met with no resistance at all. There seem to be two types of emigrants that write from Japan: there are the ex-pats that absorb culture and take their few negative experiences in stride and move away from them, and then there are the type that are extremely polarized and take those experiences to the nth degree and go on a crusade for human rights in a country that does not purport to be any sort of "land of the free". The world is what it is, Japan is what it is, and I'm not saying that this guy doesn't have the right to protest what he feels is right or just in his POV. But making a human rights matter out of every situation where the word gaijin is mentioned will only alienate him further from the society that he so badly seeks to become part of.

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