There are various drawbacks to an expat's life in Japan, starting with the big task of learning the redundancy-packed language and dealing with the cultural parochialism of the population – a parochialism in the intellectual sense only, for in the material sense the Japanese have mastered the best the West has to offer.
A good example of these detriments transpired in 2004, when Shintaro Ishihara, the governor of Tokyo, opined about the French language. Mr. Ishihara stated that French is disqualified from being an international language because it is "a language in which nobody can count."
Indeed, French numbers from x70 through x99 are weird constructs on a 20 base (e.g. 91 is expressed as “four times twenty plus eleven”), but that’s as far as it goes. What's more significant is that this was a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black: for, with respect to counting, Japanese may well be the most dysfunctional language in the world.
There are different Japanese vocabularies for counting long, thin objects, or flat, thin objects, or small round objects, or ships, or books, or sheep or cars. The proliferation of this is practically boundless; mercifully, outside of specialists, most Japanese give up after mastering perhaps five hundred words just to count from one to twenty.
Moreover, the largest numerical unit for which there is a word in Japanese is ten thousand. A foreigner in a business meeting who mentions an item like the 67,835,303 euros that his company earned last year, must inevitably witness Japanese executives stopping to count on their fingers in order to divide 67,835,303 by 10,000 so that they be able to grasp and express the figure in their language.
This is significant too: the man who made this amazingly parochial remark is one of the most feted people in Japan: superstar politician, famous novelist, polemicist, yachtsman, and Keio University graduate. And his remark holds one of the keys to our subject matter today.
Inconveniences and differences notwithstanding, there is one overwhelming blessing that makes me glad to be in Japan. It's the daily experience of living in a country that, unlike Western Europe, and increasingly the United States, does not actively pursue it's own extinction.
I am a European. Ich kann nicht anders. Europe had left my parents long before they left it almost 50 years ago, so now I am a Euro-American and I take this distinction seriously. Still, I don't feel the religious impulse except in a church that's at least 300 years old; and it's only European music that penetrates to my soul, and only European languages in which I can express what I hold dearest, and only European artifacts that satisfy my love of beauty and craftsmanship. Well, not quite – Japanese artifacts do that too.
But Europe is my Beatrice: a pure vision of the past with little resemblance to what she is now. The real, contemporary Beatrice does presume to tread the path, like Dante Alighieri's muse, from Purgatory to Heaven, but the Compass of Reality shows that the path in fact leads in the opposite direction: back to Virgil's guided tour of Hell. This is a Beatrice with a bipolar personality disorder, self-inflicted cicatrices, labial and nasal rings and tattooed breasts, sporting combat boots and a black leather suit with a Palestinian terrorist's kaffiyeh wrapped around her studded dog collar, with a book of onanistic gibberish by an Althusser or Bataille or Foucault in one hand, and a Quranic whip for self-flagellation in the other.
What Europe has become is on ample display in the daily news. In the April week in which this has been written, France had put Brigitte Bardot on trial for the sixth time for "inciting racial hatred," but really just because La Bardot desires that France remain French, as did Jeanne d'Arc and, before her, Charles Martel. And in Spain, a very pregnant, 37-year-old woman, wearing a sloppy chemise over her protrusion, reviewed a line of Spanish troops standing at attention. It was not a scene from Luis Buñuel's new film, The Discreet Charm of the Socialist International, but Spain's new Minister of Defense, Carmen Chacon, on official duty.
To put a lactating symbol of feminine vulnerability in charge of the defense of a country with a long and proud martial history is to announce to the world: See, we castrated ourselves; we beg that you be gentle with us; please wear a condom. Would that the Groupe Islamique Combattant Marocain or Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb lay down its arms in benevolent reciprocity. As it were, the sight of a pregnant woman in charge of the defense of Al-Andalus gives these testosterone–pumped descendants of the Moors some exciting ideas of a very different nature.
And in New York, the erstwhile symbol of what in Europe's formative past was both its best and its worst, the Roman Catholic Pope, proved that the papacy is no longer concerned with pesky value judgments. You can swathe the German postmodern socialist theologian in gold and brocade, but you can't swathe his weltanschauung. And so Benedict XVI, after having inveighed for greater American receptivity to its final inundation by the Third World, lectured the General Assembly of the United Nations that the world is "in crisis" because decisions rest in the hands of "a few powerful nations."
One wonders whether His Holiness wishes for more power to such nonpowerful nations as those paragons of human rights that were on the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, mercifully dissolved in March 2006: Burkina Faso, Congo Brazzaville, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, Mauritania, Nigeria, Sudan, Togo, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Guatemala, Paraguay, and others.
To top if off, the former Professor Ratzinger asserted that the promotion of human rights –- presumably by such devoted advocates as Sudan and Saudi Arabia – "remains the most effective strategy for eliminating inequalities between countries and social groups, and increasing security." As though the proper and viable concern of the Roman Catholic Church ought to be the elimination of inequalities between countries and social groups. The Pope's words sound as though taken from a speech by Lenin to some Bolshevik congress.
However, it is not something that may be pinned on single individuals or institutions. Let us not forget the Archbishop of Canterbury, who wishes sharia upon his country; and the legions of EU's secular humanists in Strasbourg and Brussels, busy like the bees in dismantling and replacing Europe's cultural identity, its racial and ethnic ties that bind, its nations' sovereignty, its peoples' freedoms and patrimony won with copious blood shed over many centuries.
This is a systemic and critical infection of Europe's autoimmune system; Western civilization's, actually. 98% of Western Europe's politicians and state functionaries, and its churches, universities, and mass media, and the great majority of their American and Canadian counterparts, are instruments of the same culturally Marxist and economically Socialist movement aimed at demolishing the nations of the West in the lunatic and deeply immoral hope that it will wipe out war, inequality and "discrimination" in the world at large.
It would be redundant to write much more about the symptoms of this tragic illness, what with this being The Brussels Journal, the chronicle of Europe's decomposition. But perhaps a comparative approach may yield some fresh insights.
We live at a hinge of history, witnessing the large-scale self-disembowelment, a sepukku, of a whole civilization. And we can profit from this observation in two ways:
First, it's not only Europe that has stuck a dagger in its belly and insists on drawing it across, all the way. It's the Anglosphere, the entire white peoples' civilization, too. As each continent is suiciding by somewhat different means, at a different pace, the totality of the phenomenon eludes capture in a single essay. We will therefore concentrate on Europe, but without the myopic schadenfreude that characterizes most American commentators on these matters.
Second, seppuku used to be the exclusive specialty of the Japanese. But Japan, which has reasons to harbor national psychoses and suicidal tendencies similar to those that haunt the West, has managed to avoid going down that path. It's worth speculating why.
Japan's history is crevassed with the same follies, cruelties, injustices and genocides as Europe's is, if proportionately smaller because Japan is so much smaller. The decadence, incompetence and oppression by Europe's aristocracy have generated the counterforces of statism, leftism and sterile, cowardly mediocrity on display in Europe now. But Japan's nobility had led the country into perpetual civil war lasting over 500 years, to be supplanted in the year 1600 by 268 years of a peace-yielding Tokugawa Shogunate's oppression far worse than what Europe's old elites ever inflicted on their lessers.
All this notwithstanding, one does not see the same class envy in Japan, the same anti-elitism and toxic "progressivism" that has wreaked so much havoc on Western Europe and on the United States and Canada. Japan is as socialist as France or Germany, but without the venom, coveting and selfish indulgence that characterizes this political persuasion in Europe.
European countries' nationalism has led Europe to the disastrous Great War, which makes the EU's project to abolish old ethnic divisions understandable. But Japan's nationalism in the 20th century, deranged to the point of rabid chauvinism and Emperor worship, eventually led it to total ruin in World War 2 – and still the nation survives, its spirit regenerated; its body thriving.
Europe has a major blot on its history, its erstwhile religion and its collective conscience because of its relentless, 1600–year-long persecution of its Jewish minority, ending, if not entirely, in the genocide of half of Europe's Jewry in World War 2. And it has another large blot in its centuries of colonial rampages and exploitations of the indigenous peoples of other continents.
But the Japanese people have, over 1200 years, practically wiped out and displaced the indigenous population of Northern Japan, the Ainu. And their atrocities against the Sino-Korean peoples have not started in Manchuria and Nanking in the 1930s, but in the 16th century. Visitors to Kyoto may still ascend the steps of the Mimizuka: a mound heaped over the ears and noses of 38,000 Koreans killed in a Japanese invasion between 1592 and 1598.
The number of the Korean victims was much higher; the remains in Kyoto are just what fit in the barrels of brine on Shogun Hideyoshi's ships returning from the Korean campaign. And what Hideyoshi did to Japan's Christians could have been staged at the Circus Maximus.
Furthermore, what Japan did to its Allied prisoners of war, just 65 years ago, will enter the annals of humanity's shame and dishonor for all time. Yet, her will to live and its people's cultural pride are still strong, even when subdued by remorse, or propped by denial.
Europe has largely lost its Christian religion – its main spiritual and cultural force. And it's not Europe's but the religion's fault – its tyrannical ways, corruption, dogmatism; its suppression of sex and merriment, its cruelty and persecution of nonbelievers. And so, the religion, to make amends, has made a turnabout and is now promoting the very destructive forces that it used to inhibit: homosexuality and Islam, tolerance of the intolerable, unqualified redistribution of power and income, universalism instead of particularism.
There were other ways to make amends, instead of this quantum pendulum node/2599 going from one extreme to the other. There was the option of finding and staying in a point of equilibrium, anchored by the sublime, nourishing and beautiful that are equally woven into the Church's history and influence.
Japan's religion is desiccated too. Japanese Buddhism has mutated into a a panoply of 2000 weird personality cults fleecing their mantra-chanting flocks. Even the legitimate and ancient branches are little more than burial businesses selling cemetery plots and sticks with magic Chinese characters that are supposed to do for the deceased what papal indulgences once purported to do for the living. Zen has retained its depth and its spiritual force, but it has many more adherents in Europe and America than it has in Japan. And Christianity in Japan is not the powerful current it is in Korea but rather a fashion item: a pretext to wear a designer cross pendant and to have a wedding with Felix Mendelssohn's music and Fred Astaire's wardrobe. Nonetheless, the conduct of the people is moral, humane values abound, civility and mutual consideration are pervasive.
Europe is being strangled by a clique of unelected bureaucrats; regulations-writing mandarins filled with hubris about the inerrancy of their wisdom and its salutary effects on the little people. A constitution of 160,000 words, such as was signed by the 27 EU member states in 2004 is not, cannot be, an instrument of liberation but only an instrument of oppression. The American constitution has 4400 words.
Japan too is governed by an unelected cabal: very old men of influence manipulating party politics and known, aptly, as the "black curtain." And Japan's self-perpetuating bureaucracy is second to none. The system has been honed to such perfection that high government employees who retire ascend to "heaven," known as amakudari. Heaven consists of quasi-governmental, for-profit corporations created to provide make-believe, high-paying jobs for retired bureaucrats, such as enforcing the myriad regulations and their attendant levies that said retirees wrote into the code book when they were still on government pay.
But embezzling money and wrapping a country in red tape for selfish reasons are one thing. Wholesale treason, making of Europe Eurabia, planting the seeds of perpetual strife and future civil wars, robbing the native peoples of their homelands and birthrights, siccing new, totalitarian laws on them to stifle their dissent, persecuting relentlessly those who object to the ethnocide – all these are another matter altogether. And Japan knows nothing of such horrors.
Both Europe and Japan have deprived their peoples of the fundamental right from which all other rights flow: the right of armed self-defense. Allegedly, this has been done in the people's own interest. But the rates of violent crime have gone up dramatically since the enactment of such forcible disarmament of Europe's citizenry.
In England and Wales, for instance, homicide rates have gone up by 50% after the government enacted a ban on firearms in the mid-1990s. In continental Europe, armed robberies and shooting homicides continue despite the long-standing disarmament of the population, or perhaps because of it. In Japan, in contrast, the same strict banning of firearms has not increased crime, and homicide and robbery are, in statistical terms, practically nonexistent.
Japan has inherent centrifugal forces as much as any Western European country used to have even before its importation of Muslims. The Tokyoite feels about the Osakan what the Berliner feels about the Bavarian, and he expresses it in a different dialect too. The Okinawan's regard of the main islands is every bit as ambivalent as the Sicilian's is with respect to the boot of the mother country. Japanese history is as packed with bloody interregional warfare as Germany's or Italy's are.
Why then have the modern-day Western European peoples allowed, and then capitulated before, their own colonization by alien, unabsorbable and, in part, violently criminal newcomers, but the Japanese have not? Among the Japanese, the attitudinal difference about immigration is between those who want to set the cap at ½%, and those who want the cap at 2% of the population. That is the spectrum of opinions among bureaucrats, politicians and other elites too. And to suffer the suppression and demolition of the national identity and heritage, such as Western Europeans acquiesce to, or the displacement of the nation's language, such as Americans eagerly implement, is, in Japan, unthinkable. Japan is much the better for it.
Japan's women no longer want to breed. The country's childbirth rates are at the same critically low levels as Western Europe's: about 1.3 children per woman, versus the 2.2 required for population replacement. Europe's governing elite decided a long time ago that to resolve the demographic crisis it was necessary to import Third-World Muslims. But demography is destiny, not only in the fractions of population growth but also in who those fractions consist of.
With a Third-World Muslim population estimated at 25 to 55 million (and intentional lying or obfuscation by the Establishment in this matter, e.g. here), and with such population's breeding ratios being 4 – 8 children per woman, versus the indigenes' 1.3, it does not take much prescience to foretell that Europe's culture, its civic underpinnings, even its physical landscape will inevitably come to resemble those of the Maghreb, Arabia and HinduKush. And yet, Europe's brainy minders have failed to make this simple extrapolation, and they persecute anyone who does make it.
Japan, on the other hand, has been preparing for a future with a smaller and older population. Instead of importing Asian nurses, Japan has developed robots that care for hospital patients, or it exports its old and infirm to the countries where the nurses are. Instead of importing window and wall washers, it has developed nano-polymers that repel dust and dirt. Instead of importing street sweepers, it has mobilized retired volunteers to maintain the cleanliness of their own neighborhoods. Instead of opening its doors to primitives who happen to be refugees, Japan donates huge sums of money to refugee organizations. Japan does not wish to dilute itself, for any reason.
To capture the reasons for such differences takes enough words for a separate treatment. It will appear here in the near future. But before we sign off, some words on the respective deities: Astarte and Amaterasu.
Amaterasu is the sun goddess in the Japanese mythology, the direct ancestor of Japan's Emperor and the figurative mother of the Japanese people. The reference to the sun is literal and metaphorical, for the goddess is believed to radiate light and life force itself, and also emotional warmth, hope and compassion for the people who worship her. Without her, everything withers and dies.
Amaterasu is said to have invented the cultivation of rice and wheat, the use of silkworms, and weaving with a loom. Her symbol is the sacred mirror. The mirror is kept in the inner sanctum of Japan's most important shrine, the Grand Shrine of Ise . Built of Japanese cypress, the shrine is torn down and rebuilt identically every 20 years, at great expense, reflecting the Shinto belief of the death and renewal of nature. It has been so torn down and rebuilt, in 20-year cycles, 61 times now.
Astarte was the great and universally worshipped Semitic goddess, known to the Mesopotamians as Ishtar and referred to in the Hebrew Bible as Ashtoret. She was the principal goddess of the Phoenicians and was widely worshipped by the tribes of Israel as well, in addition to their cult of Yahveh.
Astarte represented fertility, sexuality, motherhood and war. Her symbols were the lion, the horse, the sphinx, the dove, the planet Venus and the moon. She was beheld as the Mother of the Universe and the giver of all life on Earth. Pictorial representations often show her naked or with cow horns, symbolizing fertility – but to the Hebrew prophets she was a female demon of lust, luring the People of the Covenant away from their monotheistic path and into temples of sacred prostitution and firstborn child sacrifices.
Astarte has traversed the Mediterranean basin to appear as Aphrodite and Demeter to the Greeks, Uni-Astre to the Etruscans, Venus to the Romans. She reached all the way to the British Isles. But she has reached the wide continent between the Bosphorus and the cliffs of Dover in another form: as the naked daughter of a Phoenician king riding a white, divine bull into the sea and on to Crete. Her name was Europa.
It is in the dissimilar fates of Europa-Astarte on her eponymous continent, and Amaterasu's in her own home islands, that the genesis of some of the differences between Europe and Japan, as discussed above, may be found.
Part 2 of this essay can be found here .