Saturday, April 15, 2006

No Discrimination

Did you know that March 21st is International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination? With that in mind, I would like to share this with you.

A week before my eldest daughter started elementary school in 2002, I went to her school and talked to the Principal, Vice-Principal and all the teachers about the importance of teaching children to respect individuality and accept others who look different as equals, but they didn't take me seriously. About two weeks after school started, she came back home from school very sad, telling us that one of her classmates told her to change her natural brown skin into "normal" hadairo (ochre) color. I called the teacher and the Principal right away to urge them to deal honestly and democratically with the matter, calling us for a face-to-face meeting with the child and her parents, but the Principal refused. The parents did not take the matter seriously either; when my wife talked to the child's mother on the phone, she laughed about the matter as if it wasn't a serious problem. Finally, I went to talk to the School Board officials to ask them to do something about the problem. Again, I was disappointed. They evidently don't think racism is a serious problem in Japan and don't want to act.

My children have darker skin than the other Japanese children, and many people openly make cruel and racist comments about them: "kitanai (dirty)," "makkuro (black & dirty)," "baikin (microbe)," "unchi (pooh)," "kimochiwarui (disgusting)," "kurokoge (blackburn)," etc. When I go out with them, many parents also point at us "gaijin." Those people are wrong because my children are not foreigners in Japan; they are born here and are Japanese citizens just like the other Japanese children. And above all, they love Japan and the traditional Japanese culture.

I think racism is a very serious disease that Japan needs to cure. Racial discrimination in society, in public and private institutions, in senior and junior high schools, in elementary schools, and even in kindergartens, is evidence that much needs to be done before Japan can experience multiethnic harmony. Education will certainly play an important role in curing the disease of racism. Racism here is based on the idea that the Japanese belong to a "unique ethnic group" that is totally different from all the other ethnic groups in the world. The education system must make a considerable effort to denounce this myth. To do this, schools must familiarize students with the reality of the "singleness of the human family," and explain that all of the people in the world belong to the same human race. Because of the importance of the problem, this view should be introduced into the curriculum from kindergarten through to the 12th grade, and reflected in every course a child takes during the 12 years of schooling. This approach would help to prevent racism. Imagine all the students in Japan learning that Africans, Europeans, Americans, Asians and Australians - all races - are all related. They would be fortified against the poison of prejudice that they are exposed to in their homes and in society.

We must teach our children that all human beings come from the same ancestral stock. Every person on our planet belongs to the same species. This unity, however, does not mean uniformity, but implies a celebration of diversity, because once the reality of unity is understood, diversity becomes an asset rather than an obstacle. Imagine what life would be like if all the people in the world looked alike, thought, spoke, and felt the same way, if all flowers were the same color, if all foods tasted alike. Life would simply be monotonous. We should all understand that "variety is the spice of life" and cherish differences because they are extremely important.

Multiculturalism and ethnic diversity have become important issues in many countries around the world in recent years, and the Japanese government too must consider them seriously and provide helpful programs for developing the skills citizens need if they are to contribute to, and survive in, an ever-changing and diverse society. Diversity will be utilized to reinforce Japan's stature among the nations of the world. It will teach the Japanese to accept and respect diverse views, welcome debate, listen, discuss, negotiate and compromise for the common good of the world. We all know that recent advances in information technology have made international communications more important than ever. Japanese citizens who can speak many languages and understand many cultures will make it easier for Japan to participate globally in areas of education, trade and diplomacy.

Japan must make it possible for women and men of the world's many ethnic groups, religions and cultures to live together, to encourage different people to accept and respect one another, and work collaboratively to build an open, resilient, creative and thoughtful society.

A Message to Japanese Parents: Education Must Start at Home

Fathers should try to understand mothers, and mothers should also try to understand fathers. I deeply believe it is the harmony, peace and mutual love between husbands and wives that brings happiness and peace to the family and the society.

We want happiness in our families and communities, but we do not lead exemplary lives. If children have taken the wrong path these days (smoking, drinking, killing…) we adults are mostly responsible, we are not exemplary in our behavior either.For example, how can a father prevent his son from smoking if he smokes in front of him? Then the son, too, will start smoking by stealing cigarettes from his father’s pocket. If the father scolds him for smoking, the modern day child retorts, “Father, when you yourself are smoking, why do you object to my smoking?” Therefore, parents should never behave in a manner that will set a bad example for the children.Only when the father is good can he expect his son to be good. Is it possible for a father to keep his son at home when he himself roams about as he likes?

Nowadays, Japanese fathers do not try to discipline their children, and children do not listen to their mothers. The majority of Japanese parents are lenient; they accept anything their children do. This is the reason why Japan has become such a filthy nation. And ever since there are almost no spiritual activities in Japanese people daily lives; children have no chance to take the path of charitable services, faith in God and devotion.

Hence, the Japanese should tackle the questions of morality and ethics in their contemporary culture. I believe there is a need for education of the heart and the soul inJapan; an education that emphasizes ethical behavior, morality and character. The failure to integrate this aspect of education into the lives of young people is what makes it seem acceptable to snap, to shoplift, to kill, and to behave as if there are no standards or rules in the society.

These days, Japanese adults and children alike do not show any interest in reading spiritual and philosophical books (The Holy Bible, The Teaching of Buddha, Hojoki by Kamo-no-Chomei, Emile by Jean-Jacques Rousseau...). They read all sorts of trash (pornographic magazines, violent and sexual comics, “empty“ love stories…) and start on the wrong path in their childhood. If the tender saplings grow straight, the tree will also grow straight.

If the sapling grows crooked, then the tree will grow crooked. But, Japanese parents of today ignore this crucial notion.They fear to establish strict rules for the children, as they may run away from home and end their lives.

If Japanese parents really want their children to grow up to be responsible adults in the society, and if such children are to be fostered, then, they must first correct themselves. When a “bad son” defies the commands of his father, the mother must persuade him in a firm manner and say, “My dear son, it is not for you to disregard the commands of your father. Obey by any means.” Therefore, in all situations, it is the mother who advises the child. So, Japanese mothers of today should have pure thoughts and ideals, instead of watching Korean dramas and yearning for a “lover” that looks like “Yong-sama.”

It takes a character to lead a family. I have three children. When I have to punish them, to teach them the difference between good and bad, it is not pleasant. It always demands character, and I need the collaboration of their mother. Yet, he who loves well, punishes well.