Sunday, December 21, 2014
In my Day it was a Tick: Japanese positivity in the face of Opium War III
There is not enough positivity in Japan, we are told. About ten years ago cultural psychologists toyed with the idea that Japanese people replace high-self evaluation with high other evaluation. But when asked to evaulate their peers it is found that Japanese subjects do not evaluate others as highly as North Americans.
North Americans will tell you that they are great, and that their family members are great too. Japanese will only say that they are average and their mothers are a bit better than average (Endo, Heine, Lehman, 2000). So interpretations of Japanese culture moved away from positivity to social embededness. Japanese do not praise themselves, nor each other, as much as Americans, but they feel a part of the socius. The Japanese live, we are told, to help the hive.
This might be enough. Christian even. The Japanese traverse this vale of tears helping each other, finding meaning in their social contributions rather than their personal positivity, their happiness.
But Westerners have gone on the attack. Chillingly similar to perhaps the greatest holocaust in history -- the Opium Wars-- the sale or pushing of drugs to East Asians to make a buck, Western pharmaceutical companies have succeeded in persuading Japanese that they need to be able tell themselves that they are happy. And if they can not then they need to take Western anti-depression drugs. And sales of anti-depression drugs have increased massively. During the same period Japanese suicide levels have increased by 50%. It is sickening.
My take is always the same. I am not sure if it is true. But to me, above all, Japan is beautiful. Positivity abounds in Japan. It is just that Japanese positivity does not take place in words.
The above image is my son's homework having been 'marked' by his teacher. Personally I don't think that my son has done his homework all that well. But the teacher who is quiet, dour and as thin as a Japanese primary school student in this 40's, has drawn a sort of flower by way of evaluation and encouragement. No ticks or linguistic praise for Japanese students, who work like cattle, only red flowers that explode like suns! Japan is harsh linguistically, but when you look at her, Japan is beautiful.
Endo, Y., Heine, S. J., & Lehman, D. R. (2000). Culture and positive illusions in close relationships: How my relationships are better than yours. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26, 1571-1586. http://www.psych.ubc.ca/%7Eheine/docs/2000rsb.pdf
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This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.