Wednesday, July 20, 2016
The Chinese and The Japanese
Ruth Benedic's (1946) classic "Chrysanthemum and the Sword" has been popular in China (translated as 菊与刀) selling 70,000 copies in 2005 alone, since it would provide an explanation how the Japanese managed to kill so many Chinese and yet exhibit a level of remorse that the Chinese feel to be very inappropriate. Ruth Benedict's answer is that the Japanese lack a conscience, caring only what other's think about them. A great deal of Japanese believe this theory, which itself originates in a disgruntled Japanese called Robert Hashimoto (Lummis).
More contemporary Japanese detractors of Benedict's theory do not rarely argue that the Japanese do in fact have conscience, under the conventional meaning of that term, but rather that "conscience" in the sense of internal, self-directed, self-reproval simply does not exist. The main reason for this is that they are aware that they judge themselves visio-aesthetically, and this is not something that one can do from inside ones own head. The Japanese forget that the mind is not inside the head -- it is easy to do, I have -- but rather the other way around.
The Japanese are therefore in large part blissfully ignorant of the origin of their own morality, which is, the same as that of the Chinese. Both believe that in addition to the censure of other people, heaven is also judging.
In Japanese parlance the kind old sun is watching (otentou sama ga mite iru. お天道さまがみている。See e.g. Akagawa, 2015) and they'd feel her displeasure should they do anything bad.
This does not explain why the Japanese were able to kill so many Chinese, nor why they do not feel more remorse. In order to understand that one would have to read other books, mainly of a more historical nature.
I hope that the Chinese realise that in fact the Japanese do have a conscience before The Chinese and The Japanese come to blows again.
The images above left are the result of an image search for "”菊与刀” 销量" meaning "sales of 'Chrysanthemum and the Sword'" in Chinese, and the cover of a non-academic book entitled "The Kind Old Sun is Watching" (Akagawa, 2015)
Akagawa, J. 赤川浄友. (2015). お天道さまは見ている. 国書刊行会.
Benedict, R. (1946). The chrysanthemum and the sword; patterns of Japanese culture.
This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.