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This section primarily to qualify my remarks on Japan.
I like Japan and I like the Japanese. Well, mostly (see above). Until they correct the many problems with their society, it will continue, at best, to remain a 'nice place to visit--but you wouldn't want to live there'. You might be supprised on how many Japanese feel the same way. But, with thanks to a variety of factors (standard of living, product availability, relationships, language, etc.), are basically captive birds in a gilded cage. I have resided in Japan for over a year. I have tried to enjoy my time here as much as possible. And tried to interact and enjoy life here --even more so than the natives. There is no doubt in my mind: I am where I wanted to be 9 years ago.
I do, however, feel that their society puts them at an (increasing) disadvantage. Especially in terms of global interactions. Whether with themselves or with others (non-Japanese). In Canada, as in Japan, the immigration concept of 'alien' is used. But an 'alien' in Canada is not necessarily 'alienated'. In Japan an 'alien' might as well be visiting from another planet. And their policies of systemic discrimination (at many levels of society) only serve to entrench this. The fact that it is a "nice place to visit but..." is exactly what the power mongers here want to hear with their xenophobic, protectionist, and isolationist policies.
I have been told that many Japanese are somehow deeply or sub-consciously 'envious' or have an 'inferiority complex' with respect to westerners. This seems to stem from Commodore Perry dragging isolationist and confident Japan (kicking and screaming) into the global marketplace. The marvel of technology (and military diplomacy)!
Far too many Japanese do not permit themselves to understand why that the greatest peril to themselves (their society) is, in fact, themselves. Even those who understand this know that with such highly developed systems of bureaucracy, obfuscation, and pigeon-holing, the prospects for anything other than blind obedience is too small to foster much hope. Exacerbating issues like this are sociological phenomena and/or etiquette that put the Japanese at an increasing disadvantage in a modern pluralistic world --at least outside Japan. The fanaticism of group loyalty and membership, the conceptions and perversions of 'harmony' (or acts to 'promote' harmony), and cultivated xenophobia to mention some of the more significant.
It seems that Japanese undergo rigorous conditioning throughout their entire life against such anarchistic and barbaric concepts as 'individualism', and 'critical thinking' (among other things). The power-brokers in Japan are so accustomed to milking any advantage to the very last fraction of a yen that change only starts to happen with their express concent. For this and other reasons, change tends to be retarded at best. This essentially means as the world changes, Japan will be left behind. That thought saddens me. But only a little bit. Because, as I third from Dr. Who, "the weak enslave themselves" (Warriors Gate).
Westerners seem to do the same things. And more. But, these social protocols and approaches do not have the same effect as in Japan. They have different names of course. It seems to me that these are different in Japan through their administration. In Canada, at least, the fervour with which these are practised typically finds itself waning by early adulthood. Making a lifetime pursuit of perfecting skills that are often seen in a rather dim view is not considered appropriate for well-adjusted individuals. I don't think our politicians can even compare to the Japanese skill levels in this regard. I think that in the west, these actions are not seen as a necessity. And they are certainly not practised as constantly or thoroughly. If nothing else, it is very interesting to me. Well, sometimes annoying, but even then it is also interesting.
I wanted to give a sense of reality and balance to this document. Part of this is because, now, many 'princes' in the West are convinced that by following the example of Japan (ie fashioning society) they can experience, in their 'principalities', the same fortunes. This would be a great mistake. The Japanese system, although successful, has not been without it's problems or down-sides. And, social factors completely alien to the West were (and continue to be) exploited. Factors such as the incredible reality of Japanese society and customs, how 'harmony' is defined in their society, and a host of other things. These simply would not be possible to practically realise in pluralistic societies. Simply put, it would be a colossal waste to try to implement such a system. And, even, if it were to be implemented, it would not only serve to compete with an existing system much more evolved and refined, but would stifle and severely damage the very system that was responsible for many of the previous successes and strength. Euphemistically, several steps back for every step forward.