Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dolphin in English is Chicken!

It seems that there was coverage of "The Cove"'s Oscar win. Terrible, awful, stupid, biased coverage. I am going to go off of memory here as I saw this last night and now I can't get it to play at work, but essentialy what happens in this interview is that they report on the Academy Awards and cast a bit of an ominous tone towards Japan's appearance "on the stage." Two people from Taiji are interviewed and they say that it is unfortunate that "The Cove" won and that people should realize that fishermen have to make a living some way. When the report goes back to the studio, the female host says, "It is kind of strange for me to say this but it was kind of hard to watch scenes of dolphins being killed. Is that silly?" To which the old man responds, "There was a Youtube video a while back of chicks being run over by a truck at a farm over there. How would they feel if we made a documentary about that? It is clearly the same thing."

This goes back to my main point. This is why I object to words like "gaikoku" and "gaikokujin." I also don't like the use of the word "muko" or "over there" in place of naming what country the speaker means. The entire concept of gaikoku allows for Japanese speakers to separate the world into two false groups, those who are Japanese and those who aren't. The same applies to muko which frees up the speaker to make generalizations about a non-specific place. I can assume that the aged commentator is referring to a factory farm in America, but I can't be sure since he doesn't really say that. What this kind of coverage and indeed this kind of thinking does is skew the debate and transfer it - for the Japanese audience- away from issues of morals and animal rights, issues of what is cruel and unnecessary and what is reasonable to a strange vague world of cultural relativism and knee-jerk jingoism. This isn't a question of an international animal rights community objecting to the superfluous killing of animals, this is a question of Gaikoku trying to impose a moral framework on poor little Japan. The tribe is under attack.

Not to broaden the argument too much, but this is one reason that I have never agreed with the conservative argument that, in times of conflict, the U.S. should present one, united face in regards to foreign policy. Of course this argument is only expressed when a Republican is president, but I digress. The reason I don't support this line of thinking is that I believe that a realistic airing of a diversity of opinion is the imperative for a democracy. Not only that, showing the world, including those that you are in conflict with a more complicated range of opinion, shows your political heterogeneity and allows you to not be boxed in.

To bring the conversation back around, it is important and indeed factual to show Japan that it isn't the entire imaginary country of Gaikoku who disagrees with what happens in Taiji, it is a consortium of animal rights activists and others from various countries within Gaikoku who have come together to express their outrage. But you see the difficulty here. That might imply that Gaikoku is not a monolith and that if that is accepted it might reveal that Japan itself is not a monolith that some Japanese people might also be animal rights supporters and might also disagree with the actions in Taiji. That is a more complicated argument. Far too complicated of an idea for Japanese TV to manage.

The discussion I would like to see take place in Japan is whether there is a reason to continue the slaughter in Taiji. Not because foreigners object to it. Not because it was captured on tape. But a real inquiry into whether it is keeping itself in existence just to keep itself in existence. Anyone who has lived in rural Japan knows of large roads that are constantly upgraded and rebuilt through rough terrain to link to a small village were everyone is employed building and maintaining the road that leads to the village that they objected to being built when it started. These projects exist to keep the well connected construction industry in good health. We all know about the tetrapods that cover 90% of the Japanese seashore. These projects exist to maintain themselves. That is what I feel is going on in Taiji. To some degree it is like the story about President Johnson justifying continued American involvement in Vietnam by getting out his...well...Johnson.

Speaking of meat, is that not the central issue here. Do you know any Japanese person that wants to eat dolphin meat? I haven't found anyone who will acknowledge that it is eaten. Taiji often has to lie about what it is to sell it. If that is the case, why do we have to pretend that we should let them go on to make their culturally necessary livelihoods? If the point is to procure a product that people don't want and sell it packaged as something it is not then what is the real point? It can't be a capitalist one, as under true capitalism, the fishermen of Taiji would be out of business. It can't be a cultural one because aquariums are fairly recent and dolphin meat isn't widely accepted. I believe it has a lot to do with the psychology of Japan vs. Gaikoku and the people invested in these resentments waving a little middle finger around and daring people to do something about it. I say call their bluff.

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attempting to silence the voices in my head.