Monday, April 4, 2011

I just had to pick a pickle with Japanese college students.



Being Chinese, I’m probably walking on thin lines criticizing the Japanese college students I heard on PRI today. But I ask for forgiveness and do so with the utmost sincere intent: I just have to point out my views to hopefully engage positive changes.

This is about Osaka and the proud spirits of a People. If you don’t know about Osaka, think of the Blade Runner and imagine the neon lights.


Since the tragedy in Japan, the people of Osaka had been reducing their energy consumption in hopes to donate what they conserve to those in need. But because “the country’s electric grid is split, the local electric company [] could not send extra electricity to affected areas. . . ."

. . . But, many have continued to conserve.”

I learned that this sense of continuation duty comes from what the Japanese calls “gaman.”

“Japanese people willingly put themselves through hardships, because they believe if they tough it out now, things will get better for them in the future.”

First I want to argue that although the Japanese people may see this practice of conservation is a hardship, I beg the differ. I would venture to guess the kind of benefits from this conservation, but that’s not the point here.

The point is this kind of “jishuku” (self control) through “gaman” (hardship) gives us a perfect opportunity to experiment in Sustianability first hand. What are we, as an energy intensive civilization, can cut back to re-balance the welfare of this planet? What are our psychological barriers and what are our motivating factors? Understanding this from the Japanese People can help us immensely.

What I find troubling is that a college student in Osaka think of this kind of consumption adaptation as things “com[ing] to a standstill.”

This student think we should carry on with our lives as usual: big flashy neon signs to light the night sky for mere aesthetic reasons.

by: yumi_bnt @babibubebo.com

Kotaro Kobayashi said there may be a downside to all this restraint.

“I understand the current mood, but if we don’t resume normal activities, the economy could suffer,” he said.
I guess there is more than one person think this way:

As college student Aya Yamada and her friend buy crepes from a kiosk near Dotonbori, she said she’d like to help in whatever way she can. But she thinks people here should carry on with their lives.

“If we continue with our daily activities, it will encourage people in the affected areas to become more positive and show them that everything is going to be okay,” she said.
(From PRI's The World: Osaka scales back electricity to honor victims.)

I’m not saying don’t have the signs and turn off the lights forever, but isn’t practicing conservation a critical need in this transformative period in Japan? I believe there is a balancing point between having the beauty of its city lights at times, but I hope the Japanese People feels the same as I about honor in Sustainability. I hope they can tech the rest of the world a few things about making positive progress through "gaman" and “jishuku.”

I don’t think of this as standing still and I believe to think that is mere irrational fear.  If there should be some credible threat of economic impact from this "standing still" perspective, then I fear for humanity's will and desire for Sustainability. 

I see this as moving forward. It is precisely the kind of "normal behavior" the college students wanted that is making our economy suffer, making our Earth suffer. This is the wisdom of the old Japanese giving us a choice for the alternative. I look to the young people of Japan to decide the outcome of our future.


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