Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.
~ Demosthenes (384 BC—322 BC), Third Olynthiac
How is it possible that an “armed gang” or a “group of thugs” could hold off 1600 U.S. Marines for five days until the U.S. calls for a cease-fire?
It doesn’t take too much brain-power to figure out that, most probably, the 1600 Marines are too small a force to take a city of 300,000 people. If the U.S. military could have crushed the rebellion quickly, they would have.
Probably closer to the truth is the U.S. military forces are insufficient and under supplied.
I also see where President Bush said: “I see where things this week in Iraq have improved!”
Is this guy starting to look ragged, or what?
I thank my lucky stars that I have lived in Japan all these years. It has helped me to understand what George W. Bush is actually saying when he speaks. I think that whenever I hear “Bush-speak” that I am to take what he says for the opposite meaning.
For example: “I see where things this week in Iraq have improved!” Actually has one of three interpretations:
- “I see things are getting worse.” Okay, this is possible. Or;
- “I don’t see (that) things are getting better.” Believable. Or;
- “I don’t see (that) things are getting any worse.”
Most probably, “I don’t see that things are getting any worse,” number 3 above, is correct.
President Bush is on vacation, so he is even more clueless than usual. And how could things in Iraq get any worse? This entire Iraq debacle was a disaster from the get-go.
There is no translation for “Bush-speak” in Japanese. But I believe the closest word we have is, “Tatemae.”
Tatemae has to do with keeping the harmony between yourself and your neighbors, by not exactly saying things as they really are. In western thinking, the closest translation of tatemae would be, “little white lie.” But that’s not completely correct either.
I remember many years ago, my Japanese instructor told me:
“To understand what a Japanese is saying, don’t listen to their words, listen to their heart.”
In Japan, harmony is a very important consideration for daily affairs. But sometimes, it seems to me, that this entire tatemae concept is actually very counter-productive and a waste of time. Everyone (not just me) is running around trying to figure out exactly what people mean by what they say. It can get quite confusing to say the least.
Take, for example, the recent kidnappings of three Japanese in Iraq. The Japanese government has made many pronouncements that they’ve had to retract over these past several days. So now they are somewhat shy in making any kind of announcement.
At first, the government announced that the kidnappers were going to kill the hostages. Then they announced that the kidnappers would release them. Then the government announced that they don’t know the hostages’ status. Then the Japanese government announced that Al Jazeera gave them bad information.
Since Japan has been keeping their noses out of other countries business for these past 6 decades, they haven’t much experience with a hostage case like this.
Actually, I presume, that what the Japanese government is really saying is that it hasn’t got a clue as to what’s actually going on with these three people. They are just wishing that their words come true.
Kind of like hoping for a self-fulfilled prophecy: They latch onto a small bit of positive news and the next thing you know, they are patting themselves on the back and making public announcements.
But there is one thing that the Japanese government of Prime Minister Koizumi has announced that most probably won’t change. Koizumi has said that he will not meet with the families of those three who have been kidnapped.
As usual, the Japanese government stumbles over the quarter to pick up the penny. What harm would it do to meet with those families and at least act like he cares?
This announcement is being greeted as incredibly hypocritical and cold by the Japanese press. Why? Well, when Japanese were kidnapped by North Korea, Koizumi met with those families.
Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi visiting Yasukuni Shrine.
Why doesn’t he meet with the kidnap victim’s families’ now?
Well, because there is no war in Iraq. It’s over, remember? George W. Bush said so.
Japanese self-defense forces are in Iraq for re-construction and peaceful purposes. They are there to help Iraq whether or not the Iraqi’s want that help.
And Koizumi doesn’t want to make any acknowledgement that, yes, Japanese forces being sent into a war zone violates the Japanese constitution. And, by golly, Japan has a separation of church and state — That’s why when Koizumi visits Yasukuni Shrine (the shrine that commemorates the war dead) he does it as a private citizen. Never mind that he uses the prime minister’s car and has secret service all around for the visit.
Never mind that every time he visits Yasukuni shrine, China and other Asian nations (as well as many Japanese) sound the alarm for fear of the specter of Japanese militarism raising its ugly head.
South Koreans protesting.
And while I’m slinging mud at the current Japanese prime minister, I suppose I should also defend him by telling you that he is a busy man; he doesn’t have time to meet with the families of the hostages.
More than 20 years ago, when he got a divorce, his ex-wife was pregnant. After the divorce, his only son was born. So far, to this day, Koizumi has never once met his only son (although to alleviate his own feelings of guilt, this dead-beat dad kindly sends his son a birthday card once a year). So why should he meet with the relatives of the hostages?
Why should anyone expect this man to show some compassion? I don’t.
It should be better for Koizumi to handle this situation like George W. Bush handles a crisis: Go on vacation; call the problem something else; and hope the problem disappears.
Wishing the day away.
So I suppose the modern day translation of tatemae when used for politics, would not be “little white lie,” in the west it would be translated as “spin.”
But I wouldn’t want to insult the Japanese Prime Minister by calling him a lackey of the current American administration…. He has learned well.
He is militaristic, arrogant, knows how to swagger, how to act, what to do.
I just call him “the Bonsai prime minister”… A little Bush.
Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has worked as an independent writer, producer, and personality in the mass media for nearly 30 years.