Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

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“It is open season now in Europe for grouse and Americans. They shoot the grouse and put them out of their misery.”

~ Will Rogers 1935

Years ago, and even until recently, when it came to politics I have considered Japanese people, well… Dumb. (Please forgive me mom, wife, children, and my entire Japanese side of my family & friends).

Why did I consider them “dumb”? Well, first off I was raised in America and as any American will tell you, Americans are the smartest, most worldly people in this entire universe. They will also quite easily volunteer to you the information that “America is the world’s only super-power,” and they defeated the fearsome Germans, Japanese, and Russian commies in the Cold War.

Americans love being winners and they really love the idea that they are number one.

Japanese people, on the other hand, lost World War II to the Americans and don’t have the World Series or the Super-Bowl; nor do the Japanese have big, huge guys like Shaq O’Neill making hundreds of millions of dollars throwing orange balls into a little metal loop.

No sir. America is number one anyway you look at it. And Americans are proud of that.

So you could imagine my surprise when I moved to Japan and found out that most Japanese, especially young people, don’t give a toss about politics and could care less about who the prime minister of Japan is. I used to figure it was because the prime minister was changing every two weeks, so there was no point in keeping track. Now I realize they just don’t care. What a bunch of dumb people, eh?

Most Japanese don’t care about politics — American or Japanese politics. I asked my wife about this and she said, “What difference does it make to the average person if this party or that party is in power? Nothing will change. The government has nothing to do with us.” When she told me that, a light switch went on in my head: Are the Japanese so dumb about politics or are they a heck of a lot smarter than they let on? Could I, in my superior American thinking, have been so wrong?

Well, the answer is to the last question is: Yes.

Yes, the Japanese are a lot smarter than they let on. In fact, I reckon that the Japanese are much smarter than I am beginning to suspect even right now. It’s kind of a Zen Buddhist thing: Why worry and fret about something when nothing is going to change regardless of how much you or I worry about it?

Americans are very ethnocentric. They think the entire world fears them as some super-duper military power. Well, I’ve got a little surprise for you folks. Did you know that US military expenditures last year were way more than 318 times that of Iraq and you guys cannot beat them in a war?

Who really cares about America? Americans, that’s who. There probably isn’t a person in the Middle East who believes that the USA can prevail in Iraq. And, as anyone can tell you, “Belief can move mountains.”

Some superpower can’t even defeat a bunch of rag-tag, untrained, ill-equipped illiterates (I’m talking about the Iraqis here not the US military — but you can inter-change them if you wish). Can’t even beat some ill-equipped, underfunded, comparatively weaponless Iraqis and Vietnamese! But you sure can spend and spend and bankrupt yourselves in the process trying (as well as kill off a bunch of children, including your own).

Perhaps America should pick on someone their own size. Someone they might just be able to beat: Like Grenada, or Panama; you know, countries whose largest armaments are pistols. Or how about Luxembourg who the United States out spends by 2225%? Now that just might be a fair fight.

No one is afraid of the “Superpower." Would it surprise you myopic Americans if I told you that the only people who consider you a superpower is yourselves? Sure no one wants a war. I’m sure the Iranians or the Syrians do not wish for a war with the USA; no one wants their neighbor bashing up their house with a hammer or their neighbor’s dog taking a crap in their lawn either.

The US election? It was a laffer. Every Japanese I met who talked about the US election all either laughed or said they didn’t care: Smart people.

The superpower hasn’t beaten anyone worth their salt in a war in 60 years. Even at 1000 x the money, you can’t beat the Iraqis without bankrupting yourselves.

Who thinks America is an invincible superpower? Only fools, my friends. Only fools.

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.

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