Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Please Senpai -- Notice Me! :"

 Please Senpai notice me!" Japan Cool is just Me-Too-ism.
THIS is "power"

 How is this different from  from Soft Power?

Let me count the ways....

Soft power is used to suggest that  the US  can influence other nations culturally and through communication of values and beliefs.   After all, the US is an imperial, universalist power whose mantra is "we are the world".  And they will bomb you in to the stone age if you don't agree. 

Other countries such as, say, Switzerland or Italy are not able to back up propaganda by threat of force.
Swiss "soft power"

However, it aint ideas that do the influence -- only economic and military threat.

Worldwide,  most people just don't like the US that much.  The global image of the US is as follows:
Hierarchical, neo feudal
Imperialistic, war-like
Culturally chaotic, with minorities discriminated against
Slave culture
Jetsetter / trendsetters
The "real" American much of the world sees

People in other countries are only likely to impressed by o wealth and trendiness.  

Of course, all things are relative, if you are a poor Mexican or Honduran – facing an uncertain future at the hands of death squads, the US – just next door might seem a refuge.  

The US is not a failed state (yet).  And some people do get rich. So, why not move?   Any port in the storm.

American propaganda (aka "soft power") projects an image of the US as:

Freedom of opportunity
Creative / Innovative
Just / Fair
Only (some)  Americans believe American propaganda


Few, even partially educated people outside the US buy into this image of America.  In fact, a lot of Americans  disagree with large chunks of it.

Of course, the target audience is  American --  American elites want ordinary people to accept the most massive kleptocracy in history.    -- not that anyone will tell you that. 

"Americanism" is not a pseudo religion, as some have suggested -- but it is an orthodoxy -- institutionalized with the power of religion.

Or, if you like, Americanism is the Asylum, in which all Americans are confined.  Take your pills, do group therapy and don't question.

An exaggeration?  Perhaps.

In any case, American "soft power" is really  “culture washing”.  America is represented as  a set of ideals, which it has never even remotely approximated.  Heaven.  But you have to die to get there.  

On the other hand, buying into this shtick gives Americans confidence that they are “looking good”.   Kinda like guys in uniforms.

Now, let’s look at “Cool Japan”.

Outside of Japan, people think:

The real Japan: subway, drunken overworked salarymen

Hierarchical /Feudal
Boring / regimented
Exotic  / Mysterious

Notice that only the last two attributes – “efficient” and “exotic / mysterious” are positive.      There is a word in Japanese – dasai – which is a combination of vulgar and boring – which is how the Japanese tend to think of themselves relative to Americans and European. 

Japan is the “vertical” (tatte) society ( shakkai).  Globally it sees the world as “tatte no sekai”  (“sekai” = world).  

There are those who lead--  “senpai” and those who follow behind--“kohai”.   Relative to Europeans and Americans, the Japanese are always “kohai”.  Relative to Thais and Filipino always “senpai”. 

So how do the Japanese gain confidence for themselves? You guessed it – “Cool Japan”. They have to do a lot of culture washing. So Japan is now:

Unique / spiritual
Cool Japan?  

The “creative” part is Hello Kitty, manga, anime and J-Pop.
Harmony and human centrism?  Omotenashi.

More Cool

Quality?  Expensive hotels, luxury goods, and well-engineered cars and appliances. 

Egalitarian?    The “salaryman” culture where everyone dresses the same.  Politeness and indirection.

Uniqueness, spirituality?  The martial arts, zen, tea ceremony and the like. 

The Japanese may be kohai -- but in Japan -- the senpai-kohai relationship is structured so the kohai get respect and status and to some degree privilege.  The unique qualities or abilities of the kohai are recognized by the senpai who often adopts them as his own.  Me-too-ism plus alpha.

This is why the Japanese ripped off "Cool" from "Cool Britannia", which was quite different.  They didn't get the play on words -- "Cool Britannia" and "Rule Britannia". They didn't get that "Cool Britannia" was the expression of an anti-status quo youth movement.    It was just "Me-too".   Following the leader.

Well, say, the Japanese -- the world just doesn't understand us.  They don't pay attention to us.  So, we will get their attention --with the stuff that world is already paying attention to, and which we mostly don't pay attention to -- hello kitty, manga, anime, sushi, politeness and attention to detail. 

There is no "teaching moment" here.  Nothing new.  The way the world sees Japan is not going to change in any respect.  "Cool Japan" is a waste of money and time.  Just top-down "culture washing".

In this respect it differs from "Cool Britannia" -- which was not culture washing -- but an authentic evocation of British youth culture itself -- created bottom-up -- at least until Tony Blair got his slimy fingers on it. .

Advertising companies will make a lot of money.    Politicians can swell with pride -- and change the constitution to permit a flag waving armed forces complete with an hugely expensive American fighter that will be obsolete if it ever achieves operational status ("if").

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