CROSSROADS TO SOMEWHERE: We Are Not the Chosen Ones

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By W.T. Wimpy Hiroto
(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on April 6, 2011.)

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“Memory:  A rope let down from heaven to draw one up from the abyss of unbeing.” —Marcel Proust

 

You should know by now when I kick off a CR2S column with a profound quotation by someone who could be your hairdresser or a noted neuropsychologist, it’s an omen of things to come: I’m either not quite prepared to give it a good kick in the pantaloons or the fork in the road just might be a crossroads to nowhere. You know, like those pre-GPS days when a wrong turn was invariably made because you were too stubborn to ask the spouse for an opinion. (Worse yet, you did and then didn’t.)

So while I stall awaiting a stroke of genius, let’s get a number of oddball tidbits out of the way: With China rapidly climbing the competitive ladder toward world domination, can you tell me its currency? Nowadays every time you turn around somebody is reciting a new algorithm. Al wot? And as if to confuse an already bewildered populace, what in the name of Ares is a kinetic war?

[The Answers:  China’s currency is the renminbi. Come on, you really didn’t know that, did you?  An algorithm is simply (?) a number system, like counting on silicon fingers. It took a while to figure “kinetic” out. And I still wouldn’t bet my life on it.  Since it has to do with aeronautics, (I’m guessing) the Libyan fiasco is a brand new type of U.S. conflict, a kinetic war versus boots on the ground. Which should elicit an OMG! (Either “Oh, my God” or “Oh, my gosh.” Take your pick.)

Without any prompting a deeper, broader look into last month’s UCLA brouhaha over a white student’s strident bluster over Asian undergraduate behavior in the library. Maybe some will think CR2S is out of order when I say the acrimonious YouTube taunt, no matter how ill-mannered and prejudiced, had a modicum of truth. You have to agree cell phones have no place in certain places, public or private, least of all in a library, theater, funeral, chess match. Or doctor’s office. Who you gonna call, 911?

Little Miss Hateful had a right to complain about the distraction caused by inconsiderate cell phone users in the library. And it looks like the First Amendment is on her side when it comes to mock and ridicule (UCLA did not expel her; she transferred). Disapproval of Asian parental demeanor in the dorms was a 50-50 proposition. Comparable to the groans of golfers when basic course etiquette is not observed. (CR2S could relate a dumb blond joke, but won’t.)

In the years immediately following the war, there was a favorite gathering place for Nisei on the UCLA campus; meaningfully secure in its seclusion as well as a social site. They most certainly didn’t represent 40 percent of total enrollment in the ’40s and ’50s (as do Asians today) so they didn’t bring undue attention individually or collectively. Call it whatever you wish, a protruding nail gets whacked by a hammer; a know-it-all will be among the first to fail. Let’s be virtuous and honest: When surrounded by 99.09 percent white folks in class, you never raise your hand to answer the simplest of questions.

Which brings me to another level of awareness and complaint. After weeks of praise and flattery of Japan’s national demeanor, most deserved following the March 11 devastation and continuing crisis, it is shocking to see the lack of international response to the relief effort. According to figures compiled by Chronicle of Philanthropy, U.S donors gave $105 million to Japan in the first week. An unimpressive figure when compared with $275 million for Haiti or Hurricane Katrina’s $500 million. International giving has also been less than avid after a week.

According to a Time Magazine pie chart, the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami caused an estimated $235 billion in damages (obviously does not include potential nuclear impact). As of March 29, a mere $704 million in relief funds had been received in commitments, contributions and pledges. In stark contrast to Katrina’s $81 billion total loss versus $3.4 billion in donations, Haiti’s 2010 earthquake comparative figures of $14/4.6, Pakistan flood contrast of $10/2.8.

I’ll do the math for you: Japan’s $235B/704M ratio is a paltry 0.003 percent while Katrina checks in at 0.042 percent. Okay, Katrina was closer to home and deserved national support. But what would explain the world’s philanthropy in Haiti’s case where the percentile was an amazing 33 percent! Donations made up 28 percent of Pakistan’s losses.

What we’re witnessing is what I call benign prejudice, the “Oh, not to worry, they can take care of themselves” belief. Being so resilient (World War II), there is the perception Japan can overcome any calamity — alone. Take a look at the international response to the 1995 Kobe earthquake. Even taking into consideration Japan’s pointed lack of outreach after that devastation, a meager $14 million was contributed worldwide toward the $100 billion in total deprivation, .0014! [Personal aside: Geez, I hope my long division holds up to the scrutiny.]

No, let’s don’t read something that isn’t there. The earthquake/tsunami/nuclear trifecta, no matter its newsworthiness and world impact, is already giving way to the uncertainty of the Middle East and North Africa. Which will lead to heightened interest in Israel and Palestine. And who knows what else and where else.

Just remember that the perplexing predicament that Japan finds itself in is ongoing without a warm but fuzzy future. Let’s not forget the suffering will continue. Let’s not forget . . .

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W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached by e-mail. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

 

 

 

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