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  #141  
Old 07-21-2008, 12:53 PM
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I have always made a point to let it become clear which of the things I say is part of the summary and which is just my opinion but I see that in the part "Great expectations" the last remark (about Masako being required to work a goddess´s miracle) might be taken as part of the summary. For clarification: the last part about the contradictory expectations of the public towards Masako is indeed a summary of what Fritz and Kobayashi say but the very last remark about the goddess´s miracle is NOT Fritz and Kobayashi, that is just my own sarcasm overflowing…
ChiaraC.:

Every single time, that I read posts of yours, I can't believe how fluent you are in English. I mean, your English is almost perfect! I am telling you that many an American does not post as articulately as you do.
It's amazing.
Sorry to appear to be overly-fawning here, but, I am just waiting for you to confess to me that you are really an American, or something.

-- Abbie
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  #142  
Old 07-22-2008, 10:06 AM
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Smile Thank you very much, Abbie!

I am aware that for a foreigner my English is rather good but that it is so good as you describe it I did not know.
Thank you for encouraging me!

But, no, I am definitely not American. I have never even been to the US – and if I should have been living there in a past life I definitely do not remember anything of it...

Maybe one of the reasons is that I am very fond of reading and have read many English books in the original , books by Dickens, Thackeray and Jane Austen. (She is my all-time-favourite!) And also Harry Potter. :hedwig:
As this obviously helps I´d like to recommend it.
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  #143  
Old 07-22-2008, 05:21 PM
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I am aware that for a foreigner my English is rather good but that it is so good as you describe it I did not know.
Thank you for encouraging me!

But, no, I am definitely not American. I have never even been to the US – and if I should have been living there in a past life I definitely do not remember anything of it...

Maybe one of the reasons is that I am very fond of reading and have read many English books in the original , books by Dickens, Thackeray and Jane Austen. (She is my all-time-favourite!) And also Harry Potter. :hedwig:
As this obviously helps I´d like to recommend it.
Well, you are welcome ... I am eternally amazed is all.

I have been to Europe a few times, and the one thing that always impresses me about the Natives of almost any country there, is how cosmopolitan and educated everyone appears to be. And, fluent in likely more than one language. I am American and probably should not be disparaging my own countrymen, but ... I really do think we could do well to beef up our education demands and requirements, here.

I will stop here. Enough said. I don't want to appear to be too fawning or favouritist.

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  #144  
Old 07-24-2008, 11:48 AM
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Wow, can't believe this is the end of the translation, I"ve been enjoying the discussion so much I almost don't want it to end :).

All I can say is: thank you thank you ChiaraC for being so generous to share this book with us and your own opinions. Am really busy right now but will add further comments later about the topics in the book.
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  #145  
Old 07-25-2008, 12:05 AM
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Wow, can't believe this is the end of the translation, I"ve been enjoying the discussion so much I almost don't want it to end :).

All I can say is: thank you thank you ChiaraC for being so generous to share this book with us and your own opinions. Am really busy right now but will add further comments later about the topics in the book.
ChiaraC. is a jewel isn't she?

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  #146  
Old 07-26-2008, 10:29 AM
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Abbie, you make me blush… Thank you!

In fact, that IS one of the points in our (German) school system that I appreciate (There are others that I do NOT appreciate, though): that every child is offered to learn, at least, one foreign language, often two or three.

But I´ll disloyally tell you something about my countrymen, too: Germans love to be right, and that sometimes has as a consequence that they are not open to change or to learning new things - as then they´d have to admit that they have been wrong (or imperfect) before… And that is something which US-Americans are usually very good at. They say: “That obviously wasn´t such a good thing that we did there, let´s go ahead and change that.” or “That is a very good new idea, let´s try that.” They would not say: “I said yesterday that this is wrong and this is right, and that means it will be like that for evermore.”

All nations have good points and bad points. But nationality is not an unchangeable destiny as we can see in Naruhito: He is Japanese, and he still wanted to be able to speak his mind and to defend his values even in a controversial situation. Certainly NOT a typical Japanese quality. But he made it! (Does not mean, though, that when YOU change the rest of the nation will change, too… Probably not… )

Thank you, Emi! Honestly, for a simple reason I am glad I am done: from August until Mid-September I´ll be so busy that I wouldn´t have had time to translate a single sentence even if I had not succeeded in finishing the summary before. But on the other hand, I really enjoyed doing this translation and sharing with you, and I am sorry that it is over…
But I am, for sure, looking very much forward to reading your opinions when you will have time to write them down!

Anyway, I would be thrilled to read any comments on the contents I have put here. And maybe somebody from the Ben-Hills-group would tell us about the differences between the views of those two books, so we can find out together which interpretation of this or that point would seem to be the more convincing?
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  #147  
Old 07-27-2008, 12:22 PM
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About the Ben Hills book, I actually ended up reading it before this thread was started so it has been interesting to compare and contrast the two. Some general comments about the two books:

It's clear that both authors put a lot of effort into researching the books. I felt that Ben Hills book was written from the perspective of a Westerner looking into Japan, while the Fritz and Kobayashi (F and K) book is written from the inside explaining to the outside world how it all works. I should also add that Ben Hills is also a broadsheet journalist and won the Walkley Award (one of Australia's most prestigious journalism awards). In other words, like and F and K he also has a reputation to uphold, and while you should never believe everything you read, at very least the primary sources should be credible.

In the Hills book there is more on the time Naruhito and Masako spent overseas, especially Masako's time at Harvard and both their experiences at Oxford. I presume for a Western journalist it was probably easier to access overseas sources, though he did spend a considerable amount of time in Japan as a journalist. The book also names all the sources used, so it was probably harder to get people in the inner circle to talk which may be why the book feels like it is written from an outside perspective.

I do feel that the F and K book was more objective than the Ben Hills book (though is there anything such as true objectivity in an issue like this?). The F and K book is more analytical and digs quite deep to explain the reasons/background behind the events we have read about in the papers. I felt that the Ben Hills book pursued more of an agenda, namely a sympathetic opinion of Masako and that the IHA was the baddie (I'm generalising but IMO that's the general gist). It basically bypassed the role of the Emperor and Empress, the generation gap issue, and how the Emperor actually does have a fair amount of power when it comes down to the decisions made at the top level of the IHA. This was entirely new info that I learnt from reading the F&K book. However Ben Hills does include interesting discussion of the possibility Aiko was conceived from IVF and the views of IVF in Japan, and also how Masako's coming from a Japanese family but having spent most of her life overseas shaped her personality, including contradictory aspects.

I want to add something else that is entirely my own input. I have read the discussion on this board about Naruhito's comments at that now well-known press conference. I want to emphasis I respect his actions and the loyalty he has shown to his wife, but as someone who comes from a North East Asian background I also want to explain why it was criticised by some sections of the Japanese media and society, especially the older generations.

Although I am not Japanese the countries in North East Asia (by this I mean China, Japan and Korea) share some important connections through culture, historical influences, philosophy and language. One aspect that is still very important today is the cultural element of "face". This is a difficult thing to explain but basically it means whatever happens you at least give people their social veneer in public, that you preserve their outward respectability, there is a common saying that you should at least give someone enough "face" to be able to meet them again. We have already talked about national characteristics and perhaps the disadvantage of overpoliteness is that sometimes no-one is willing to directly mention the elephant in the room! IMO this is one of the reasons the IHA continually refers to Masako's depression as "adjustment disorder", because to talk about it directly is for Masako and the Imperial Family to lose face. Think what you may of that, I'm just trying to explain the possible reasoning for the euphemism.

Which finally brings us to Naruhito's comments. By so directly exposing the conflict to the media he caused the Imperial Family (esp the Emperor and Empress) and IHA to lose face big time. It's not pleasant for any royal family to have it's problems publicly exposed, but for a society where face is still important, this is especially so. Of course the subsequent actions of other members of the Imperial Family did not help matters. But you can see how face was still a consideration in how the criticisms were never directly worded, and even Naruhito did not directly criticise his parents.

That's my two cents worth for now. I'm not trying to say what Naruhito did was wrong, in fact given everything it was a brave thing to do, and I really think he must have felt it was the last resort in desperate circumstances. I'm just trying to explain a possible reason for why some did not view it favourable, even if they may have agreed with what he said.
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  #148  
Old 10-21-2008, 11:15 AM
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Smile Thank you, Emi!

Thank you, Emi, for your highly interesting comparison of the two books! And I am very sorry indeed for my answer coming so very late – I really could not make it earlier.

I found especially interesting what you said about the reasons for the differences between the two books (inside – outside perspective). Seen from this point of view, they obviously both have their merits.
I have to admit that I had a certain prejudice against Hills´ book (that I would never have expressed here as it cannot be more than a mere prejudice, me never having read the book), I think especially because of the chapter titles concerning Masako and Naruhito - something like "mummy´s boy" and "daddy´s g.irl " – that, to me, seem to be rather "cheap" psychology, so to speak.
Of course, Naruhito´s existence WAS very important for his mother. Her situation was already so difficult that without him being born so shortly after her marriage and without his being a boy she might have completely broken down. (We know that he was for several years her only child and that she suffered, at least, one miscarriage between him and his brother. I really do not want to imagine what would have become of her if she had been childless during these years before Fumihito was born. Horrible thought indeed.) So, of course, there always was a special contact between them – so special maybe that it was not so easy for her to welcome his bride with open arms as she could do with his brother´s bride… So far the situation matches the cliché of "mummy´s boy". But as to Naruhito being spoilt and pampered and protected from the rough side of life (as you would assume a "mummy´s boy" would have been) – all who have read "The Naru-chan-constitution" at the beginning of this thread would know what an incorrect description of the circumstances of his education that would make…

The same thing is to be said about "daddy´s g.irl" – sure, Masako followed in her father´s professional footsteps, so far correct. But the term does not show that she actually followed in her MOTHER´s footsteps, too, who had been a business woman and had been working for Air France before her marriage – certainly unusual in her generation. And, what is more, the term actually clouds the fact that although Masako DID follow in her father´s professional footsteps she acted by doing so AGAINST HIS WISH AND ADVICE: Hisashi Owada had made it clear to his daughter that he wanted her to stay in the US and to start working there. He probably foresaw with how many obstacles his daughter would have to deal if she returned to Japan, still insisting on having a brilliant career, and like a caring father, he had obviously wanted to protect his daughter from adversity. (Nice try…)

Both these incidents biased me against Hills´ book as they seemed to me to denote an attitude of hunger for the sensational and an unwillingness to really take a close look at the facts of the individual case and a tendency to take refuge in psychological commonplace clichés instead. But now I see that he might have used these expressions because he simply did not have some of the information that Fritz and Kobayashi had – for example about father Owada´s advice to his daughter that is probably an insider information. And, anyway, these are only chapter titles, maybe chosen a bit unluckily, but that does not necessarily mean that the actual content of the chapter could not be much more reflected and to the purpose.

I would, actually, be very interested indeed to know if this is so. So if you, Emi, or anybody who has read the book would like to share their opinion on this point I would be quite thrilled to hear it. And one thing more: you mention that Hills says more than Fritz and Kobayashi about the attitude in Japan concerning IVF. If you could give some of the details of what he says I would also very much like to hear it. I am interested in that because I, personally, after the information I got, do not doubt any more that Aiko as well as Hisahito were conceived by IVF, and I am even more convinced of it as the people concerned try to cover it up in a – to me - absolutely ridiculous way. (See also this link that says:
"Shukan shincho reported that the baby's father, Prince Akishino, had let it slip that he and his wife were expecting a boy, exposing the official story -- that the couple "didn't want to know" the s.ex (credited to Ichiro Kanazawa, medical supervisor to the Imperial Household Agency) -- for the lie many suspected it was."
The Family And The Society: Search results for A+ +would+be+better+for+Japan
I am not sure if this will work as I cannot write g.irl properly. If it does not, try The Family And The Society: It's a boy for Japan: magazine and then serach in the blog for A+ g.irl+would+be+better+for+Japan - obviously, you would have to remove the period that I had to put to make it appear)

Even before Kako was born the press had been speculating that this child might be the future heir of the Japanese throne, if a boy. And then, in December 2003, the Akishino couple had been officially requested by the Grand steward of the kunaicho to have another child "for the interest of the monarchy". Under these circumstances, it is simply not believable that the Akishinos "did not want to know" their baby´s gender before birth. The whole nation was eager to get this information and only the parents of the potential "little saviour" should feel no curiosity? And if I even go so far as to believe that: is not it then the last piece to make the story impossible to believe that, according to press reports, prince Akishino took the information that the baby was born and was a boy "with calmness"? Sure, sure, I know he is a Japanese prince and owes it to his dignity to not jump high up into the air and scream: "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! We did it!" (Although it is a nice picture… ) But if he really did not know before that it was a boy I would, at least, have expected him, to smile gladly and say: "Thank you for this very good piece of news." instead of showing "calmness". In my opinion: they were overdoing it. I would rather have believed that Hisahito was a piece of luck if they had behaved more naturally during the pregnancy and afterwards.

It seems to me that the only explanation why it was so important to act the i.nnocent was because there was indeed something that they wanted to hide from the public at any cost, and that can only be the fact that Hisahito´s life began, as well as his cousin´s, in a test tube.
And I simply wonder that obviously nobody had scruples to take refuge in this method on one hand, and that, on the other hand it should still be so absolutely unthinkable to admit it. You can think about IVF whatever you want and I certainly understand people who have a problem with it, that´s not my point. But for people who have made use of IVF so readily in order to solve what they see as a major national problem it seems to me to be a bit ungrateful to afterwards disown it.

Maybe this is also an "Nobody mentions the elephant in the room"-thing but I would really like to know some more about the Japanese public opinion about IVF because it might help me to understand this attitude better that seems to me to be highly inconsistent.
Well, so far. (I have to say still more but I think for today that will do. )
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  #149  
Old 10-21-2008, 01:58 PM
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I have to admit that I had a certain prejudice against Hills´ book (that I would never have expressed here as it cannot be more than a mere prejudice, me never having read the book), I think especially because of the chapter titles concerning Masako and Naruhito - something like "mummy´s boy" and "daddy´s g.irl " – that, to me, seem to be rather "cheap" psychology, so to speak.
Yes, well ... Hill is Australian, and they can be irreverent, where Royalty is concerned. That might explain his tone?
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  #150  
Old 10-21-2008, 02:11 PM
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I have read the Hills book and he is not at all disrespectful to the royals themselves. He does not attempt to hide his disdain for the IHA, which is not the same thing. Also, it is not accurate to assume that his nationality clouds his objectivity or precludes him from being a royalist.

The cutesy chapter title names have more to do with the corrolation of the defining influence that Naruhito's mother had upon him as well as the defining influence that Masako's father had upon her.
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  #151  
Old 10-21-2008, 02:25 PM
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Also, it is not accurate to assume that his nationality clouds his objectivity or precludes him from being a royalist.
I know, Kimebear. I wasn't intending to imply that all Aussies are irreverent and unroyalist. I posted that they can be irreverent, is all.
They tend not to be reverential which is great, and means that they won't take too much at face value.

The people from Down Under, that I know personally think Royalty is "for the birds" and are most opinionated about wanting them out of their lives, for good. Dealing with them up close and personally, is where I got my opinion of Australians from. I can also tell you that Aussies are laid back folks and a pleasure to associate with.
Again, it's all "No worries, Mate" with them.
It's great

I am sorry if my post read as though I were stereotyping any nationality.

I hadn't meant to do that.
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  #152  
Old 10-21-2008, 02:55 PM
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Although I'm from North America, I come from a mini-culture which is non-confrontational--a culture where it's considered "bad manners" to say something that, although true and kindly put, might be unpleasant for the person to hear. It's also considered rude to let a person know that you're bothered about something he or she has done or said. And believe me, my genetic background is about as far from north-east asia as one can get. So, yes, I can understand the bit about "saving face," at least in the way it's interpreted from where I come. I've moved into another province now; and although I first found the people here too up-front, I've come to appreciate that quality very much. The non-confrontational lifestyle might be very polite, but it means that people don't say what they really mean and that eventually there's a big blow-up because people don't discuss things until situations become very heated.

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Originally Posted by Emi View Post
Although I am not Japanese the countries in North East Asia (by this I mean China, Japan and Korea) share some important connections through culture, historical influences, philosophy and language. One aspect that is still very important today is the cultural element of "face". This is a difficult thing to explain but basically it means whatever happens you at least give people their social veneer in public, that you preserve their outward respectability, there is a common saying that you should at least give someone enough "face" to be able to meet them again. We have already talked about national characteristics and perhaps the disadvantage of overpoliteness is that sometimes no-one is willing to directly mention the elephant in the room! IMO this is one of the reasons the IHA continually refers to Masako's depression as "adjustment disorder", because to talk about it directly is for Masako and the Imperial Family to lose face. Think what you may of that, I'm just trying to explain the possible reasoning for the euphemism.

Which finally brings us to Naruhito's comments. By so directly exposing the conflict to the media he caused the Imperial Family (esp the Emperor and Empress) and IHA to lose face big time. It's not pleasant for any royal family to have it's problems publicly exposed, but for a society where face is still important, this is especially so. Of course the subsequent actions of other members of the Imperial Family did not help matters. But you can see how face was still a consideration in how the criticisms were never directly worded, and even Naruhito did not directly criticise his parents.

That's my two cents worth for now. I'm not trying to say what Naruhito did was wrong, in fact given everything it was a brave thing to do, and I really think he must have felt it was the last resort in desperate circumstances. I'm just trying to explain a possible reason for why some did not view it favourable, even if they may have agreed with what he said.
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  #153  
Old 10-21-2008, 06:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Mermaid1962 View Post
Although I'm from North America, I come from a mini-culture which is non-confrontational--a culture where it's considered "bad manners" to say something that, although true and kindly put, might be unpleasant for the person to hear. It's also considered rude to let a person know that you're bothered about something he or she has done or said. And believe me, my genetic background is about as far from north-east asia as one can get. So, yes, I can understand the bit about "saving face," at least in the way it's interpreted from where I come. I've moved into another province now; and although I first found the people here too up-front, I've come to appreciate that quality very much. The non-confrontational lifestyle might be very polite, but it means that people don't say what they really mean and that eventually there's a big blow-up because people don't discuss things until situations become very heated.
I am from NYC originally and we are thought of as being (by non New Yorkers, at least) very rude, and confrontational. New Yorkers are just direct, that's all. But, cultural differences do get misinterpreted, that's for sure.
Americans and Japanese are so different, in many respects. Masako Owada must have found, being so Americanized as she was, her new postion of the CP of such a tradition-bound country very, very hard indeed to adjust to. In light of this, I don't think anyone could have avoided getting ill, from all the stress.
I am glad to see some signs of her getting a bit better, or looking as though some therapy might be helping her.
GOOD for the CP Masako!
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  #154  
Old 10-22-2008, 04:54 PM
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My sister visited New York City years ago and was told to expect loud, rude people; but she and the people she was travelling with were pleasantly surprised at how helpful people were and how polite.

I hope that we get to see Masako in some official capacity at some point. That way, we'll know for sure that she's "on the mend."

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I am from NYC originally and we are thought of as being (by non New Yorkers, at least) very rude, and confrontational. New Yorkers are just direct, that's all. But, cultural differences do get misinterpreted, that's for sure.
Americans and Japanese are so different, in many respects. Masako Owada must have found, being so Americanized as she was, her new postion of the CP of such a tradition-bound country very, very hard indeed to adjust to. In light of this, I don't think anyone could have avoided getting ill, from all the stress.
I am glad to see some signs of her getting a bit better, or looking as though some therapy might be helping her.
GOOD for the CP Masako!
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  #155  
Old 10-22-2008, 05:00 PM
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My sister visited New York City years ago and was told to expect loud, rude people; but she and the people she was travelling with were pleasantly surprised at how helpful people were and how polite.
Well, you see?

There we are.

It never pays to go in with negative expectations of folks.

Nor, to stereotype anyone, either, I dare say .....
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  #156  
Old 10-22-2008, 06:05 PM
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Welcome back, ChiaraC, and thank you very much for the wonderful translation of that interesting book about CP Masako. In recent months she stayed in Japan with Aiko while Naruhito travelled by himself to different places, and I had the hope she was pregnant.

Maybe some other time you have time to translate another german book to us. I would love a biography of the last kaiser and his times. I mentioned in another thread that those times, ending XIX and beginning XX centuries, called in France,La Belle Epoque, and in England Edwardian Era, were similar to the ones we are living right now in the extremely liberal economic approach. Maybe those times have a special name in Germany, too. I read lately that Bismarck was very able in handling foreign policies.
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  #157  
Old 10-22-2008, 08:43 PM
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Maybe some other time you have time to translate another german book to us. ... read lately that Bismarck was very able in handling foreign policies.
Poor ChiaraC.! No sooner do folks welcome her back here than they ask her for another favour.

Let's give this young woman a rest, please before we ask more and more of her, eh?

Just a thought ......

She's done non-German speakers already a world of good, to my way of looking at things.
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  #158  
Old 10-23-2008, 12:04 PM
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Smile Hello everybody, what a nice welcome back!

So many people! And I think it on one hand very interesting to listen to you explaining your various perceptions and backgrounds, and on the other hand I also think that this will help us to understand each other even better in this forum – because so we won´t have that often discussions like: “How can you say that? That is absolutely unreasonable/cruel/silly whatever!” and more like: “Coming from this and this background, I really cannot understand what you say. But maybe if you explain your priorities and your background I could get a bit closer to “getting it”.” And that is just the sort of exchange I am personally fond of.

Thank you, kimebear, for answering my question concerning the chapter titles. And tan-berry and Abbie, I am grateful as well for your request, tan-berry, as well as for your “protection”, Abbie. For the protection, on one hand, ´cause I do not see myself in the near future summarizing a whole book again – I had only the energy to do it this time because I was so very very fascinated with it myself. I am very sorry if I disappoint you by that... But on the other hand I am grateful for your request because it gives me the courage to say the things I really want to say – as that often means to give them a historical background as you will also see in the following when I explain why I admire Naruhtio´s way of acting so very much. I wrote that part (see next post) already at home and, while writing it, thought: “I really hope I am not getting on people´s nerves by constantly recalling incidents of the german past – but then I HAVE to say this to make myself clear.” It is good to know that at least one of you has a definite interest in history.

For those who are NOT interested in Bismarck and German history, please, skip the next two paragraphs!

Concerning Bismarck, I have to say that I rather consider him to have been part of the problem than part of the solution just BECAUSE he was such a skilled politician. See, when the German “Reich” was founded in the second half of the 19th century many Germans had been wanting it for a long time already. (In 1789 the region that was to become Germany later consisted of 1789 – easy to memorize - small villages, cities, princedoms, etc., all of them autonomous – just to give you an idea.) In fact, it had rather been a wish of the common people to come together to be one nation, not so much of the aristocracy, and the vision had been that of a democratic, open, liberal country with equal rights for more or less everybody. There had been several trys to get there and always in vain. And then Bismarck realized it but organized it “from the top level down”, he made it an imperial monarchy. And from then on there was – IMO – the same mistake over and over again: things were done and realized because they were a success, because they paid off, and more and more people forgot that in the long run it does not only matter to make things work but also to ask yourself from time to time: which things? Are these still the values on which we want our nation to be founded? (Actual questions though, bye the bye: at present, the whole world seems to have been run away with the idea of money and success and seems to have forgotten to ask: For what? Which world do we want to create?)

Of course, there are no politics possible without making a compromise now and then. Other nations have failed to live up to their moral standards, too – for example, Great Britain and France as imperial powers: Democratic standards that were a matter of course in the home country were never applied to the colonies. So, it would be hard to tell where and when it was exactly that Germany crossed the line of no return. But Bismarck had a way of thinking and acting that seems to me to show that he thought that every measure can be justified if you only think that it will get you where you want. He always tried to fight diversity in people because he was afraid to lose control if there was freedom and independence of thought. - And although I am not quite sure myself I do even think it possible that he was involved in the m.urdering of the Austrian crown prince Rudolf. Historians widely agree, I have to admit, that Rudolf committed s.uicide but I had a close look at the known facts, and I am personally quite convinced that he was killed by German nationalists – sorry to say it. (German nationalists, at that time, were already a very intolerant, narrow-minded sort of people, full of antisemitic and even anti-catholic prejudices.) If Bismarck himself really played a part in it, if he really would have gone so far as that, of this I am not quite sure, but that I think it at all possible probably gives you already an idea of my opinion about Bismarck...
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Old 10-23-2008, 12:16 PM
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Lightbulb Concerning the "losing face"-issue

I would be very grateful indeed if German politicians (and I suppose that applies to most of the Western politicians, too) would make greater efforts to give each other a bit more "face". The way in which they – especially before elections – use to call each other names and to blemish each others characters is, IMO, highly disgusting. I would really prefer them to just clearly state the points in which they disagree concerning the ways in which the country should be run but still show SOME manners in doing that. How can you explain to your kids why they should not call each other "stupid" if the men and women leading the country are setting them such a bad example? So, I really see that there is definitely a great value in caring about how the other feels and in being concerned in your interaction with others to not put them to shame. Sure, being a Western woman, I certainly would draw the line between politeness and clarity somewhere else than most North East Asian people would but, generally, I see and appreciate the value of giving each other "face", and I also respect the fact that others draw the line somewhere else.

So, I am fully aware that Naruhito has broken one of the most important rules and has violated one of the most essential values of his culture – and that he knew in advance that he would have to pay a high price for that. But that is exactly why I admire him because I think that sometimes an individual has to deal with an extreme situation where he/she has to serve his/her country and nation by seemingly betraying his/her country and nation.

I think I have already expressed this view in another thread but I want to explain here more fully what I mean: The highest duty in Prussia (whose traditions were valid for Germany at least until 1945) was obedience – not only because obedience is a value that is generally held in higher esteem in monarchies than in republics – but in a very specific Prussian way that to other nations may seem exaggerated. For example, we have a very famous play about a Prussian prince who by disobeying his superior´s order wins a battle. His uncle - who reigns the country - afterwards sentences the prince to d.eath for his disobedience, without minding at all the fact that the superior´s decision had obviously been wrong. The content of the play is basically about how the prince comes to understand that this sentence is just. (He is granted mercy in the end but only because he understands that he has not deserved it.) (For those who want to know: Heinrich von Kleist: "Prinz Friedrich von Homburg")

The winning of a battle is nothing – obedience to your superior and doing your duty is all – and that is Prussia. (It may sound inhuman and cruel - and it certainly often was - but it did have some good effects: for example, it was next to impossible to bribe a Prussian public executive although they were poorly paid – whereas at the same time in France (before the French Revolution) it was quite clear that in order to get anything you had theoretically a right to from a public executive you had to pay them first – you would probably not even have called that bribing because everybody had to do it anyway.)

And the spirit of Prussia was still very livid among military people during the Second World War. So, when some of them decided to try and kill H.itler and were looking for allies among their fellow officers they got several times the answer – from courageous, honest people: "I understand why you want to do this, and I will certainly not tell anybody what you have asked of me. I am completely aware that this guy is a criminal and nothing more. But I have sworn an oath to obey him, he is our country´s supreme leader and we are in a desperate war against half the world – I cannot disobey his orders, because I would feel like a traitor then." Obedience, loyalty to the head of the state, duty were the highest values of the Prussian tradition. They simply felt that they could not break them.

Fortunately, there were several brave men who did overcome these doubts in spite of all the loyalty to tradition in which they had been raised and who understood that it can be more important for a true patriot to stop your country from committing unimaginable crimes than to protect it at any cost from losing a war.

And as you maybe know (if not, there is a movie upcoming featuring Tom Cruise - well, I do doubt that ALL details will be correct but basically this is a true story), they tried to kill H.itler in July 1944. And although they were not successful and although afterwards hundreds of people who had been secretly working against the regime were put to trial, t.ortured and executed in consequence, they had, at least, succeeded to show the world that not all Germans supported H.itler. Fortunately for Germany and fortunately for me and for all who were born after the war there were these few men and women (only hundreds or maybe thousands - among millions) who preserved for us a chance to say: "I am German" without dying on the spot for shame.

And still, they were not appreciated by the majority of the German population - for a long time. Some of their children were called by their schoolfellows "traitor´s children" – even after the war. Most people at the time still thought that Stauffenberg and his friends were dishonorable traitors who had betrayed their country in a time of emergency.

And this is why Naruhito´s way of acting touches me so. He knew that he would be criticized for what he was doing. But I think that his was an extreme case in which obeying to the rules would – as I think he sees it – not only have caused great damage to himself and his family but to HIS COUNTRY ITSELF. Not only because it was in danger of losing a future empress in whose high potential the crown prince has never ceased to believe but, I think, also out of principle. There has to be a moderation in everything and a boundary to everything: I mean, if nobody talks about the elephant in the room that IS certainly uncomfortable - but also bit funny. For example, if a Japanese reporter is getting uneasy with a British correspondent saying that the British people are quite fine with having a woman as their sovereign and are a bit at a loss to understand why the Japanese shrink from this thought with so much horror (see the link in my post from the 21st), I might think that silly and may think that it does not make much sense because probably most Japanese are already aware, anyway, that the British people have a queen and do not seem to mind it, but I still can accept it as this is not immediately dangerous to anybody´s welfare. But when a person´s life is at stake? If people do not want to admit that someone is dangerously ill and therefore withhold a medical treatment that could save a life? Or to go back to metaphors: What if the animal whose existence nobody in the room dares to mention is not an elephant but a rattle snake? What, if the room is a school class? What if it is not only one rattle snake but one hundred? What if the room is a nursery? Where do you draw the line?

If keeping face is the highest value of a society, fine. But there should be also "emergency exits" out of this general "keeping face" for worst case scenarios, and there have to be people who set up the example and show these emergency exits for everybody to use.

And Naruhito is by no means the first one in his family to show such an emergency exit to the nation. His grandfather did the same when he admitted that the war was lost and asked the Japanese to stop fighting and save their lives. He could have "kept his face" by dying in the fight, undefeated - and taking millions of Japanese with him. (By the way: that is what H.itler did – when his own precious self was doomed to die he wanted, at least, to take with him as many Germans as possible. He ordered to destroy everything necessary for the survival of the German people, provisions, houses, harvest, cattle etc. Fortunately, just for this once many people – but by far not all! – disobeyed his orders.) But the Japanese tenno, in his turn, decided that the lives of his people were more important than his "face". He did not want to sacrifice so many human lives and preferred to "lose his face" instead. And he set the example for the Japanese to also rather give up a bit of their "face" in order to survive. Who knows how many would have committed s.uicide without his brave decision. That IS a true leader!
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Old 10-23-2008, 06:26 PM
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ChiaraC,
Thanks for informative posts. I really appreciate your comments about Otto von Bismark. I have to say that I fully agree with your comments about
Iron Chancellor. You have drawn interesting parallels between German and Japanese politicians.
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