A Glimmer of Hope in the Newspaper

Feb 08,2017
There was a letter to the editor in the Asahi Shinbun dated 26 December, which brought a smile to my tired and spiny lips.

The letter, by a Canadian woman living in Osaka, voiced contentions that I've been saying for more than a decade.

The gist of it was that being 'complimented' or 'praised' for being able to do simple, mundane things, is tantamount to an insult to the intelligence. Yes, there's Japanese and Chinese food in Canada, too, and we're all used to using chopsticks to eat it. People think they're being kind when they lavish praise for pick stuff up with a pair of sticks, but all they're doing is treating us like children. A curmudgeon--though I don't know any of those--might say that it's more akin to treatment as a mental deficient than a child. Same goes for compliments on being able to utter basic greetings. 'You've obviously been in Japan a long time, but it's amazing that you can speak a single word of our complex language. Most white people are too stupid.'

(Yes, I know there are non-Japanese who live here for years and can't speak Japanese. They infuriate me in the same way as immigrants to the US who refuse to learn English. When you decide to live in a country, you learn to use the language of that country. That's one of the areas in which you're not going to be able to manipulate your environment to suit you; you have to either adapt yourself to it, or miss out on a lot of things--such as being an independent adult.)

When I used to say these things, I rarely got anything resembling comprehension in response. On the occasions when the adverse party did register reception, it was as of an entirely unique and inscrutable viewpoint, possibly evidence of neurosis on my part. So I'm a bit surprised--quite pleasantly so--that this even made it into a newspaper. Could it be that we're venturing into a new era, when the idea that immigrants to any country just want to be treated like normal people is taken seriously?

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