Thursday, October 21, 2010

The World of Opaque Truths

Today Brother emailed me a news link about the sudden cancellation of China's invitation to the Osaka mayor for visiting the Shanghai Expo. Later on, in a skype conversation with a friend in Japan, I learned that the Japanese mass media has been covering the recent anti-Japanese demonstrations in four cities in China.

"Did you know about that? Is that even reported in China?" my friend asked.

I've only been back to Shanghai from Tokyo for less than a week, and already I'm on my way to Korea tomorrow. In the midst of all the flying and traveling, I honestly haven't been too up-to-date with the news. But I have been keeping the TV and the news channel on while doing work in front of my computer, and I don't recall seeing any reporting on the anti-Japanese demo's here.

So after hanging up the phone, I did a quick search on Nothing, I found. Then a quick on Asahi Shimbun online and immediately a few headlines popped up:

"中国旅行ツアー予約、10〜12月は大幅減 大手7社"

"伊勢丹、中国・天津への出店延期へ デモ影響か"

"中国で反日デモ飛び火 若者ら1万人 日系店襲撃情報も" - This one I gave it a more thorough glance:





"Why is it that the Chinese people have to go as far as crashing the Toyota cars and smashing the windows of Ito Yokado? What do they intend to achieve by doing that?" my friend asked again, with all sincerity.

Last night, at another dinner conversation, another expat friend of mine who has been living in Shanghai for almost 7 years told me that, when hanging out with the young 20-something-old-year, he is constantly struck with their sudden flaming of nationalistic comments.

"Like in what context or about what issue?" I asked.

"It can be something as trivial as there is a reporting about a Korean doing something bad on TV, then suddenly my friends are all about bashing the Korean nation and Korean race," he said.

This reminds me of another conversation that I had with this Chinese professor in my department. In his mid-50's, this professor hit the Cultural Revolution when he was a teenager, and was sent to a remote farming village outside of Shanghai for close to ten years. Having undergone hardships that I perhaps could never fathom, this professor, surprisingly, is extremely calm and level-headed the past and believes that forgiveness -- though not forgetting -- and efforts towards reconciliation are the only keys to resetting the wrongs of the past.

"Yet, nowadays when I teach my students, I am often shocked by and deeply worried about their state of mind. It seems like they now believe in the 'nation' so much more than we used to do. And with China on the rise, this fervent 'faith' or confidence in the nation prevents them from seeing things from a more objective point of view," he said.

In this increasing open and developed city, where the spirit of "nothing is impossible" and "tomorrow will only look better than today" fly high in the sky, I still had to resort to purchasing a monthly package via an open VPN vendor in order to write up this blog, check my friends' updates on facebook, or satiate my nostalgia towards Japan by watching random CM/TV clips on YouTube. In fact, I suppose I could even live without FB, Blogger, or YouTube and just resort to the Chinese versions of them, which are equally popular and easily accessible. But when I typed in words such as "日中共同世論調査" or "日韓歴史共同委員会" on google and was puzzled for a moment to find nothing listed, followed by a quick realization that the VPN thing wasn't turned on and once on, wow, a whole new world of listing popped up, I got this weird sensation of both relief yet spookiness running through my body.

Which world of truths am I living in, where all of its clarity or opaqueness easily appeared and disappeared according to that one simple click of "on/off" that I do on my little VPN window?

梅ちゃん at 12:51:00 AM



at 10/21/10, 3:36 AM Blogger refresh_daemon said...

I've noticed that kind of hotheaded nationalism is alive and active the in the US and Korea too. It's more vocally tempered in the US, possibly due to the wide presence of immigrants, but you can still see that kind of racism and xenophobia popping up here and there. Sitting around in Korea and paying attention to newspapers and random idle chatter, it's pretty clear that Koreans have a two-headed approach towards foreigners. They want to be appreciated by people of other countries so they often put forward their best appearance to visitors, but are quick to judge a whole group of people based on the actions of one of their members (like hating all foreign English teachers if one of them is caught smoking marijuana).

It makes me wonder if there's any actual place in this world were people are really able to see past their own self-conceived borders and see that we're all more alike and interconnected than not.


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