I’m just going to dive right in here.
As we have seen, the word ‘integrity’ is not in the Japanese language. Integrity. Wait. What? Really. Let that sink in.
The absence of the word integrity is a monumental crack in the foundation of Japanese society. How did I not know this? This begins to explain the abnormalities of Japanese society.
When I talk about integrity here I am talking about basic morality, simply put, the belief in goodness and the ability to tell good from bad or is it really the absence of religion, God or the Absolute? Taboo.
If a society is established without moral reasoning i.e. integrity, how can people function morally on the most basic level? If you do not have a word to describe something, it remains invisible. It doesn’t exist. Integrity doesn’t exist in Japan.
Let’s take for example: a pregnant woman standing in a full train carriage, all the seats are taken even the ones reserved for the elderly, disabled and pregnant. No one in the reserved seats are elderly, disabled or pregnant. Admittedly you could say not all disabilities are visible, but I digress. No one offers her a seat. The pregnant woman is ignored as if she didn’t exist. She doesn’t complain. She doesn’t ask for someone to give up their seat for her. She has no expectations that anyone will come to her aid. Of course, you would give up your seat. I know you would. Few do in Japan. This shows a lack of integrity for everyone around her. Even those standing. They could ask those sitting to give up their seat. Everyone has a responsibility to act with integrity. That’s also common decency, right?
When you speak in Japanese you have a certain personality. The language constrains you. The vowels make you talk a certain way, the pitch of your voice might change, you restrict your movements to conform to the societal habits, you become less animated to mask your emotions. You switch to your Japanese persona. You take more care to speak with the correct amount of formality for the situation. There is a lot to calculate. You calculate for the good of the group. You become selfless.
I realised early on that I couldn’t be selfless in Japan. I couldn’t fully conform to Japanese society. Some may say I was completely selfish. I couldn’t agree. Stubborn at times, perhaps. I believed that my own integrity was worth more than a bit of awkwardness for others. I kept my personal integrity intact.
Being happy as an individual seemed more important than the happiness of the collective group if it wasn’t impeding anyone else. For example: if everyone else is studying Chinese and I want to study Portuguese, then I’m going to choose Portuguese. There should be nothing ground-breaking in that.
This circles round to integrity again doesn’t it? Being honest with oneself and being able to make personal choices.
If Japanese make their own choices or make their opinions voiced, they are considered different or foreign influenced and not being true Japanese. Now that’s fucked up. Who cares? And by the way, the expression of being ‘true Japanese’ has strong undertones of nationalism and totalitarianism. No democratic thinking souls need apply.
As we know Japanese are not taught how to debate and argue in schools. They are taught to listen and comply. Meetings are usually a waste of time as very often the decisions have already been made beforehand. Opinions against a project are never encouraged. What would be the point? Have you noticed the way other Japanese people discuss topics? They don’t. One person lectures and the others nod in agreement and occasionally add encouraging words. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a real discussion among Japanese where there are opposing sides and proper debating of ideas without heated emotions. You don’t all have to have the same ideas. Where is the democracy in that? Nada.
Being bilingual or multilingual you know that your own personality changes to match the language that you speak. If one language is more animated then you gesture with your hands as you speak, if a language has more vowels or consonants then the mouth will change shape to match the sounds. Some languages are softly spoken. As you know speaking is only a part of the language of communicating in a society, Rules, hierarchies and ways complete the whole. Some languages are freer than others, some might say more selfish. We morph ourselves to match the language.
The English language is built on moral reasoning. It is bound within society through a belief in goodness, justice, religion even song and fables. God is woven throughout many aspects of the English language, in America ‘In God We Trust’ is written on the monetary notes. ‘God save the Queen’ is the anthem for Great Britain and New Zealand. When people are asked to testify in a court of law in English speaking countries, they must swear to tell the truth while they place their hand on the Bible, before they enter their testimony. Morality is the glue that holds English speaking societies together.
The way people speak to one another in Japanese depends on so many factors, the age, the ranking of the person in a company, the social status, the education and with that the language of addressing changes. There are no morals to contend with so there is no pretence of trying to have any. Without integrity then corruption, bribery, fraud, deceit, lying, cheating, deceiving, stealing is acceptable, is it not?
How does one add integrity to a language that is built without it? Integrity must be named first, then defined in order for it to be discussed and talked about. I don’t believe it can be done unless the Japanese people first believe there is a problem and second decide to do something about it. Japanese as a language may only survive as a written language like Latin or as a language like Bengali or Thai that is only spoken within the home. Only time will tell. Is it worth saving? Only the Japanese can answer that.
As we both know, Japanese as a written language has an absolute beauty and because of that I still believe we can get over all obstacles to save the Japanese language.
I have hope in you.