Sunday, April 17, 2011

Actions Have Consequences and Other Rude Awakenings

Please take time to read follow up comments below... Especially this: 
"Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice."- H. L. Mencken

In an occurring theme in life, many someday learn that actions have consequences - in spite of how much they wish words could cover for their deeds. 

Still, again, many foreigners seem to be so concerned with what I think that they just cannot stop writing to me and showing their insecurities about how they panicked and ran from Japan.
I have been asked by many Japanese people over these few weeks "Did you leave?" And when they find out that I didn't, they usually open up and start complaining about the foreigners. Of course they do. This is not unique to the Japanese. In any country in the world, they wouldn't like it. I think many Japanese are open about this to me because they know I'm half-Japanese and have been here for most of my life.

Here's an interesting letter from another foreigner whose been here for years and speaks perfect Japanese. Billy-Bob (not his real name) is also the CEO and president of a company in Tokyo. He writes:


Saw your blog about "flyjin".  I have been looking for a word for them, and will start using it with pride.  Edogawa-ku, where I live, has been completely transformed since the earthquake.   It had the highest level of Indians in the Japan.  99% of them vanished over the first 3-4 days.  Several friends who employed them at their companies
have been left holding the bag on incomplete projects.  Another friend who works at a real estate agency says that they now have 12 apartments under their management with outstanding rents and no way to contact the contractee.  But with the law, they also can't evict for several more months.   It is a shame as it IS going to give more examples of what can happen if you rent to a gaijin.   

On flip side, I have been surprised at the appreciation by some Japanese that I am still here. I personally feel more Japanese than American so it was never an option to abandon Japan.  But I have still been surprised at how many Japanese "notice" the fact that I stayed.


Thanks BB. Well, another excellent example of how these people who panicked and ran away from Japan have not only made things difficult for themselves - as it should (actions do have consequences) but they have messed things up for the other foreigners in this country.

I think I mentioned many things about this in the past. That even now many of those who left keep trying to make excuses and try to deflect criticism shows that they haven't learned anything. There are many others who think that they do not deserve criticism or pay cuts - or even being terminated at work...

Well, Flyjin and Flyjin apologists, as someone so deftly pointed out, if you don't like the criticism in public or at work, then you have already proven that you are free to leave anytime you like without any ties to responsibility or the welfare of others or your company.

As another has pointed out: 

"They (Flyjin apologists) do not understand that "freedom: does *not* mean that you can do what you want when you want to do it. Nor does it mean that you do not need to take responsibility for your actions. We are living in sad times." 

Flyjin keywords? Link to: coward, irresponsible, irresponsibility, panic, foreigner, poor management, no risk management or assessment skills, no respect, poor leaders, no leadership, undependable, losers....

NOTE: To those Flyjin apologists who have threatened to kick my ass, let me just state one thing clearly. I do not, I repeat, do not allow you to insult me this way. When you refer to me as "Self-centered, overly righteous jerk" Make that, "MISTER Self-Centered, Overly Righteous Jerk." And smile when you say that. I will see you in the playground after school!


Anonymous said...

Mike and 'Billy-Bob'

I could not agree more. I have also been here for over half of my life now, and am seeing the same things that you both are with regards to attitudes towards flyjin.

Given Japanese feelings about honesty and responsibility, I also think that those attitudes would only become stronger if they were also to become aware of 'cryjin' and the flyjin apologists.

As for the people who keep trying to justify their panicked actions, methinks the pantywaists doth protest too much.

"Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice."
H. L. Mencken

Andy "In Japan" said...

My Japanese level is very low, but I stayed and am staying. So there.

Every individual has different sensibilities and will react to fears about the future in different ways. I see no reason to be so critical of those who admit they are afraid of what might happen, so they decided to leave.

It would be fair to poke fun at them for being cowards, but they *might* turn out to have made the right decision. We shall see.

What IS worth being critical of would be the dishonesty and childishness of some who ran away. They pretend it's currently dangerous in Tokyo or some place far away from the nuke plant, they blame their embassy, or their family, or some authority who said such and such, but they refuse to take personal responsibility for their fears and their actions.

Those flyjin deserve to be called out for their poor behavior, as do those deadbeats who abandoned their economic obligations. Calling them cowards, liars, deadbeats, or likewise is in order as these terms are true portrayals of their behavior.

Is cursing them or expressing anger in a schoolyard way really the right thing to do?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, dude, the problem with your argument is your mass generalization. Some of them might've been selfish, but some had families as well. Time to stop kicking a dead horse.

If you want to know why so many left you might want to blame domestic institutions here in Japan as well.

Look at it this way: foreigners are living in a country where the government and media are famously reserved about fully disclosing potentially catastrophic news. Press releases are composed in the most roundabout language that doesn't say anything. And let's not forget that there was some massive covering up by Tepco in the early days of the crisis. And fundamentally, most foreigners strongly distrust amakudari, the backscratching agreement that binds the government, the bureaucracy, and corporate heads.

If any good can come out of this catastrophe, it will be reforming this corrupt, archaic system of government so that Japan can be made a more transparent, democratic, egalitarian society.

Ben said...

Also having been through quake aftermath and trying to keep people calm, it is easy to understand how panic spreads, which is said to be the thing that causes the most damage in a disaster.
Obviously running out on responsibilities, especially when in a position of leadership is wrong, but we should also be careful not to just label this a 'gaijin' phenomena, because that is wrong too.

Many Japanese, aka 'the suitcase people' were all on their way to Osaka and Nagoya on the Wednesday, Thursday of the aftermath.
These people hung out until about Sunday once the nuclear cloud of the apocalypse failed to appear, and unsurprisingly with them gone, the food returned.

I know Japanese who left for overseas too.
Just when it was getting back to normal, I went to a wedding in Australia.
On my trip back I met some Japanese who were 'moving to live' in Australia, due to the Japan situation. That is more extreme don't you think?

So not that it changes the running away part, but plenty of Japanese are Fleehonjin too.
And I think a fair assumption to make is many didn't leave for 'home' because home is Japan.

Now, if the Japanese were in your country and it took three huge disasters, how many do you think would stick around?
With the shoe on the other foot, how many feet would be wearing sneakers?

It's just conjecture of course, and it doesn't really change the argument of social responsibility but I think making the situation out to be a gaijin only event is wrong, especially now we know it wasn't/isn't just non-Japanese.

Foreigners left because they could and they had homes, families to leave to.

Many Japanese left for Nagoya & Osaka.
Some Japanese left overseas to families and friends or a holiday (because they could)

-- If the disaster happened in another country and everyone were 'gaijin' many Japanese would have stuck it out?

Yes.... it wasn't cool to leave when the place needed them.
But Japanese complaining about foreigners are also not considering their countrymen in that complaint, and many who didn't leave, could well because they couldn't.

So whilst there is a right to complain out the 'flyjin' please remind the Nihonjin or their fellow 'Fleehonjin' who maybe deserve a sterner talking to.

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Finally a voice of reason. Thanks Ben! I am considering your point.
People keep confusing the issue here. I'm talking about people who fled who live far away form the crisis center - and left their friends, neighbors and coworkers holding the bag - they are the Flyjin. Anyone who was near the disaster or Fukushima is exempt. People, do not try to confuse who we are talking about here.

There may be Japanese who have left. I'm not sure and haven't read anything on Ameblo (the big Japanese language blog here) or on Dempa 2ch. that verifies claims of Japanese fleeing - or Japanese being upset about their compatriots doing so. I've even asked my Japanese staff to research this claim and they have come up empty. Please send me some evidence. I can't find any.

As far as foreigners complaining about Japan government not being transparent about news, there's not a single person from the USA, UK, or any EU nation who can make this claim without looking foolish. As if those countries have truthful governments? Once again, think: SARS, Swine Flu, Global Warming, Bird Flu, Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons, on and on...

The other argument of "if" there's another earthquake doesn't hold water either. "If" is the middle word in "Life". I suggest that if you make your decisions as to "if" there will be an earthquake that could damage nuclear power plants, etc. Then you need your head examined for moving to Japan in the first place... Or California.... Etc. etc...

Ben said...

I don't know about Japanese leaving others in the lurch but I personally know Tokyo Japanese who left for overseas and took holidays to get away during that period - how much lurch was left I have no idea.

I also know Japanese who went to Nagoya and Osaka in that period, and this group mostly returned the Sunday/Monday, when it was considered safer (...and the food came back).

Then friends I know in Nagoya at the time mentioned that it was full of people from Tokyo at the moment. Which also matched someone's panicked FB comment about the 'suitcase people'.

- Basically because they saw lots of Japanese on the Wednesday all jumping on trains out of Tokyo carrying suitcases. So concerned by this they questioned if these people knew something they didn't, stirring up the worry.

Then the family I met who right out told me they were leaving Japan to live in Australia.

So I personally know that people in general from Tokyo left - overseas or just down to Nagoya and Osaka.

It wasn't something explicitly gaijin and so it would be unfair to establish a social stigma that just the foreigners fled leaving the Japanese, when Japanese also did too.
Flyjin therefore should not be a play on gaijin now but a catchall for as you have written,

'people who fled who live far away from the crisis center - and left their friends, neighbors and coworkers holding the bag'
- foreign or not.

The idea that it was all foreign people and not the Japanese (or vice versa) is like a familiar social commentary that regularly comes up for debate for people living in Japan.

Now, I do think there are cases where non-Japanese let Japan down which gave birth to the term in the first place and this social issue regarding foreigners in Japan.
But it has to be made clear to Japanese throwing the term 'flyjin' around that is wasn't just the gaijin who ran out.

So just as the aftermath itself needed calmness and careful assessment, so should the social aftermath too.

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Thanks Ben,

I believe you when you say that some Japanese told you that they were going to live in Australia... But I have a hard time believing that they could even if they wanted to. There's a big problem for Japanese who wish to move to Oceania due to obtaining a visa. in 99 out of 100 cases, even if they want to move, they are not allowed... But this is somewhat besides your point, I know.

Anonymous said...

Reading the various cryjin and apologist comments, it seems to me that most whiners are creating a huge strawman - a false premise that lets them deny and claim righteous indignation and/or false victimhood.

Allow me to quote an earlier comment I made in the hope of clarifying things and disabusing these people of their convenient distortions:

"If you fled in a responsible manner - that is to say within your own resources and not leaving others hanging in your stead - then I have no problem with you. I also have no problem with anyone defending those people, be they foreign or Japanese.

However, if you lied, stole, or otherwise acted irresponsibly and/or left others to potentially hang in your stead, then to hell with you. And to hell with anyone defending these scum."

Clear enough? Did everyone get that?

Yes, a lot of Japanese panicked, too; it is an understandable human reaction. But guess what? To date, I have not heard of a case where a panicked Japanese person ran out on work contracts, other business obligations, rental contracts, family obligations or other responsibilities.

Key words there: responsibilities

In contrast, I have heard of many cases where foreigners did just that. These are the ones that I (and I assume Mike and others) point fingers at when I criticize 'flyjin'. Please get that straight and stop twisting the argument to soothe your wounded consciences.

Now, I am sure that there were in fact also some Japanese who skipped out on responsibilities. I think it would be unrealistic and foolish to insist that there were none. But in terms of both absolute number and percentage of population, the number of foreigners who did so is far, far greater. Greater by several orders of magnitude. In fact, so many foreigners fled, and many of such high profile, that it would be strange for the Japanese not to have taken note.

It would also be strange for the Japanese, especially those stiffed for rent, work, etc., not to alter their views of foreigners based on these flyjin. I would guess that this has set back Japanese opinions of general foreigner trustworthiness by a decade or two, and to be honest I don't blame them. As someone who has lived in Japan for decades, paid his dues and worked to become an accepted part of society, it pisses me off, and I have no intention of forgiving these scum unless and until they admit what they did, apologize, accept whatever consequences there may be without complaint, and then work to be accepted again.

Unfortunately, all I am hearing is a lot of "That's not fair!" and "We're victims, too!"

No, idiots. You are not victims. Those who lost family members, those who lost their homes and are living in shelters, those who lost their livelihoods to circumstances beyond their control, are victims.

You want to talk about what is 'fair'? Go to the affected areas and actually help out with relief efforts. Look those people in the eyes and hold their hands. See their inner suffering, even as they accept their misfortune and smile and thank you for going out of your way to help.

Then come back and talk about what is 'fair'.

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