Self-Sacrifice in UN Peacekeeping Operations

Bolivian soldier prepares to fire

Bolivian soldier prepares to fire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Miyu Fujihara

In Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson talks that the self-sacrifice for the nation comes from the idea of disinterestedness one feels for the nation and that this is similar to the sense that one feels for the family. People cannot choose where to be born and thus that it is natural that people feel strong connection to it, which one can’t control or change.

In other words, people imagine there’s a fatality to belonging to one’s nation and that nation can represent and express that person as well. Also, Anderson states that people cannot feel tied as much to those international organizations that seek for certain interests, like Amnesty International, because one can get out of these community whenever she/he wants to, unlike the relationship between one and one’s nation.

When combined, these two ideas mean that the one cannot die for a non-nation, such as an international organization, because there’s no fatality between them. However, when looking at the history and the number of those who work for the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations, it seems that Anderson’s statement doesn’t necessarily apply.

In the UN peacekeeping operations, especially for military personnel, there is always a chance to lose their lives during the operations, but there are 97,000 uniformed military personnel from over 110 countries and this system has been maintained ever since 1948. This explains that a number of people are willing to work for the UN peacekeeping operations. In other words, many wish to foster world peace even by risking their lives for the UN peacekeepers’ aim, which is to help countries suffered from conflicts to create a condition for peace. It is again clearly contradicting the idea that Anderson’s has. These personnel can sacrifice themselves to sustain world peace, not necessarily to protect their countries.

Nonetheless, on the uniform that they wear during the operation has name of their own nation like Japan, Brazil and the United States and so on, apart from the symbol of the UN and the blue helmet. At this specific point, it does not make sense to have the name of nation seen. If they are truly working for the UN and have so called “UN identity” believing in world peace, not representing their own nations, only should the UN symbol be on it.

This leaves questions that why they hope to join the UN peacekeeping programs while risking their lives, and also why they do not forget to belong to a certain nation. In my opinion, as Anderson says, people cannot sacrifice for nothing but their own nation, and this is why they still want to have their national symbol on them when they know they might die at any time to show their nation-ness. Borrowing Anderson’s words, by doing so, they change the operations disinterested from interested.

References

Anderson, Benedict. 2006. Imagined Communities. London: Verso Books.

The United Nations. (n.d.). The United Nations Peace Keeping. Retrieved from the United Nations: http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/issues/women/

Adolescence and migration: Struggling to fit in

by Tomoka Adachi

Currently in global society, there is a comparatively broad definition referring to people who leave their home country and immigrate overseas as global citizens. An increasing number of transnational migrants have been challenging such concepts of the nation-state (Ohno,S 2008). The term immigration is not unfamiliar at all and has even been highlighted in recent years as more issues have been discovered.

Immigrants can be broadly categorized by generation, based on the period of time in their lives that they moved to the host country. In the more precise language of social-science research, the term second generation is usually reserved for those children of immigrants who are born in the host society, while the children who arrived at a young age and thus receive part or all of their schooling in the new society are called the 1.5 generation, a term invented by the sociologist Rubén Rumbaut (Alba & Waters 2011).

Adolescence is one of the most significant steps in the formation of self-identity. There are  outcomes internally and externally for children who migrate at a younger age. In the first place,  immigrant children have to get used to the new environment in the receiving countries, while apart from other close family members, peers and friends in the home country. Homesickness may appear in numerous forms as the result of the diversity of language usage, diet, customs, school system, and citizens from different ethnic groups. All those features certainly depend on the culture and social similarity and differences between the receiving country and home country.

Nevertheless, the efforts immigrant children should take is because they are disadvantaged under many conditions. They are considering who they are and what they tend to be, whether to change or not in the receiving countries as heavily affected by the relation to their surroundings. While at the same time still requires the recognition from people around. Youth immigration demanded changes to the social identity and culture identity in the social and culture environment. The youth may cope with the psychological pressure produced by such dissonance by seeking to reduce conflict and to assimilate (literally, to become similar) within the relevant social context (Rumbaut 1994). However, the invisible pressure which forced assimilation may lead in another direction, in a  reaction of refusing to fit in. For the 1.5 generation, the possibility of segmented assimilation happens in most cases.

In addition, when it comes to 1.5 generation regarding to assimilation, children more or less have the concept of certain social and culture value of their home country, so that it becomes  more of a challenge to define self-identity in the receiving countries. The border and notion of national identity in relation to citizenship belongings blurs.

Furthermore, the reality is that the mass of society tends to offer limited options to classify immigrants. Categories by questioning whether to belong to one culture or not, to socially belong to our culture or outside of our culture. Hence, the lack of social recognition for those who culturally maintained in the middle, such as the 1.5 generation, led those people to fill in the gap and to struggle to connect their self-identity to nation-state citizenship in order fit in the current social position.

References

Alba, R & Waters, MC. (2011) “The Next Generation: Immigrant Youth in a Comparative Perspective Dimensions of Second-generation Incorporation. New York: NYU Press.

Ohno, S. (2008) “Transnational Citizenship and Deterritorialized Identity: The meaning of Nikkei Diasporas’ Shuttling between the Philippines and Japan.Asian Studies 44(1):1-22.

Rumbaut, RG. (1994) The Crucible within: Ethnic Identity, Self-Esteem, and Segmented Assimilation among Children of Immigrants. International Migration Review 28(4):748-794.

Citizenship and migration: Questions of identity and belonging

English: Coat of arms of the Philippines

English: Coat of arms of the Philippines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Mayumi Futagami

As I read the article “Citizenship and immigration: multiculturalism, assimilation, and challenges to the Nation-State,” I am reminded of my own family’s multi-cultural experiences with Japanese culture and Filipino culture. The book says that “immigration challenges and reaffirms identity” (Bloemraad, 2008) I also think that is true, because immigration makes you know and acknowledge a new environment in which you will be found out anew. These new things will change your knowing about the culture that you used to know.

Citizenship is important to have a legal status of “belonging to a country”. I know that we should belong to a country to group ourselves. However I have this kind of doubt for those people who have double blood lineage of other countries. Do we really need to be divided? How can we answer questions such as: What is your nationality?

In a situation in which you are born in the Philippines, your mother is Filipino, and your father has Japanese nationality, because of visa problems these parents have to apply for you to have Japanese citizenship because that citizenship makes it easier to go abroad. They think of your future. For instance my sister is “half” Japanese and Filipino. When you ask her what her identity or nationality is, at home she will proudly say “I am both Japanese and Filipino”, however when you asked her outside (e.g. supermarket, malls, schools) here in Japan, asking “Are you Filipino?, she will say “urusai” means “shut up”.

I feel that citizenship also matters through images. The rule of Japan that you could have a dual citizenship until age 22 is like just giving you time to think. It makes it really complicated for those young people for they are forced by the imagined tradition of the society. Citizenship makes the pressure of participation model in the society (ibid). When you say that your citizenship here in Japan is different, even if you have the lineage blood of Japanese you may feel a little shame. For as the transnational says about the image of your home country or maybe the home country of your mother or father, maybe both, does make differences good or bad. You may also think is true for the superiority of the country in which you live (e.g. comparing Japan and Philippines).

I don’t really feel ashamed of where I come from in social saying that I have Filipino and Japanese blood. However, it makes me feel sad and embarrassed when they compare those 2 countries in culture or tradition or daily lifestyles. It is because when they say something about it I feel like a little loss of which identity. I feel that why do we need to choose between 2 nations to find citizenship?

Sweden adopted dual citizenship in 2001 (ibid.). I envy this kind of policy in some points that when I am here in Japan I could say that “I am Japanese”, and if they say that “no you’re not”. I could say that, “even though I am Filipino I have Japanese citizenship.” As well as I go back to the Philippines I could also say the same thing because I already have the both culture that already compiled in my daily life.

Migrating for me here in Japan at first was a big challenge for even though I am Japanese in DNA, I felt at that time I am completely Filipino. However, as I migrate here and my father is Japanese I could find myself that I have the capacity or right to have the citizenship of Japan. I applied for it and did easily get it. I just feel it’s strange that we really need to have one kind of citizenship to define what kind of people we are. And some are forced, for there is what they called the “beautiful culture” of Japan and some “bad image” of the Philippines (in which people come to Japan to find jobs) which affects children.

Of course there are some exceptions of having the citizenship of the host country, e.g. Japan. Either you are born there, live there for long years, or marry a citizen there. This could happen to people who are old (come for work) or young people (come for education), etc. Taking Japan as a place where people migrate, there are many people do this and that they could find some loss of identity. Even though they are fully strangers in the host country, they feel that they somehow belong to it for they were able to adopt the culture and lifestyles.

A friend of mine in school here also feels that even though she is not really Japanese she could feel that she “culturally” and “traditionally” belongs to Japan. I don’t mean that it is citizenship that matters, I just mean that citizenship relates to identity. I see that citizenship is easy to answer when you never been out of the country. However as you try to move, taking the question where I belong is a really hard question, especially when you need to choose. I think it is not a matter of the society but also matters from your family decision of what to choose. I thought one reason was the importance of culture, or how advantageous it is to have that citizenship in the country or even overseas.

That is why I feel that citizenship matters in many aspects, where you belong, what you take important the most (culture or superiority), and more. In my point of view, citizenship is a hard thing to choose. However if I just think which is better for my future, Japan or the Philippines, maybe I certainly choose Japan as my citizenship for it will be easy for me to travel abroad.

English Education and Preservation of Ethnic Diversity in Singapore

English: National Institute of Education, Sing...

English: National Institute of Education, Singapore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anonymous student post

Large numbers of Singapore’s population are immigrants. Since the country got its independence in 1965, there have always been new immigrants coming in from all over the world who become members of the community. As a result, it has become very ethnically and culturally diverse. Just looking at its population, according to CIA World Factbook, there are 74.2% Chinese, 13.3% Malay, 9.2% Indian, 3.3% other (2012 est.) Some scholars believe that this cultural diversity brought by immigrants is what has made Singapore so economically successful. (Yin, 2013)

Adjusting to this type of diverse environment, Singapore sets four different languages for its official use. So when I was there, I could see many public signs, written in those four when I was there. It was certainly a surprising experience for someone who has been lived in Japan, which only has Japanese as its official language.

Following this astonishment, a new question came up to my mind as a student who was studying in a university in Singapore; that is, how do the educational institutions deal with this diversity?

In this blog post, I would like to see the current language education system in Singapore and observe the outcomes.

Firstly, the Singaporean government heavily focuses on education as it contributes to economic development and unification of the people. They decided to offer basic education in two languages, one is English, other is their ethnic mother tongue languages from where their roots are from, such as Chinese, Malay or Tamil. The reason is that government believes educating people in English will be useful in the process of future economic development foreseeing the globalization; and other languages to preserve their cultural identities. (Nakamura, 2009)

This has worked out successfully for the first aspect. English has contributed Singapore becoming the hub of Southeast Asia. It also has become the symbol of nationwide unity that connects people with different cultures and enabled them to communicate with each other. Now they even created so-called “Singlish” (Singapore-English; mixture of English and languages of different ethnic groups exist in Singapore), which could also be considered as part of their national identity.

However, for the second aspect of preserving diverse cultures through learning non-English languages, is not functioning as it was expected. As a matter of fact, less people are using their ethnic mother tongues in Singapore as they no longer use them outside their communities. Because cultures could not be transmitted onto next generation without the languages, it has become a problem. This is also leading to the changes in individual’s identities. As their language ability for non-English languages declines, their identity as a member of each community declines, too. Thus, this is now seen as a challenge how to keep their languages and cultural diversity in this country (Nakamura, 2009).

In addition, there is an issue that social mobility in the society is somewhat depending on their English ability. I will further discuss this point in the later blog post.

In conclusion, through this outcome of bi(multi-)lingual language education in Singapore, we could observe the difficulty of uniting people with different cultural backgrounds under one national identity whilst preserving the cultural diversity. This type of phenomenon is what many nation states would be expecting to see in their countries as more and more international migration occurs in the world. How to protect the cultures and languages while adjusting to the flow of globalization is a difficult question to find a solution.

Reference

Nakamura, M. (2009). Shingaporu ni okeru kokumin togo. Kyoto: Horitsubunkasha.

Singapore. (2014, May 1). Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved May 25, 2014, from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sn.html

Yin, D. (2013, June 6). Singapore Needs Immigrants, Says Jim Rogers. Forbes. Retrieved May 25, 2014, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidyin/2013/06/06/singapore-needs-immigrants-says-jim-rogers

 

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Skin Lightening in South Africa

by Yutaro Nishioka

The trend of skin lightening, especially among women, is getting increasingly common all over the world, including South Africa, where the major part of its population is black. According to a study from the University of Cape Town, as many as one in three African women use bleaching products to lighten their skin.

Skin lightening products often create serious medical complications; many patients suffer from diseases caused by a combination of use of lightening products and sunlight (africa.com).
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also mentioned the negative effects of some skin lightening products. Mercury, one of the common ingredients in lightening creams, is said to have harmful effects and could also lead to kidney damage, as well as other side effects such as “skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections” (africa.com).

Why is skin lightening becoming so common in South Africa despite its negative health effects? Professor Lynn Thomas, co-author of the book Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters, mentions the history of South Africa being colonized by Europeans. The Europeans and South Africans were not treated equally, and there was the notion that light skin was somehow better, not much unlike Hitler’s idea that Jews were inferior. More recently, apartheid, the government policy of racial segregation against black Africans in South Africa, was renounced officially only in 1992.

The effects of the history of discrimination can still be seen in the current South African society. For example, Nomoto “Mahoza” Mnisi, a famous South African musician, is known for her extensive use of skin lightening products. She says, “I just want to be light skinned… I was tired of being ugly.” She is assuming that dark skin is “ugly” and light skin is not.

People that have heard of this news have reacted differently, but the majority of the comments on the internet do not seem to approve of her changed appearance: “she was so much prettier before; her husband must be blind”, “God created her black and she looked so pretty. She looks pretty now but she looked better before”, “She is insecure and that’s bad.”

As there is a difference between Mahoza’s view and that of her fans, it is questionable to say that the history of the colonization and discrimination is the sole cause of the contemporary trend of South Africans’ skin lightening, but it is probably one of the factors that have contributed to the trend.

Reference

“Not Happy Being Black?” – Posted by Africa.com Editorial Staff. http://www.africa.com/blog/not-happy-being-black/

Thomas, Lynn M. 2009. “Skin Lighteners in South Africa: Transnational Entanglements and Technologies of the Self.” Pp. 188-210 in Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters, edited by E. N. Glenn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

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But we’re speaking Japanese!

This funny video tackles the issue of how we often struggle when someone’s race doesn’t seem to match our expectations of how the person should act. People who might look Japanese don’t necessarily speak the language, while people who might look like gaijin (ahem, like me) can be quite fluent.

This video really resonates with me, as I just came back from presenting at a conference in Daegu, Korea, on migration in Asia. The conference had speakers from several Korean universities, and representatives from Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Japan. As the representative of Japan, I was the only non-native to represent a country—and the only non-Asian at the conference. And yet no one seemed surprised that the speaker from Japan was a white guy from the United States, who was talking about Peruvians in Japan. A sign of progress, perhaps.

Devoting myself to family and future

University of Queensland

University of Queensland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

Anonymous student post

My future plan is still vague, but I’m going to clarify it a little at a time. Concretely, I’m going to explain about job, my family, and my ibasho in the future.

First of all, I have a few jobs which I want to do in the future. For instance, in the future, I want to be an interpreter, especially interpreting from Japanese to English and from English to Japanese. I haven’t decided the workplace where I will translate, but to give you example, at a big corporation, in a diplomatic situation, at an international organization, and so on.

To make the dream true, I plan to go to the University of Queensland in Australia to study an interpretation next spring, as an exchange student. However, I need an IELTS score to get a right to be an exchange student, so I study hard for the IELTS.

Furthermore, I also want to be engaged in a job like saving children. There are a lot of children who suffer from hunger, diseases, and war. Some children don’t have their parents and houses. I desire to save these children, give them future hopes.

Secondly, I think family is a very important factor in planning my future. This is because family members exist to make other members comfortable, relaxed, and happy and help them when they are at a loss at what to do. Without family, I might not be able to lead a life. Therefore, I want to marry someone, and have a few children. Furthermore, I like children, so I will take a child-care leave at least for three months and I want to devote myself to my children with my wife in the future.

Followed by the family, I’m going to think about my ibasho. Ibasho means a place where you can feel like yourself, or to live in safety, comfort and dignity, where he or she is valued as a person full of history and experience (Ibasho-Creating Social Integrated and Sustainable Communities that Value Their Elders-, http://www.ibasho.org/web/). I agree with the concept of living in safety, comfort, and dignity. My home represents safety and comfort. If I come home, I have parents who wait for me at home. When I go home and stay in my room, I feel relaxed and relieved. Moreover, I have another ibasho, school. There are a lot of friends whom I can tell my real intensions and cooperate each other in difficult situation. Therefore, school makes me feel relaxed and comfortable.

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Ibasho as a lifeline to maintain our lives

Michael Ende - Momo

Michael Ende – Momo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Natsuki Shinmei

In this blog post, I would like to write about what I felt and thought through reading Allison’s book, and show what I hope for my future.

In Japanese society, we have a lot of inequality. Employment conditions are different between men and women. Different names are given to workers depending on their situation; sarari-man, furi-ta, NEETkasha ningen, and so on. The working style has changed from life-long jobs and a family-based model to a more flexible and unstable model. Because of fast-aging Japanese society, younger generations are not sure how much welfare pension insurance they will be able to receive.

Despite the fact that we are flowing in a precarious and unequal age, one thing which is equally given to everyone is “time”. Whether you are rich or poor, you have 24 hours each day. However, as I go on reading, I thought even “time” is eaten by someone in this society. For example, company men (kaisha ningen), who work too much and devote their personal time like evening, weekends, and leisure time to their company, seem to live their time less. In addition, according to Asahi newspaper (2014, April 28), Japanese female high school students spend 6.4 hours on average using a smart phone each day (this number is three times as much as that of seven years ago). They are facing its small screen for one-fourth of a day. I feel it is becoming true what happened in “Momo,” written by Michael Ende; the grey gentlemen steals the time of humans.

When I think about myself, I can say that I am living my time. I am studying what I want to, and I have friends and family, whom I feel comfortable being with. Therefore, I feel it can be said that having your time is often related to being at ibasho. Abe (2011) says that ibasho is a lifeline (inochi-zuna) to maintain people’s lives, and people who you trust in are there. When you imagine your ibasho, you should come up with several places or spaces. You may imagine your family, school, working place, your room or favorite café. Abe (2011) indicates this shows that you have various kinds of “you”, and “you” differ depending on ibasho. He also says that you are consisted of multifaceted “you” and supported by ibasho, maintaining your life in relationship with other people.

In conclusion, I want to make person-to-person relationships with people I have met and I will meet, and cherish my ibasho as a space I can be myself. Though precarious facts are shown in Allison’s book and some of them may happen to me,

ibasho would be my lifeline to survive this age.

References

Abe. M. (2011). Ibasho no shakaigaku [Sociology of Ibasho]. Japan. Nihon Keizai shinbun press.

Allison. A. (2013) Precarious Japan. Duke University Press.

Tenohira no sumaho [Smart phone on the palm] (2014.April 28). Asahi newspaper.

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Finding my ibasho at work, without becoming a kaisha-ningen

JaPan kaNto

JaPan kaNto (Photo credit: ~Alia~)

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Ayaka Sasaki

My future plan is to become a hotel employee after graduating from Ritsumeikan. To realize my future plan, I am working at a hotel as a part- time job. When I refer to my future plan, many people say that job in hotel is beautiful and sophisticated, but it is not. I know that it is not so beautiful and rather unsophisticated. Because, even though I work part–time, I feel  the precariousness that Anne Allison describes in her book. However, I only work at the hotel, so I can’t refer to other jobs.

For example, I felt that some male employee, especially those who became a manager or a chief of the department, are divorced. There are a lot of reasons, but I felt that some got divorced because they were kaisha-ningen (company person). The harder they work, the further the distance from the family becomes.

In addition, the system of the job in hotel depends too much on the non-regular employees, as part-time workers or dispatch workers. The reason why I feel so is that there are a lot of affairs which can’t be dealt by the regular workers. In Allison’s book, furita are referred as a symbol of the non-regular employee and precariousness.

However, I realize that I am in an ibasho by belonging to the organization, a hotel, as Allison wrote, even though I am a part–time worker. I work as often as regular workers, so regular workers or managers frequently say that I am a big help to their affairs. They approved, so I felt that I am in ibasho and my ibasho is the hotel. The feeling or impression of approval brings the feeling of ibasho.

Therefore, the wages are not so high, and the affairs are not so easy or light, but many non-regular workers work at the hotel because they can feel ibasho.

Moreover, I guess that workers who divorced have become kaisha-ningen because they can feel that they are in ibasho—where they are approved by the company.

Finally, I think that the situation doesn’t change in the future, and the feeling of ibasho relies on belonging to the organization, group and company. Then also it rely on the approval by others. However, in ibasho, I’m not content with the environment, and don’t want to bury my personality. Therefore, I have a plan after becoming a hotel employee—becoming a sommelier.

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Clear visions of a precarious future

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Takashi Nakai

In the first class, when the professor asked me what I want to be, I must have answered that I have no idea. However, as I joined in this class and discuss the contents with some classmates there, I think that I need to have a clear vision of my life, because as I read Anne Allison’s Precarious Japan, I learned a lot from the current precariousness of Japan.

I will start to think the expectations of my work. The author says that there are large numbers of irregular workers in Japan. They have a high risk of being cut off as regular workers. Also, today even if you can be a regular worker, many people might have an uncomfortable impression on their working conditions. One of this is that some workers are forced to work hard beyond their working time. It is not until I knew these facts that I would like to be a regular worker in the office and when I have to choose what kind of work I would do in the future, I should have no mistake of choosing the office.

According to this book, the author writes about the current relationships of Japan. I begin to think from this what I want to be about them. Today there are many cases that people meet the end of his or her own life. Especially, this situation may apply to the elderly who live alone because of the lack of the relationships around the community and their family. When I read or listen to these facts, I strongly hope to avoid the unknown dead. To do it, I might have to have a family of mine and have children and grandchildren. Add to this, I should have the good relationships of the community, for example: office, family, friends, neighborhood, and so on. In the various kinds of categories, I should have what the term “ibasho” expresses.

I will make the conclusion about the expectations of mine. After graduating from this university, I may well enter the office and continue to work for long years of my life without the special reasons. On the other hand, needless to say, it is difficult for me to get some job which I am eager to, due to the recession of this society. After all, I think it is essential for me to make many kinds of experiences.