2008/06/17

Random Stuff

Racism vs Xenophobia.

I'm sure there are racists in every country throughout the world. I don't think racism depends on age, but rather the way one is brought up and educated. Xenophobia, on the other hand, is directly related to conservatism. It is for that reason that I think it goes up significantly with age, and is much more prevalent in homogenous societies like Japan. I would say I experience almost no racism, or at least none directly targeted at me, but I see xenophobia all the time. One interesting affect of xenophobia here is that foreign born Japanese people experience it too.

There is a anime based on a manga that runs in the train I ride on my commute. If it were to run in the USA it would be considered extremely offensive and probably would never be published. It's called 'My Darling the Foreigner.' In it are absurd oversimplifications, generalizations, and plain and simple xenophobic lies. What bothers me most is that with just one change, the author could simultaneously make it inoffensive and retain all the meaning and humor. Instead of 'My Darling the Foreigner' make it 'My Darling, Tony' Everyone would know Tony is a foreign name. Then instead of saying 'Foreigners blah blah blah' say 'Tony blah blah blah' which, to her credit, she sometimes does. It's a real shame that the show is so offensive, because some of it has potential to be cute or even funny. Today there was an episode about how Saori learned that 'the' changes pronunciation depending on the next word (the apple vs the banana, for example). She triumphantly tells Tony her findings only for him to shrug and say 'oh, really? I never noticed that before' and hilarity ensues. I like this episode because it's about them, and it's educational. It doesn't have any needless generalizations about foreigners because it's personal.

Conservatives Depress Me

I feel like I understand where conservatives are coming from, but it is so clear to me that they are wrong about some fundamental issues. How often do you hear people say they want the government to build the roads, protect the borders, deliver the mail, and get out of the way? What percentage of those people are rich? I understand that they probably think everyone can become rich, opportunities are everywhere, and so on. But even if that were the case (which it isn't) I still find it to be a bleak, selfish outlook on life. Why do people insist that taxes are bad? Why don't we hear more politicians working on ways to eliminate wasted or poorly allocated tax money, instead of simply cutting taxes and spending the same amount? I see taxes like this:

Imagine you live in a small dorm with 100 people. Everyone has to pay for internet who wants to use it. You could each pay X$ for it, or you could all split the money and set up some kind of wireless system. Arguments against this system are obvious: What about Johnny who doesn't use internet? Why should he pay?! Well, like many things we pay taxes for, like roads, it is often impossible to tell who uses it and who doesn't. But the price should be cut by so much that it doesn't really matter. And the more things the government can provide en masse for low prices, the lower every individuals daily cost of living. Sure you keep 50$ less of your paycheck, but your cost of living just went down 100$! Sweet! Well... in theory.

Opportunistic Vegetarian

I've decided to call myself an opportunistic vegetarian. I don't buy meat to cook or take home (and I'm cooking 1-2 meals a day now), and if there is a decent vegetarian option when eating out I'll order it. School lunches often have meat, but not eating it would be more trouble than it would be worth. I am also going to avoid leather and other animal hide products. I think a lot of people don't realize the scale of damage to the environment by cattle and other animals. It really is staggering. Here is a very good TED talk on the issue.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

I agree with you on taxes. Americans pay ridiculously low taxes, compared to europeans. Yet they complain about poor public transportation, bad schools, etc. And they complain about high taxes!
Look at the gas tax, for example. Germans pay an indirect tax of about $3.84 per gallon of gas, plus 19% sales tax, bringing the cost of a gallon of gas up to $8.80. The average gas tax in America is $0.47 per gallon ($0.18 federal plus $0.29 state). (Sorry for cross posting, but I think this example says it all.) Because of these high taxes, on gas and everything else (the sales tax is 19% in Germany), Germany has excellent public transportation, universities that are practically free (and they all cost the same, no elitism here), decent teacher salaries, etc. Nothing in life is free, so why do conservatives expect free services from the state?