difference – not so different

When you – dear reader – start to look & read through this blog you will fast realise I am somewhat (or more) fascinated with Japan. And more than once I got asked: Why? Not that I have not asked that myself. Especially in recent years, since I also started to look more into japanese politics after experiencing the earthquake in March 2011 firsthand. And not all is shiny in the land of the rising sun.

So, why? Short questions are often the longest to answer – but in my case it is easy: My favourite books as a pre-school child were fairy tales, and among these a collection of japanese fairy tales I got from my grandmother. I grew up with and never stopped loving it.

When the wall came down in 1989/90 not only the German Democratic Republic ended. New things started pretty fast, television was one of them: around 1992 I got introduced to 1970th anime classics like Leiji Matsumoto’s Queen Millenia – which I though to be something I dreamed up until the internet woke me up (todays not so young youth may remember him for his Daft Punk epic-ness from 2003). Anyway, I grew up and japanese literature, art, film… was always an important part of my life. I never considered making it into a job or university thing though.

Point of my post today: Whenever somebody goes on about the absolute foreignness of Japan I just don’t get it. Let’s compare it with something else:

I grew up knowing almost no religious people my age (only one girl, but I was, for weirdness sake in a church choir for a short period, I cannot remember about anything religious but the christmas songs), knowing almost no stay-at-home-mom (same girl). So I naturally thought that is something from the past. I got a serious cultural shock when I left my hometown, came to Berlin (15 years after the wall came down!) and got friends from the western part of Germany where christianity and stay-at-home-moms were a completely normal thing. Lets not start about the kindergarten discussion, I will never understand what is bad about a kindergarten.

Anyway – back to topic: the normality “western” world was much more of a shock to the East-German-21 year-old-me back then than anything I ever experienced in Japan afterwards. Different language system? It is not the only different one. Different religion? Religion is always some kind of folksy thing to me – I treat it with respect and interest, but I have to admit it will always be something foreign to me, no matter which kind (and I have a Master degree in Philosophy of religion). The “Asians” are different? Not that “the Asian” even exists. It is just as an rascist construction as “the African”. Nobody would dare to say the humans of Europe having all the same appearance, language and character. So why should it be like this anywhere else? And in fact: humans are humans. And humans are different and the same everywhere.

Difference is just as big as you allow it to be. I try stating something maybe outrageous: When it comes to human relationships Empathy and Intuition could us do more than Comparition and Differentiation


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