November 2005


Shinyusha.gif Something very worrisome is happening in Japan. The publishing company, Shinyusha, has two best-selling comic books that belittle Korea and China.

Aside from textbook revisions of history, now the Japanese take the art of denying on a contemporary plane. In illustration form, these two comic books target the youth market whose opinions are malleable and whose own sense of identity is yet to form.

So the young Japanese, who one day will take over the future of their country, are told that China is the “world’s prostitution superpower” and is a source of disease, and that South Korea cheated in the 2002 Word Cup soccer game.

Let’s say that freedom of speech is some form of acceptance of these highly defamatory publications. It is appalling, but what is equally appalling in all this is that the Japanese government has voiced little or no condemnation nor shock.

What does this tell us of Japanese society? Underneath the politeness and the genteel outward appearance lies a highly questionable national identity. There can be no dialogue with people who think this way.

Denying reality is such an amazing human phenomenon… What will the future hold for Japan in the hands of people raised with these kinds of attitudes?

Ugly Images of Asian Rivals Become Best Sellers in Japan: The two comic books, portraying Chinese and Koreans as base peoples and advocating confrontation with them, have become runaway best sellers in Japan in the last four months.

In their graphic and unflattering drawings of Japan’s fellow Asians and in the unapologetic, often offensive contents of their speech bubbles, the books reveal some of the sentiments underlying Japan’s worsening relations with the rest of Asia.

But the comic book, perhaps inadvertently, also betrays Japan’s conflicted identity, its longstanding feelings of superiority toward Asia and of inferiority toward the West. The Japanese characters in the book are drawn with big eyes, blond hair and Caucasian features; the Koreans are drawn with black hair, narrow eyes and very Asian features.

They also point to Japan’s longstanding unease with the rest of Asia and its own sense of identity… Much of Japan’s history in the last century and a half has been guided by the goal of becoming more like the West and less like Asia. Today, China and South Korea’s rise to challenge Japan’s position as Asia’s economic, diplomatic and cultural leader is inspiring renewed xenophobia against them here.

math numbers.jpeg We see numbers everywhere. In the business world and in the media, conclusions are drawn from numbers through charts of statistics. Because numbers are objective, most people regard them as fact. Subjective conclusions are more believable if they are propped up by statistics. But with these numbers, are conclusions accurate in themselves?

The French Association Pénombre was created in June 1993, to discuss the numbers we hear and read about in our daily lives. They describe their Association as a public space for the reflection and exchange of ideas on the usage of numbers in social debates in justice, sociology, the media and statistics.

René Padieu wrote an analysis of the statistics provided by the United Nations Development Programme Report of 1997. The UNDP stated that poverty can be eradicated if the combined wealth of the seven richest individuals were put to use:

358 X > 2,600,000,000 Y

With X being the average fortune of the 358 richest people in the world and Y the average yearly earnings of the 45% poorest of the world’s inhabitants, according to the Annual report on human development produced by the United Nations Development Programme.

Seen in La Croix (a French national daily newspaper) dated June 13, 1997: “In today’s world, with its one billion illiterates, 160 million malnourished children and 110 million non-school-attenders, the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) [states that] it would cost some 33 billion dollars a year for ten years to provide access to water, health and education for the entire world population. The same amount again would be needed to eradicate poverty everywhere. The total bill, some 66 billion dollars, may seem gigantic, but it is perfectly within reach, according to the UNDP, which points out that the fortune of the seven richest people in the world exceeds that sum.”

Comparing figures may give people ideas, but it is important that those ideas not be wrong. After the first start of indignation, let us do a little reckoning. With 33 billion $/year spent for ten years, we are told, we could eradicate poverty. That means that at the end of those ten years, there would not be anything more to be done; the problem would be taken cared of once and for all?

According to the text cited, we understand that the sum of 66 billion dollars corresponds to the fortune of the seven richest people in the world. That means that by confiscating their fortune, we may finance the first year. What is to be done for the following years?

For the second year, we would have to go on to the next richest people on the list. Since they are somewhat less rich than the first group, we would have to take more of them (how many is not said). The third year, even more rich people would be needed, and so on, so as to mobilize 660 billions, in all, rather than 66. How many people would have to be touched for our ten-year programme? Even if this number is quite small in regard to the world’s six billion human beings, it would be much less striking than the figure of seven announced here. Doesn’t throwing the figure seven at us seem somewhat abusive, if not to say a bit dishonest?

Seven Golden Men, by René Padieu

Human Development Reports

Here is another interesting report on a statistician’s conclusions on workplace violence, citing that France has the highest rate of workplace violence. The statistical study was erroneous. A background check on the statistics was made by a member of Pénombre who exposed the errors:

On July 20, 1998, 8:20pm, the news report on France 2 (one of the main French TV channels): According to the ILO, France has the highest rate of workplace violence: 11.2% of men and 8.9% of women are allegedly victims of violence each year. France also tops the list for sexual harassment (again, at the workplace), with an annual frequency of 19.8%, while figures for the other Western European countries range from 7.6% (Sweden) to 0.8% (Austria). There is never much time for in-depth analysis on TV, but the commentator does add “maybe that’s because our statistics are compiled better!” A member of Pénombre, hearing that, can only react with a: good for that newscaster!

It is in fact always problematic to compare surveys between different countries, or at least, the comparability should be carefully questioned. It is worth noting and praising the journalist who, although unable to check on the information, is on the lookout. Since I myself am in a better position to make that check, I decided it was a good idea to look into the subject, if only to report my conclusion to that vigilant journalist.

I thought I would discover that the formulation of the questions, in different languages and different sociological contexts, could hardly yield comparable answers. The feeling of having been victim to an aggression is highly subjective and context-linked. I therefore asked to see the questionnaires. This was a “victimization” survey conducted in some thirty countries under the auspices of the United Nations. It covered attacks of all sorts (affecting individuals and property), and the workplace was only one particular aspect, isolated from the overall survey for the needs of the ILO.

To my surprise, the French questionnaire contained no questions about the workplace. The reference questionnaire (in English) did contain such questions, as did the French version of the Swiss questionnaire. The problem was radically different, then. It was no longer a matter of the comparability of a question, but rather, of discovering how it had been possible to establish findings although the question had not been put.

I will spare you the details of my investigation of the investigation. My conclusion was as follows: This was the third time this survey had been conducted. The workplace had been introduced for the second version, and since France had not participated in that second version, it had kept the same questionnaire as for the first. No-one had noticed the omission. Subsequently, in its automatic analysis of the responses for all of the countries, the central computer had replaced the missing question by the next one. So the question did get answered, after all, but the answer was meaningless.

There are at least two lessons to be drawn from this story :

– First, that the organization of this type of surveys , involving a number of institutes, elicits a loss of control over the technical aspects of the process (checking of the questions and checking of the data collected);

– Secondly, that regardless of the technique, it is of some concern that all those individuals who had an opportunity to see those results accepted such a tremendous difference in the order of magnitude without a wink. No-one was surprised. The experts in violence all got busy explaining with the utmost seriousness the whys and wherefores of the phenomenon, and the dangers involved, with no astonishment over its magnitude.

No-one. Except the commentator on France 2, who had some suspicion. And it was the accidental hearing of that commentator by a curious statistician that let the cat out of the bag. If such is the case, then why conduct a survey, if the same speeches are to be heard irrespective of the findings? The discovery was made too late to prevent a publication such as in Le Monde – Initiatives (a thematic weekly) dated October 7th from reproducing the piece.

Jetlagged Statistician: Is There a Pilot in the Computer? by Clara Halbschatten
August 1996

Pénombre

Subject post suggested by: Georges Haour

amman_bombing-bis.jpg Al-Qaida, Al-Zarqawi responsible for attack: “The conclusion has arrived. Al-Qaida is behind the attacks and specifically Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s people,” Muasher told a packed press conference in Amman.

Jordan a Target Because of Links to US: Jordan has been a key backstage support for U.S. and other international operations during the Iraq war… Al-Qaida in Iraq said it attacked three Western-operated hotels Wednesday because Jordan was “a backyard garden for the enemies of the religion, Jews and Crusaders … a filthy place for the traitors … and a center for prostitution.”

Zarqawi Flubs and Kills Israel’s Enemies: “After first claiming responsibility for the Wednesday attacks on three hotels popular with Israelis and Westerners, al-Qaida in Iraq later issued a second Internet statement that appeared to acknowledge that its tactics may have backfired and undermined any support the group enjoyed among the Jordanian population,” writes Greenberg. In other words, the intelligence ops who issue these “internet statements” decided their initial story didn’t hold water, so they are sending out a clarification…

Who Died and Who Didn’t in Jordan: The attack did manage to kill the head of the Palestinian intelligence services (not to mention a Palestinian banker and a Palestinian commercial attache), and members of a delegation from China’s University of National Defense… The Jordanian reaction, to blame it all on the same dead man the Americans use as the scapegoat in Iraq, is probably a reflection of the extremely close ties between the CIA and Jordan’s General Intelligence Directorate.

Al Zarqawi Myth: Loretta Napoleoni, a terrorism expert and author of “Insurgent Iraq”, says that Abu Mus’ab Al Zarqawi, the alleged leader of armed groups in Iraq, is nothing but a myth created by the United States.

Israelis evacuated from Amman hotel hours before bombings: A number of Israelis staying on Wednesday at the Radisson hotel were evacuated before the bombing by Jordanian security forces, apparently due to a specific security alert. They were escorted back to Israel by security personnel.

Mossad-CIA Collaboration Sends Message to China: But not only did the dead al-Zarqawi kill innocent Jordanians and important Palestinians, he also managed to kill a few Chinese. It is common knowledge the Chinese government is nurturing a relationship with the Palestinians…

As usual, the corporate media beats the propaganda drums, stating that “al-Qaeda in Iraq” is behind the attacks, while never seeming to realise the bombings benefit Israel and the United States.

remember_saro_wiwa.jpg On the 10th of November 1995, Ken Saro Wiwa was hanged at Port Harcourt in Nigeria. He committed no crime–he was hanged for his ideas. He was appalled by the poverty of his people, the Ogoni tribe, whose land was exploited for oil by foreign petroleum companies. Ken Saro-Wiwa brought this issue to worldwide attention through his writings and protests in the streets.

A military tribunal found Ken Saro Wiwa, together with eight other protesters “guilty of killing four Ogoni chiefs.” It was an obvious set-up in order to silence them.

Oil corporations show no compassion nor social responsibility while they earn billions of US dollars off the back of the poor. Some First-World governments are complicit to this shameful immorality. Nigeria, Iran, Iraq… Are we so blind to reality?

Nigerian Times Blog: Ken Saro-Wiwa
Ogonis Still Mourning Ten Years On

nasreddin_hodja.jpeg Do you know Islam? I’m sure very few people in the West know about this great religion and what little they know, they only know it from Muslim extremists which is not a good source. There is a part of Islam I have just discovered through Efendi’s photographs of his beloved Turkey. It is about Islam’s best known philosopher, Nasreddin Hodja.

Nasreddin Hodja was born in Turkey around 1208. Here are three of his stories:


Walnuts and Pumpkins

Nasreddin Hodja was lying in the shade of an ancient walnut tree. His body was at rest, but, befitting his calling as an imam, his mind did not relax. Looking up into the mighty tree he considered the greatness and wisdom of Allah.

“Allah is great and Allah is good,” said the Hodja, “but was it indeed wise that such a great tree as this be created to bear only tiny walnuts as fruit? Behold the stout stem and strong limbs. They could easily carry the pumpkins that grow from spindly vines in yonder field, vines that cannot begin to bear the weight of their own fruit. Should not walnuts grow on weakly vines and pumpkins on sturdy trees?”

So thinking, the Hodja dosed off, only to be awakened by a walnut that fell from the tree, striking him on his forehead.

“Allah be praised!” he exclaimed, seeing what had happened. “If the world had been created according to my meagre wisdom, it would have been a pumpkin that fell from the tree and hit me on the head. It would have killed me for sure! Allah is great! Allah is good! Allah is wise!”

Never again did Nasreddin Hodja question the wisdom of Allah.

The Slap

Nasreddin Hodja was standing in the marketplace when a stranger stepped up to him and slapped him in the face, but then said, “I beg your pardon. I thought that you were someone else.”

This explanation did not satisfy the Hodja, so he brought the stranger before the qadi and demanded compensation.

The Hodja soon perceived that the qadi and the defendant were friends. The latter admitted his guilt, and the judge pronounced the sentence: “The settlement for this offence is one piaster, to be paid to the plaintiff. If you do not have a piaster with you, then you may bring it here to the plaintiff at your convenience.”

Hearing this sentence, the defendant went on his way. The Hodja waited for him to return with the piaster. And he waited. And he waited.

Some time later the Hodja said to the qadi, “Do I understand correctly that one piaster is sufficient payment for a slap?”

“Yes,” answered the qadi.

Hearing this answer, the Hodja slapped the judge in the face and said, “You may keep my piaster when the defendant returns with it,” then walked away.


Something Wrong With The Honey

Hodja needed a court decree from the judge in Konya. He went to Konya to talk to the judge a few times, but each time he was told to come back later. His friends told Hodja that the judge was a very greedy man and that he would never get his decree unless he bribed the judge.

Hodja listened to his friends’ advice and the next time he went to see the judge, he took along a big pot of honey. He gave it to the judge and got the decree on the same day.

That night, the judge wanted to taste the honey. When he dipped the spoon in the honey pot, he noticed that there was just a little honey on top and the rest was mud.

Next morning, he told the court officer, “Find Hodja and bring him here! There are a few things wrong with the decree and they need to be corrected.”

When the officer gave Hodja the judge’s message, Hodja said calmly, “There is nothing wrong with the decree, but there is something wrong with the pot of honey.”

For a compilation of more Hodja stories, see:
Jeremy Schiff: Hodja
Lale Eskicioglu: Hodja Stories

And while we’re at it, see:
Islam 101
All About Turkey
Muslim Heritage

dscn2669.jpg Osho is a very controversial Indian philosopher. Although few people may agree with some of his ideas, there are some that are worth exploring. Here below is his idea on why you should be your own person:

Every desire leads not to the goal it has promised you. It leads to just the opposite of it. You want to be special? [This means] you have already accepted your ordinariness. One who is special does not want to be special–he’s not even aware that he is special. Whatever you want, one thing is certain–you are not that.

And from where are these desires and wants coming? Imitation. All around, you see people: somebody is so rich, somebody is so intellectual, someone is a wrestler, someone is a boxer. And you are nothing–it hurts. It hurts because of your wrong conceptions about life.

So you have to note down a few things in your being: one, you cannot be anybody other than who you are. If you try to be somebody other than who you are, you will never be somebody else, but you will miss being that which you were destined to become. It is almost as if a rose flower wants to become a lotus. His whole energy will be in how to become a lotus. He will forget all about the roses. All his energy will become misdirected. He will never become a lotus because he has no seeds, no potentiality to be a lotus. Only one thing is certain: now he will not become even a flowering bush of roses.

And who said that a lotus is better than a rose? They are both beautiful and they are both needed. Even the smallest blade of grass is much needed as the biggest star in the sky. This whole universe is one organic unity. Here nothing exists that is not needed …
via: Mr Wang Bakes Good Karma