Convergence of an Idealist and a Realist

Where does one begin when trying to write about Noriaki? I wish I could say he’s rare, a bit of an anomaly (in Japan, most certainly, but I would go as far as to say the world around) and profound and leave it at that, but that would not do him justice. After our Q and A session in class, an hour plus of walking and talking afterwards, his lecture and the class dinner, I find that I continually have to remind myself that he is only 21 and a university student much like myself. We put him to the test, asking him to analyze his own culture in ways we might never have and to validate actions much bolder than any we may ever take. I am particularly impressed by the fact that even though I find Noriaki to be quite the idealist, I do not believe he crosses across the line and enters the domain of the quixotic. When asked why Iraq? Why depleted uranium? He acknowledged the perhaps inevitability of war, but not the justifiability of harming the innocent–children.

Also, I find his brand of realism intriguing. It seems natural to avoid conflict as well as those who would challenge, contradict and criticize your actions, ideals and stance, but Noriaki actively seeks to know his opposition and to have dialogue with them. At first I could not understand why he was so passionate about seeing things from their point of view or trying to understand them, but I find know that without such dialogue to put our own thinking on trial, we can or may never find the flaws in our own logic nor effectively persuade others.

I saw this attitude reflected in his answer to the question of censorship. Sometimes, it would seem, even the benevolent and “correct” act of censoring words aimed to be derisive and without any obvious edifying points, might be counteractive to the pursuit of the “greater good.” What is thought will be thought regardless of whether or not it is said. Is it not better to have these sentiments—even the worst of them—out in the open where those of us who disagree can attempt to understand them (and, personally, subsequently refute them) the way Noriaki does? I think so.



2 Responses to Convergence of an Idealist and a Realist

  1. Norma says:

    I’ve been thinking about the last bit–on censorship–a lot these days with the Don Imus affair. At the end of last quarter, we had a visitor, Professor Takahashi Tetsuya, who spoke on Yasukuni Shrine and Japanese militarism and colonialism. Later, at a workshop, he was asked what he thought of the legal criminalization of holocaust denial in some European countries. He said he wasn’t in favor of such legal address–that rather, we’d want civil society to be strong enough in its commitment to democratic principles and to social justice (including historical memory) as to be able to confront holocaust denying-speech without preemptive legal means. (I’m paraphrasing and remembering, more accurately than not, I hope.)

    Does Don Imus’s (to date partial) firing show civil society at work in this way?

  2. soton25 says:

    I suppose that Don Imus’s now official firing does show civil society at work, but one could argue that civil society is always at work. I think the problem is “how and to what ends?” What if enough people with enough force behind them occupying the right hierarchical seats in society saw nothing wrong with Imus’s remarks? It seems that relying on the dynamic of society may only tell us not so much “right and wrong” or what “should and should not be” (what censorship seeks to elucidate, I think) but what the majority think. A popular example would be apartheid in South Africa and its continuing effects today. That said, history does seem to prove that eventually society will “come around.”

    Even so, this dialogue and the reference to holocaust deniers makes me wonder about revisionist history as well. I said “What is thought will be thought regardless of whether or not it is said. Is it not better to have these sentiments—even the worst of them—out in the open where those of us who disagree can attempt to understand them?” in my post, and while I still believe the first part to be definitely true, as I think about it more, I have to wonder–say in the context of revisionist history–if inviting these into the open with no censorship at all could gather a following large enough to threaten what we know is history. In a way, Imus’s firing was an act of censorship. No one told him that he coud not say what he said, but a sure value judgement was made with heavy repurcussions.

    If even the actions of civil society can be seen as an act of censorship, can we escape censorship in entirety ? How dangerous is it to do so? How dangerous is it not to do so? Can we rely on civil society to act as “invisble hand?”

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