Nikon's Shameful Behaviour

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Colin Corneau, May 25, 2012.

  1. Colin Corneau

    Colin Corneau Subscriber

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    I can't quite believe I read this, but apparently it's true -- the Nikon Salon in Tokyo has censored an exhibition of photographs of the 'comfort women' victimized by the Imperial Japanese Army during WW2.

    Details are in this story:
    http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/AJ201205240049

    And I strongly urge all photographers to take 2 minutes and send an email to Nikon Japan, at this address, to register protest at this action:

    nikon.salon@nikon.co.jp

    I won't go into the disturbing tendency of Japanese society to ignore and whitewash its recent history...we can only imagine the outrage if Germany denied the Holocaust, for example. And yet, that's precisely what's going on in Japan today -- there are politicians (by no means the minority) who even deny the Nanjing Massacre, despite literally mountains of forensic, eyewitness and photographic evidence.

    I'm just saddened and shocked that a global company like Nikon would capitulate to that sort of ugliness.
     
  2. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    Interesting. There is currently a minor flame war going on over in news group soc.history.war.world-war-ii about attempts by the Japanese consul in New York and some far right-wing Diet members to get a statue commemorating the Korean women removed from a site in New Jersey.
     
  3. mooseontheloose

    mooseontheloose Subscriber

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    This is really unfortunate, but not surprising. Nikon's cancellation shows poor judgement, but their lack of explanation is pretty consistent to the way things are done here.

    Generally speaking, the Japanese do not like to see themselves as anything but victims of WWII. A year or two ago I saw a photo exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography that focused on the Japanese in Nanking in the 1930s -- it only had photos of military leaders, parades, and the Chinese welcoming them to their city. I think the Japanese generally don't admit to any wrong-doing, if they can get away with it (the government especially).
     
  4. Newt_on_Swings

    Newt_on_Swings Member

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    Yea not only Nikon, but large part of Japanese gov't/society that still denies the many atrocities committed during WW2, which I also agree is ridiculous and sickens me. Even events such as Minamata and the cover up attempt by that local govt there makes you think how much they could try and deny something, and if it were not for photographers like W. Eugene Smith there would not be societal change or compensation for those affected.

    Nikon shame on you for denying the public such visual information. Shame on you for censoring photography, the core foundation of your business.
     
  5. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Google the rape of Nanking.

    However, it rarely does too much good to bring up atrocities forever.

    The US perpetrated atrocities/genocide against the aboriginal population as well as African slaves.

    At Pearl Harbor the tours go out of their way to not offend the Japanese. In fact I've seen some of them proud of their achievements there but didn't realize that the attack came while the US and Japan was at peace.
     
  6. CGW

    CGW Member

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  7. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Contrary to popular belief elsewhere in the world, most Japanese are well aware of existence of "comfort woman" and "Rape of Nankin". People are well aware of Pearl Harbor, too. How can they not be.... it's talked about in detail everywhere including in Japan.

    I had a benefit of studying world history from two completely different view points: that of Japanese and that of American. While this was only in high school, the treatment of the same event is quite different. If I didn't know any better, I'd believe we are talking about two different events.

    In Japan, there is a concept of not exposing dirty fact to outside while acknowledging internally or privately. It is often called "gaiken" - literally translating view from outside. People mount a protest when this gaiken is tarnished. It takes decades, or even longer, for these facts to become so common place that people are able to discuss it in public.

    I believe this is what is happening. Myself being a Japanese decent, I will withhold my judgement on this practice of gaiken but that is the culture behind it.

    This is changing in today's younger crowd. However, Nikon is an old company largely run by older generations. They got themselves in a jam where either way they move, they face fierce criticism. They cancelled it. I'm not sure if I blame them. It's a company after making profit. They are very unlikely to take unpopular position and go against majority - especially those who drive the economy and thus the company.
     
  8. gmay

    gmay Member

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    Whatever Nikon's reasoning, as someone who lived in Japan for a year I should say that I found the Japanese people I met to be just as capable of ignorance and/or kindness as any Americans I've met.
     
  9. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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  10. Colin Corneau

    Colin Corneau Subscriber

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    I refuse to use the cultural relativism of statements like "it's their culture...they're different...they have to find their own way"

    Bulls!!t.

    This is chauvinism. The same mentality that led Japan down the road of fascism and militarism and into the well-documented events of the early 20th century.

    Germany acknowledged what they did, and not just with platitudes (which Japan seems to excel at) but with financial compensation and what can only be seen as sincere motivation.

    Japan? Their leaders visit Yasukuni Shrine and whine about being victimized.

    Shame.
     
  11. MDR

    MDR Member

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    First Nikon invited the photographer not the other way around which already shows that Nikon was willing to deal with the japanese past, and while Nikon denies that the reason for cancelling were protest letters I am quiet sure that they were presurized to cancel the exhibition.

    And while Germany and Austria deal with their NAZI past, we seem to constantly forget one group of victims. There was such a thing as forced prostitution in KZ they even had a sort of Brothels in several KZ. The women had a survival rate of near 0 % and were at first mostly women that were denounced as adulters. A crime that could and did land many women in concentration camps. The women were used in KZ Brothels and Officers Brothels. The reason they are still not considered victims of the third reich is because they supposedly volunteered for that job, which was proven as beeing a lie. For instance in Mauthausen the brothels is right at the entrance of the camp and no tour guide or anyone else will tell you what that building was. As soon as something has to do with forced sex or forced prostitution in the past, we seem not able to deal with it.

    Dominik
     
  12. andrew.roos

    andrew.roos Member

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    I think the cancellation, if caused by political pressure (as seems likely) is an unfortunate example of self-censorship. On the other hand, it was brave of Nikon to propose the exhibition in the first place.

    After all, how many US corporates have sponsored exhibitions of Dorothea Lange's photographs of the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent during WWII? None, as far as I am aware. It is an unfortunate fact that all nations have periods in their history that, if presented accurately, show them in a poor light, and which generally are swept under the carpet by government as well as by civil society. Another example would be the atrocities committed by the British during the anti-colonial uprisings in Kenya which are only now coming to light since records were deliberately destroyed, and those that were not were hidden for many years in defiance of access to information legislation. And let me not fail to mention the horrific human rights abuses of my own country's recent past.

    I'm not saying that we should not attempt to shine a light on these sad chapters in all our nations' histories. Certainly we must, for if we do not learn from history it is bound to repeat itself. But it is perhaps best to start at home, with introspection, since "why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" (Matthew 7:3).
     
  13. TimFox

    TimFox Member

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    I have always enjoyed travelling in Japan and meeting Japanese people, both personally and for business.
    However, there seems to be a tendency in Japanese society to treat WWII and its events as something that happened to Japan, similar to a tsunami or typhoon, not something that Japan did.
    American reaction to history and its own misdeeds is a separate topic, but one we should consider as well.
     
  14. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Tim,

    What you say is true. But from the point of view of ordinary people, they are victims as none of them wanted to start a war, join a war, or be part of a war. They were forced into the situation.

    Another interesting thing is that in modern Japan, what we typically call "national pride" or identity to see themselves as Japanese and feel that they are part of a country and its history is very weak. This is contrary to the general sentiment in United States.

    In some ways, having patriotism and pledging allegiance to the country is seen as being extremist and it is not seen as a character that a well-balanced person should have.

    Perhaps this is a strange concept for most Americans. I'd imagine this is a strange concept to comprehend unless you were born there and lived in the culture.
     
  15. Colin Corneau

    Colin Corneau Subscriber

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    That's not what I've noticed with Japanese people, FWIW. There is a very nationalistic streak of pride, that (for the rightwingers, at least) can be easily deformed into the denial of the historical record that is distressingly common, to this day.
    It's probably due to us all being affected by our environment -- being an island society makes it easy to be isolationist and form a "they're out to get us" worldview.

    I saw this strange sense of denial around the documentary "The Cove", as well, FWIW, although that's a different situation.
     
  16. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    General MacArthur was in awe of the Emperor and was afraid to banish him. Rather than have the Japanese face what they had done the way Eisenhower did [Eisenhower made the local villagers walk through the death camps so they could not deny the truth], MacArthur ran around getting his lips brown.
     
  17. Alan Klein

    Alan Klein Member

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    I don't buy it. That reminds me of the defense of "ordinary" Germans who were "forced" to tag along with Hitler and the Nazi's descent into darkness. As many ordinary Japanese were shouting Bonzai to the ordinary German Sieg Heils. The fact is all countries including my own are capable of and have descended into that darkness. It's in all human beings. Better to understand that so you can watch before you get to that point then denying you are capable of it and then doing it without any moral compunction.

    I also don't buy that the Japanese have changed. On the surface, maybe. But patriotism goes deep into the sub-conscience. If they were attacked tomorrow, to a man and women they would rise up to defend Japan. In America before WWII, most people were pretty pacifist. After WWI, Americans didn't want to get into another war like that. Americans watched with horror at what was going on in Europe in 1940. However, they did not want to get involved at all. It took the attack on Pearl Harbor to unite Americans overnight into warlike response against the Japanese (but not Germany). It took Hitler's foolish declaration of war against the US three days later to get us directly involved in the conflict in Europe.
     
  18. CGW

    CGW Member

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    The point, Colin, is to understand--not necessarily to accept--the context of the Nikon misstep, something that's harder than outrage. Have a look, if you haven't yet, at the link I posted above and here:

    http://japanfocus.org/-mark-selden/3173
     
  19. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    That's what I noticed by being born there and spent my school days and some young semi-adult days in that country. I wasn't an observer, I was a participant in that culture.

    Yes, there are sense of denial. There's no doubt about that. As I said earlier, by learning world history in both countries at high school level, I saw strong denial and omissions from both sides - usually the inconvenient truth part. It's really interesting how cleverly manipulating facts and presentations of facts or lack there of, history is distorted.

    Oh well. I'm out. There's nothing more to share from me.
     
  20. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I'm not trying to defend Japan or trying to convince anyone. I have no need to do that. That's what I saw by being born there and living there. If you don't want to think the same way I do, you are certainly entitled. I even had someone (in US) demand I personally apologize to what "my country" did before I was born. This gentleman said this in person. Obviously, emotions run high and it's understandable, especially if you lived in that part of history. (he did)

    Anyway, have a nice day. All I can do is share what I know. Nothing more.
     
  21. Alan Klein

    Alan Klein Member

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    I would never hold you personally responsible. I'm a firm believer that we are only responsible for what we have done.


    My own experience with Japan and the Japanese came when I spent two years there in the mid-1960's. I was there as an airman in the USAF stationed in Fuchu about 35 miles outside of Tokyo. My best friend was a Japanese who worked on the air base. He had the same name as the president then, Eisaku Sato. Satosan and I hung out together off base and shared a car. (He bought it but I owned it. A whole another story.) We spent many a night getting drunk and carousing around in all the bars and eateries for miles around. He seemed to have a cousin everywhere and knew everyone and it wouldn't cost us anything to eat or drink. I always found the Japanese people to be pleasant to me even though I was an American and this was only 20 years after the end of the war. Fact is, I never thought about the war. I felt like a visitor just doing a job over there.


    Anyway,my point made earlier is that we all have two personalities. We can be giving, fair, honest and loving. But there's the dark side of us, all of us. It's good to cleanse the soul when we've done something wrong.
     
  22. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Yes, but there is a national arrogance and national disconnect in some cases about what a nation has done, and there are people in that nation that are nationalistic and won't admit/accept the hell they have wrought on other people.

    That attitude is where some people have issues.

    There are also cultures that believe themselves superior, and what they do to lesser peoples is of little concern.

    And obviously Germany and Japan both exhibited that in the 30s and 40s.

    There is also some of the morons in the US that believe "my country, right or wrong".

    Very dangerous.
     
  23. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Member

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    It's interesting how the powers-that-be believe so strongly in a one-world-economy but are so much more local when it comes to control of wealth. That relates to what you've been writing, blansky, but I've been in the heat and am a bit confused at the moment so I can't quite articulate why. Maybe I should stop posting for awhile.:tongue:
     
  24. Newt_on_Swings

    Newt_on_Swings Member

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    I'm just happy that the information is out there and easily accessible in the world we live in for those who want to learn. Learning and acceptance is key to humanity's survival, it is the light that keeps us out of the dark ages.
     
  25. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Subscriber

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    My thoughts word by word.