published May 1, 1999
Cover Image: Still from documentary “Doubles” by Regge Life
Overlapping themes in this issue explore American visions of Japan, and the many-faced specter of militarization. Both Stewart Wachs‘ interview with US documentarymaker Regge Life and an essay by Thomas Burns on America’s “Japan” deal with erasing stereotypical intercultural attitudes, while Ruth Ozeki turns the mirror on “exotic” beef-consuming America as presented via Japanese TV. Mark Willis and his side-kick Billy Simms seek culinary enlightenment in Kyoto. Bruce Allen makes a present-day pilgrimage to encounter a 7,000-year-old inhabitant of Yakushima, while Robert Brady encounters elderly rad in Shiga.
Contributing editors Kathy Arlyn Sokol and W. David Kubiak present a compelling indictment of fifty years of political disaster in otherwise idyllic Kashmir, with commentaries from leading separatists. How to inveigle the baleful genie of military hegemony back into safe containment? Dr. Philip Grant analyzes the current Pentagon paradigm, drawing surprisingly hopeful conclusions. Dr. Richard Tanter reveals the destabilizing implications of current Japanese military space projects. Unarmed, Arthur Sze visits the 1,001 thousand-armed kannons of Kyoto’s Sanjusangendo Temple. Edward Grazda‘s photographs report the disempowerment of Afghanistan’s women, victims of yet another war.
Regge Life and his Global Film Network have now completed a documentary trilogy which candidly explores the personal, intimate side of the Japan-America relationship. Starting with Struggle and Success: The African-American Experience in Japan, then Doubles: Japan and America’s Intercultural Children, and finally After America . . . After Japan, his new film about the trials and joys of returnees, Regge Life has illuminated the increasingly blurred boundaries of race, culture and identity. Life’s moving documentaries, broadcast nationally in both countries, introduce us to scores of reflective people who in turn invite us to take a closer look at ourselves.
Being racially “half—neither here nor there—I was uniquely suited to the niche I was to occupy in the television industry. I was hired by Kato to be a coordinator for My American Wife! , the TV series that would bring the “heartland of America into the homes of Japan.” Although my heart was set on being a documentarian, it seems I was more use¬ful as a go-between, a cultural pimp, selling off the vast illusion of America to a cramped population on that small string of Pacific islands.
America’s “Japan” during the first century of international relations was a multifarious series of exotic descriptions, scientific reports, strategic plans, commercial treaties, Christian designs, imminent fears, and mirror images, delineated by the pens of seafarers, educators, missionaries, diplomats, and merchants alike — a collection of works whose contents continue to build and feed upon each other. The average American is still burdened with this legacy today.
With the concentration of mass media into the hands of a few corporate moguls, the slick substitution of image for reality has turned global politics, like so much else, into mass entertainment. Hence, peace today is peace for TV, peace that is being sold through the medium of staged events designed to obscure the real enmities and grievances behind real conflicts.
For a country to possess the capacity to project military force at a distance — a strategic military capacity — three things are necessary: a weapon system, a delivery system, and a surveillance and targeting capacity. Japan has perfectly competent advanced munitions factories, and beyond that the scientific talent to build a nuclear weapon in short order, as well as a small mountain of plutonium. As the world’s fourth space power after the U.S., Russia, and Europe, Japan has plenty of experience with ballistic missile development — vastly more than North Korea. The surveillance satellites will provide the third arm.
Kashmir is one more forlorn tale of a people dispossessed, robbed of land and liberty by mighty, acquisitive neighbors. What merits unique world attention, however, is the duration of Kashmir’s little known pain and the collateral wretchedness and nuclear peril it inflicts on a fifth of the human race.
The extremists, now deceptively termed fundamentalists, project their own hate and affections, and attribute them to God. Thus so-called devout Jews, Christians, Muslims and Hindus can despise people of different ethnic or religious backgrounds and thereby deny the most basic truth of their own religions. But God demands compassion and not decorous liturgy, mercy and not elaborate sacrifice.
For over 50 years Kashmir has been contested, carved up and exploited by India and Pakistan, which ironically were both former victims of the same rapacious colonialist mentality. Employing textbook methods of “divide and rule,” these governments have not only physically partitioned our state, but have tried to obliterate our historical interconnections by deliberately engineering internal divisions based on region, religion, and ethnicity.
Talking further about our intended democracy while still sandwiched between the guns of India and Pakistan is like building castles in the air. We have made unspeakable sacrifices to withstand the forces of colonialism. Over sixty thousand have been martyred during the past decade and twenty thousand more languish in Indian jails. Acts of murder, rape, arson and torture are committed daily by so-called security forces who spare not even children.
India falsely charges that the Kashmiri independence movement is fundamentalist and fanatic. But ours is simply a struggle for justice, with supporters from every com¬munity here. Whatever the agendas of outsiders, Kashmiris have always stood out among their neighbours as the most tolerant people of South Asia.
I started to believe in the struggle for freedom, justice, and democracy in Kashmir. I paid dearly for this belief when I was first arrested in 1966, at the age of 14, because I had cried out for Kashmir’s right to self-determination in front of the U.N. office in Srinagar. Suddenly, I found myself confronted by the whole infrastructure of oppression: the de-humanizing world of torture, interrogation rooms, and dark prison chambers…. when my parents came to receive me at the iron gates of the prison, I emerged with a revolutionary heart. From that day on I have been a part of the non-violent Kashmiri struggle. And I have had to suffer for this, spending 21 years of my life in Indian prisons and six years in hiding for the “crime” of demanding freedom.
Seven thousand years of life. Perhaps this being was here before the island was inhabited by humans. Until its recent discovery — for ninety-nine percent of its life — it remained unseen by them. What ages have passed in such a life? Typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. Comets, climatic changes, fluctuations of ozone and oxygen. Buddha, Christ and Mohammed. Loggers, and now tourists.
Billy shook his hand free, laid the jacket across his lap, and took up the menu. Just as he’d feared it was printed all in Japanese, all except two lines scrawled in childish letters that read, “WELLCOME THE PUB AFRICA! Listen the MUSIC, Play the GAME, Feel the BEET.” He held up the menu as if to study it in a better light, scrutinizing the blocks and squiggles like a translator of hieroglyphics.
Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality, by Gail Dinnes, Robert Jensen, and Ann Russo — Rick Mercier
365 Views of Mt Fuji: Algorithms of the Floating World, by Todd Shimoda — David Cozy
Shobogenzo: Uji: Deing-Time, by Dogen Zenji, trans. and annotated by Eido Shimano Roshi & Charles Vacher — Preston L. Houser
Zen & the Brain, by James H. Ausin, M.D. — David Rothenberg