Beware the national mythology

Tokyo

I have lived in Japan more than long enough to naturalize if I wish. But I don’t wish to naturalize because I don’t see sufficient advantage in it. Sure, I would be able to vote, but what’s the good of that in a “democracy” such as this?

If I criticize Japan in any way, many assume — wrongly — that I think so much better of my own country, Canada. I do not. There are predicable pleas to adapt or else — to quit the country if I don’t like it. … In many ways, living here is easy because it’s exactly like living in my small hometown, only more so. Living here is a mixture of love and hate, which coincidentally is how I feel about Canada.

We all have to live somewhere and are in need of documents. So, for me, nationality is mostly a matter of administrative convenience, not to be twisted by sentiment into an exclusive devotion. But to speak so about nationality and citizenship in a place like America could conceivably become a crime, according to the hair-raising picture described in Roger Pulvers’ June 10 article, “The self-styled ‘Land of the Free’ nurtures yet another facet of hypocrisy.

Nation-states are a mixed blessing. Eventually every nation state will disappear, although it might be anathema to suggest that in America. It is conveniently forgotten that the state is an artifice. The veneration of national symbols, the hagiography of historical personalities and the sanctification of citizenship itself lead to a drunkenly excessive national mythology. American mythology is more dangerous than others because theirs is a global ambition.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

grant piper