I understand what Grant Piper is saying in his Dec. 22 letter, “Exactly who do you think he was?” I think it is a universal phenomenon. Many people don’t even know the figureheads of the countries where they were born and brought up.
So, it is no wonder that they don’t know about other places and people such as Nelson Mandela.
Despite all the talk of internationalization and knowing about each other, I always feel we still have a very, very long way to go. The people who are aware and take interest in other countries and can think of their own culture as well as other “alien” cultures in a reasonably unbiased way are the exceptions rather than the rule.
Except for a select few, for almost 10 years, conversations regarding my country with most foreigners, including Japanese, haven’t gone much beyond curry and hot weather, and how I must be comfortable in hot summers and very uncomfortable in cold winters (actually it’s the other way around!).
But I’m sure it must be equally exasperating to foreigners who visit my country when people ask them silly questions.
One example of the disconnect that Piper mentioned could be Mahatma Gandhi. So many leaders around the world talk about him, but how many people actually find out what he stood for, his political astuteness, or even try to live by some of his ideals?
The answer is obvious and that’s the irony.
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.