Some readers’ responses to last month’s Just Be Cause column by Debito Arudou, headlined “ Charisma Men, unite against the identity enforcers” (March 1):

‘Identity police,’ judge selves

Debito Arudou has made an excellent point about immigrants. A high percentage of the ancestors of the populations of North America, Australia, and New Zealand were “losers” who couldn’t thrive in their own societies, and underwent considerable hardship to find a new life and identity outside the “old country.”

The jokey image of Charisma Man ignores the fact that most Westerners relocating to Japan have a hard time adapting before they are able (if ever) to settle down and feel comfortable. The “identity police” ought to judge themselves before they judge others.

Waipahu, Hawaii

New positive tone

I normally disagree with everything that Debito Arudou writes in his articles to The Japan Times, but his recent piece on the “Charisma Men” was a refreshing change. Devoid of the usual high cynicism and depressing negativity, he actually presented a positive argument using a reasonable tone of voice.

If Debito continues in this new and pleasant mentality, I may actually become a fan of his articles!


Debito stands out

I think Debito Arudou is an asset to The Japan Times. Love him or hate him, Mr. Arudou is certainly an interesting and provocative writer. Sometimes I agree with him and sometimes I don’t, but at least I always get his point,and if some readers have learned not to like him they don’t have to read him. Or me, either.

He is consistent and he scrupulously applies the (correct) definition of nationality as a feature of citizenship rather than ethnicity. It is not inappropriate to compare Japanese conventions to those of other nations or even to international law — especially if they are international agreements that Japan has signed or which it ignores or flouts either on scurrilous or suspicious grounds.

His detractors criticize him overly harshly and even sometimes retreat to the maddeningly obtuse go-back-where- you-came-from-if-you-don’t-like-it redoubt. It seems that his strict observation of definitions of terms as a measure of things is taken as condescension.

What do people resent more, the pedagogical tone or the restriction of their thought to defined terms? Hmmmmm . . . but I don’t doubt that he is motivated by love of his (adopted) country and a genuine desire for it to be the best that it can be.

It’s not that other countries are so much greater than Japan. They aren’t. Japan is great, but not lacking in its own peccadilloes. As a naturalized citizen, Arudou has a unique position from which to apply pressure for solutions, as have others if they, too, want to be that way.


ALT work farmed out

The Zeit Gist article “Byzantine temp rules need permanent fix” (by Colin P.A. Jones, March 8) gave a long and complex explanation about the situation facing temp workers in Japan. However, it was very light on nailing the real reason why the many ALTs who are subcontracted are forbidden from team-teaching or planning lessons with school teachers.

The main reasons are because boards of education would rather farm out ALT work than handle it themselves, and by subcontracting out the work they can get the subcontractor to do the dirty work of not enrolling them in social insurance and therefore get ALTs at a lower price. Also by not using the “haken” dispatch system (which would allow teachers to team teach and give schools authority over ALTs), they avoid any obligation to take on ALTs as permanent staff after a certain period.

This system downgrades the working conditions of the ALT position, turning it into an object, not a teacher, which is procured by tender bid.

But also, the reality is that the laws forbidding schools to give instruction to subcontracted ALTs are breached every day. The subcontractors and the schools know it, but they keep it quiet to protect their interests. It is the ALT that suffers, but if they complain they will probably face nonrenewal. Who is going to help them?


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