• Kitakyushu, Fukuoka


I would like to respond to Greg Hutchinson’s Jan. 13 letter, “Americans should avoid lecturing.” This discussion began with an exchange of letters in the Dec. 19 and Dec. 26 Readers in Council in which the question was raised as to whether an American should give advice to the Japanese on issues related to the trivialization of rape in a video game.

Hutchinson wrote that if national murder rate statistics are accurate (which he said shows that nine times as many murders per capita are committed in the United States as in Japan), then he expects that accurate data would also show more rapes per capita in the U.S. than in Japan. He then suggested that Americans are in no position to lecture Japanese on such issues.

In my Dec. 30 response to Hutchinson, I expressed a wariness of the use of rape statistics — even actual ones — as a sole method of measuring abuse across two vastly different legal, political and social systems. I also object to his opinion, reaffirmed in his Jan. 13 letter, that “Americans aren’t in a position to lecture Japan on their culture.”

It is this underlying assumption that most disturbs me. Those of us who are not cultural anthropologists, but who live and work in Japan as members of its society, would do well to avoid such obsequious moral relativism.

When faced with something that runs counter to fundamental, universal ethical standards, we have both a right and, some would say, even a duty to speak honestly about it. Sadly, however, for many who are confronted with the very real social ills of this country, such as gender inequality and abuse, it is the fear of being labeled as patronizing, arrogant or, as Hutchinson put it, “above the culture” that makes them withhold their opinions.

We should be encouraging these critiques rather than discouraging them, as this type of candid communication is an essential factor in achieving social progress.

james hicks

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