• Kitakyushu, Fukuoka


I would like to respond to the Jan. 30 letters “Cultural generalizations dangerous” by Gregory Hutchinson and “‘Gender equality’ not universal” by Bryan Hunt.

Hutchinson asks a useful question: Do we want broad conclusions drawn about American culture because there are at least nine times as many murders per capita in the United States as in Japan? In a word, yes. We should take advantage of the opportunity to discuss this grave American social problem with thoughtful citizens of any country in the hopes of gaining perspective and trying to understand its root causes. The reverse should also be true. An open, honest conversation forces both sides to state their case clearly and can lead to the acquisition of greater knowledge and maturity through the process of confrontation and critical engagement.

Any comments along the lines of “Americans are in no position to . . .” strike me as a way to end a debate rather than begin one. It has the effect of deflecting attention from the issue itself and focuses instead on the nature of the person who is making it.

Hunt makes the surprising claim that there is no universal standard for gender equality. I would recommend the documents that make up the International Bill of Human Rights as a starting point. In addition, I am having trouble seeing how differing levels of progress toward achieving this goal delegitimizes the goal itself. Is he suggesting that gender equality is not a legitimate aspiration at all?

Hunt concludes his letter by attempting to divert the topic from gender issues in Japan to historical and contemporary racism against aboriginal people in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Both Hunt and Hutchinson seem to suggest that the existence of a social problem abroad negates its significance in Japan. I am left wondering what motivates this tendency toward obfuscation when we address the very real social problems of our adopted home.

james hicks

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