Occidentalism
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Civil disobedience as iyagarase

June 2nd, 2008 . by Matt

Iyagase (嫌がらせ) means harassing or annoying someone. This is the essence of the latest scheme being promoted on Debito’s blog. The title of the post says it all: “Protest NJ Fingerprinting: Pay your taxes in one yen coins“.

It seems that some foreigners in Japan believe that their human rights are being violated by having their finger prints taken when they enter the country. Therefore a plan has been put forth to pay municipal taxes in 1 yen coins. The goal? To Iyagarase to the extent that city workers need to count the coins and to try to throw a spanner in the system, possibly delaying processing of other peoples taxes.

Debito has been in Japan, what, 18 years now? Doesn’t he know that all kinds of protests are fine, but the moment you cause trouble (meiwaku 迷惑) to other people, you lose support? If there are Japanese people behind a foreigner that is paying in 1 yen coins in a line, what kind of impression are the Japanese people going to have? Are they going to admire the foreigner’s “activism” or are they going to be pissed off that they cannot conduct their business in a timely manner just because a foreigner wants to protest in an oblique manner unfamiliar and puzzling to the Japanese?

Do you harass city workers on the local level for decisions taken by the central government, which is on the national level? Does the mayor influence national security policy?

Furthermore, is finger printing people on entry to the country really a violation of human rights? Japan is not the only country that does it. Certainly Japan was encouraged to do it so it can more fully cooperate in capturing terrorists for the “war on terror”. At worst, being fingerprinted is an inconvenience.

It seems that the plan wont work as a commenter on his site cited a law that would make that plan unfeasible.

What really shocks me about Debito is that despite being in Japan so long, he seems culturally tone deaf. He doesn’t seem to care about Japanese strategies that work when dealing with Japanese people, rather he prefers Americanisms that are alien to Japanese thought. I think this is why he achieves precious little, as we see here and here.

What Debito offers is not Japanese and foreigners getting along, rather it is a state of permanent opposition (tairitsu 対立) where issues are never, ever, resolved.

(PS., the romaji in brackets is what Debito does in some of his posts. I thought it might be interesting for any foreigners to know the words)
(PPS., I put the kanji in as well)


19 Responses to “Civil disobedience as iyagarase”

  1. comment number 1 by: Errol

    “Debito … doesn’t seem to care about Japanese strategies that work … he prefers Americanisms that are alien to Japanese thought.”

    A liitle known fact is that Australian citizens require a visa to visit the USA. But US citizens do not require a visa to visit Australia.

    Perhaps Australians should hold candlelight vigils and poke a few police in the eyes with sharpened bamboo sticks to get a visa waiver for the USA.

    Debito should drop the victim strategy. It doesn’t work in the USA, Australia or Japan.

  2. comment number 2 by: Friendly

    Our saving grace is that Debito lives up in Hokkaido – far enough that the vastly huge majority of Japanese people will never see him.

    I dig the Japanese in brackets – may be nice to add the kanji too. I often wish articles written about Japan would do so.

  3. comment number 3 by: Matt

    Friendly, I have “kanjified” the post!

  4. comment number 4 by: The Overthinker

    Errol – You got it slightly backwards. From Wikipedia, which is useful for this sort of thing:
    ———
    While all participating nations must provide reciprocal visa-free travel for U.S. citizens (usually ninety days for tourism or business purposes), Australia is the only nation that requires U.S. citizens (and other VWP nations) to apply for an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), which in fact is a visa that is stored electronically in a computer system operated by the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC).
    ———–
    It’s the Americans that should be protesting….

    *********

    “Furthermore, is finger printing people on entry to the country really a violation of human rights? Japan is not the only country that does it.”

    That’s a massive non-sequiter if ever I saw one.
    “Is torturing political prisoners really a violation of human rights? China is not the only country that does it” works just as well.

  5. comment number 5 by: Matt

    Overthinker, I was thinking along the lines of international norms. While torture is out of the ordinary, not to mention illegal (at least among civilized countries – until recently, that is), finger printing people coming into a country is not so out of the ordinary. The US is doing it for example.

    When assessing whether the Japanese government is out of bounds, it is helpful to consult international norms (does it happen elsewhere), along with considering any extenuating circumstances, like the war on terror, extensive illegal immigration to Japan, etc.

    Anyway, your non-sequitur example doesn’t make sense to me. Most people would say torturing political prisoners is a violation of human rights, and that countries other than China do it seems like mere observation, rather than justification, in this context.

    I do not feel that being finger printed is a violation of human rights, and it is going to happen to me next time I go to Japan, no doubt. That Japan is not the only country that does it merely makes me think that the Japanese government measures are in no way extraordinary or extreme.

  6. comment number 6 by: The Overthinker

    Yes, I know torture and fingerprinting cannot be compared in terms of human rights, but I am not sure your argument about “international norms” is either accurate or valid. Obviously the fact that China tortures political prisoners is a very lousy justification for other countries to do so. But in this case why does other countries doing it make a supporting argument for fingerprinting? It can’t just be that “torture is bad, fingerprinting isn’t:” surely the argument as it stands works both ways.

    And incidentally just how many countries actually do fingerprint arriving foreigners? I am only aware of three, possibly four (Japan, US, Brazil (tit for tat), UK). While it is increasing, it still seems very much the exception rather than the rule.

    It is also problematic to tie supposedly inalienable ideas such as “human rights” to a mere “loads of people do it so it must be okay” concept. Is it acceptable to have certain rights removed due to the “War on Terror,” or because others commit crimes? How inalienable are these rights?

    I’m not personally certain either way if this fingerprinting is a violation of my human rights. I’ve had it happen in both Japan and the US, and the Japanese experience was definitely more pleasant, though neither were nearly as bad I expected. But that’s not the issue. What are human rights, how are they defined – that’s more germane.

    In sum, I am very leery of arguments that go “everyone else does it so it must be okay.”

  7. comment number 7 by: Kenji-Endo

    I guess the real issue here is whether or not you trust the Japanese government (or any government for that matter) with your fingerprint data……

    Well, unless you are living “off the grid” and not participating in the modern world, there is already enough data on you floating around to enable any government to screw you to the wall.

    If you are doing something illegal that is.

    Collecting fingerprints at a port of entry is child’s play. Our cell phones track our every move and ARE being monitored in mass. Your bank & credit card companies know more about your finances than you do. God forbid should you read your secret file stored in Human Resources at your employer. All of these entities are not required to care at all about your rights, and don’t need to tell you when they are working against your interests.

    So…. where is the outrage?

    I think the issues around fingerprinting are more of an emotional reaction than a logical one. One can understand why since fingerprinting is associated with being suspected of criminal behavior. In this day and age, I say get over it.

  8. comment number 8 by: Matt

    Overthinker, I think that the finger printing is just globalization reaching it’s logical conclusion. There was a time when few people had the means to go overseas, and when they did it they considered themselves ambassadors of their country, and that meant being on their best behavior. These days lower costs means all kinds of people are able to go overseas, and plenty of them commit crimes and cause trouble in the countries they are visiting. People have no patience for foreign criminals, terrorists, or illegal immigrants, and I suspect that biometric tracking of people will grow to all countries in the world that are capable of implementing such a system.

    Personally, I do not believe that anyone has a “right” to enter a foreign country, and when they do they are under the sovereign jurisdiction of the state they are visiting. That doesn’t mean that the state has a right to murder them when they cross the border, but it does mean that the state has a right to subject an entrant to reasonable screening and in-country tracking, whether that be with finger printing or alien ID cards.

    Anyway, I do not think my main argument was “everyone is doing it so it is OK”, I think my main argument was that it is just an inconvenience – that it is done elsewhere as well simply means that that the Japanese government is not the only one inconveniencing people. Anyway, I know what you are getting at but I was not making an ‘Appeal to Common Practice’ – those kinds of logical fallacies are beneath us here at Occidentalism 🙂

    What is the big deal with the finger printing which only takes a couple of minutes (at least in Japan) when you are virtually strip searched before you can get on a plane? It seems to me that the only thing the anti-finger printing crowd can come up with is that because the police take your finger prints when you are suspected of a crime, then having them taken at the airport means they are “treating me like a criminal”.

    I am not convinced that it is discrimination. The Japanese government already has access to vast amounts of information about it’s own citizens, and thus has no need to take finger prints from it’s own citizens at the airport. Saying that citizens and non-citizen foreigners should be treated exactly the same in all instances is in my opinion unwise. That is what Debito and others on his site seem to be saying.

  9. comment number 9 by: LB

    Matt,

    May I suggest that linking to Debito’s site directly may be something better left not done? Part of the upshot of his battle of the Bot Wars is that he lost his google ranking. Google “debito” or “debito.org” – you won’t find a direct link to his site anywhere near the top of the list. This is driving him nuts. Linking to his site increases his ranking with Google, which is exactly what he is hoping for. I think it is far more productive to NOT link, try to keep his rating low and let him slowly twist.

    But that’s just me, and as a banned rabble rouser what do I know? 😉

  10. comment number 10 by: Matt

    LB, what you are saying is true but on the other hand I also need to be seen to not be concealing anything, and the only way I can do that is to be as open as possible.

  11. comment number 11 by: Errol


    The Overthinker Says:
    June 2nd, 2008 at 7:40 am

    Errol – You got it slightly backwards.

    Rules are a changin’ The Overthinker.

    Now online visa registration required for US

    June 3, 2008 – 12:34PM

    Sydney Morning Herald

    Australians and other travellers who do not need visas to enter the United States will be required to register online with the US government at least three days before they visit, a security regulation set to begin next year.

    Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will announce the rule tomorrow, according to a government official who asked not to be identified because the announcement had not yet been made.

    Required online registration will begin in January and will be valid for a two-year period.

    Those needing to register will be travellers from the 27 countries whose citizens are not required to obtain visas for US entry. The countries include those in most of western Europe as well as Andorra, Australia, Brunei, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore. Eight other countries – the Czech Republic, Hungary and South Korea among them – are expected to be admitted to the visa waiver program.

    When the Homeland Security Department began discussing the online registration rule last year, European businesses worried that business travel could be impeded.

  12. comment number 12 by: LB

    Matt – GPWT. Openness is a good thing, which is probably why Debito fears it. I was just thinking perhaps you could list the URLs without actually making them active links. “Copy and paste in your browser (at your own risk of losing your sanity)”.

    Anyhoo – Mr. Oneyen is obviously a raving space loon. Perhaps they should replace fingerprint checks at the airports with mental health checks. That might be more productive if the goal is to keep Japan safe from dangerous foreigners.

    Don’t know how many of us would be able to pass said test on some days, though. 😉

  13. comment number 13 by: Errol


    The Overthinker Says:
    June 2nd, 2008 at 7:40 am

    It’s the Americans that should be protesting….

    A USAian who understands irony. You from Boston Overthinker?

    Matt Says:
    June 2nd, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Personally, I do not believe that anyone has a “right” to enter a foreign country, and when they do they are under the sovereign jurisdiction of the state they are visiting.

    Isn’t it nice that allies that have fought several wars side by side recognise that one of the reasons they have fought those wars is to respect (each others’) national sovereignty.

    You won’t see too many Australians chucking a wobbly over fingerprinting in Japan or the lack of a visa waiver with the USA.

    If Debito was getting locked up in the Japanese equivalent of Gitmo he might have an argument as regards absolute and relative humanitarian values.

    世界人権宣言

  14. comment number 14 by: Gerbilbastard

    I just thought I might mention that a government fingerprinting individuals is much worse than violating human rights because it sets a precedent. Already there are many people here that have commented that there’s nothing wrong with fingerprinting because it’s quick and fairly painless. Plus, if you have nothing to hide, what’s wrong with getting your prints on file?
    The big question, though, is where do we put our foot down? Is taking DNA at the border ok? Saliva samples? It only takes a second to swab the inside of your mouth, what’s so bad about that? Maybe a quick pin prick to collect a drop of blood?
    This is an overly paranoid attitude, but it’s the precedent I’m not comfortable with. The actual act of getting fingerprinted is pretty simple, but when I have no idea how those prints are being stored or used, the potential for abuse is endless.
    On a side note, this complaint isn’t really even directed at Japan. I’m furious that the US government, my government, can come up with some bullshit excuse in the name of terrorism to begin this kind of program. Japan is just following suit because the US is doing it.

  15. comment number 15 by: Matt

    Gerbilbastard, actually your concerns strike me as possible material for a “Rising Sun” style movie.

    Imagine an American Businessman (perhaps with actor Michael Douglas) goes to Japan for a business deal and is routinely finger printed. His cunning business rivals obtain his prints through corrupt officials and use technology to spread his prints all over a crime scene. Chaos ensues.

  16. comment number 16 by: LB

    Gerbibastard, I think the foot would come down at DNA sampling. One of the big advantages of fingerprinting is it is quick, non-invasive, and a statistically reliable means of ascertaining an individual’s identity. Another would be a retinal scan, or a capillary scan of one’s finger. In terms of protection from abuse, perhaps one of these two latter methods would be preferable, as it is pretty doubtful we will ever hear of a criminal case where the prosecution tries to claim the defendant’s retinal scans were all over the crime scene.

    What I sometimes find amusing (and I don’t mean this to look like I am picking on you or your concerns) is folks who worry about the security of their biometric data where the government is concerned, and yet who willingly turn over that same data to a private home security company when they install the latest hi-tech locks on their doors, or who give it to the bank to input into the cash machines, or the car dealer for the “touch locks” on their new car…

    Now, can fingerprints be duplicated? Yes, that hacker group from Europe proved it. But if the state was trying to frame someone for something, there are easier ways to fake the evidence. Plus, not only would they have to plant the evidence, they would have to find some way to make sure that their victim was unable to provide an alibi. It would be a lot of trouble, and one has to wonder why they would go to that much trouble just to jail one anonymous foreigner.

    The debate reminds me of, and I don’t know if you were in Japan for this, but more than a few years ago some Japanese civil-rights groups got up in arms about those cameras over the highways. “The police are watching us and tracking our movements!” There was quite a splash on the TV news and “wide shows” and papers for a while. After a lot of denials by the cops that they were even keeping those tapes for more than a couple of days (a claim they themselves discredited not even a few months later when they introduced videos from those cameras as evidence against Aum Shinrikyo) things quieted down.

    Fast forward a few years. Someone invents this wonderful device you put on the dash of your car so you can speed through the toll gates without stopping to fish for change. How convenient! A must have! Of course, by using this system you are establishing a database that very precisely tracks your movements. And that database can be brought out with a court subpoena (at least in the US, I am going to assume they can do it in Japan as well.

    I guess it all comes down to marketing. Japan should have tweaked the system in such a way that you give your prints, scan your passport, and are through the line even faster. No more pesky question and answer sessions! You now speed through customs and on to your destination faster and easier than ever before!

    I bet a lot more people would be going for the idea then…

  17. comment number 17 by: Gerbilbastard

    LB, your arguments would be a heck of a lot more convincing if I hadn’t spent the last 7.5 years watching the American government repeatedly prove they were willing to do whatever it took to gain more control over the US population in the name of fighting terrorism. I’m not referring to Japan at all.
    You say people would be concerned if DNA was being collected, but the track record proves you wrong. First we had fingerprints. This was to collect information about people coming in and out of the country to stop terrorism. Despite the fact that most of the terrorists involved in the 9/11 entered into the country legally.
    Second, we had a government set up a prison where prisoners were classified as “enemy combatants” and refused protection under the Geneva Convention and tortured for information to prevent future terrorist attacks.
    Third, we had the government illegally request wiretaps to from telecomm companies to monitor telephone calls coming in and out of the country to monitor terrorist activity; this despite the fact that the government is required to submit warrants when collecting information involving US Citizens.
    Fourth, we had Congress try to actually pass a law to give immunity to telecomm companies from lawsuits for illegally participating in wiretapping against US Citizens. This law managed to get through the Senate and luckily failed in the House.
    And after all this – after being lied to REPEATEDLY for almost 8 years in the war on terrorism, you actually believe that they wouldn’t collect DNA if they thought it would prevent terrorism?
    If you really want to be paranoid, you could question why Japan would give a contract to Accenture for a measly 100,000 yen.
    Not to mention that Accenture has a horrible record for securing data:

    From wiki:

    In September 2007, Accenture was implicated in a high-profile case of loss of sensitive data (sometimes referred to as a “data spill”) on individual American citizens. The information was contained on a backup computer tape being used in the development of a government information system for the state of Ohio which was stolen on June 10, 2007. The stolen tape contained the names and Social Security numbers of every Ohio state employee, more than half a million people owed tax refunds by the state of Ohio, 602 Ohio Lottery winners who had not cashed their winnings, 84,000 welfare recipients, tens of thousands of other individuals, taxpayer identification numbers for Medicaid providers, and bank account information for school districts and local governments.
    In addition to the Ohio data, the tape also contained a great deal of information related to the state of Connecticut, also an Accenture client, including “information on nearly every bank account held by state agencies – including checking accounts, money market accounts, time deposit accounts, savings accounts, trust fund accounts, treasury and certificates of deposit – which could total billions of taxpayer dollars.

    Can you honestly say this makes you feel comfortable?

  18. comment number 18 by: hoihoi3

    i think there is no Japanese who complains about that even if fingerprinting is required in foreign country
    They will cooperate with pleasure.

  19. comment number 19 by: GarlicBreath

    Koreans living in Japan are free from the fingerprinting. It is very odd because Koreans living in Japan have been the source of terrorism. Korea had fingerprining until just a few years ago. They stopped and now they will start up again.