Respectful disgreement

I am a great admirer of Dennis Prager, the radio talk show host and writer. he is one of the most thoughtful commentators on politics, culture, and current events. And I agree with him that American leftists are entirely too full of hatred for our country, and that their screeds are used to harm us overseas. But Dennis is a little bit off—base when he asks in his latest Town Hall column:

Did you ever notice that there are no Germans going around the world saying, or making movies about, how awful Germany is or has been? Given that Germany unleashed two world wars and invented industrialized genocide, why has there been no German Michael Moore?

Are there any Japanese making films about the absence of Japanese soul—searching or expressions of sorrow over their country's enslavement, torture and murder of Asians in World War II? Has anyone ever encountered any Japanese self—hate?

He continues:

In fact, among all the world's peoples, only two produce large numbers of individuals who have greater sympathy for those who hate their country or national/ethnic group than for those who love it —— Americans and Jews.

Actually, Japan has long had a flourishing literary and journalistic tradition of self—criticism, some of it highly overblown. A couple of decades ago, a senior Japanese diplomat wrote a scathing critique of his country which became a massive best—seller. He even claimed that the Japanese are the ugliest people on earth, a level of self—hatred reminiscent of Michael Moore's claim that Americans are the supidest people on the planet.

The Japanese left, like our own, is hyperbolic about Japan's capitalist sins and excesses, and often also castigates Japan for being an ally of the United States. They see Japanese militarism as a threat to Asia, and denounce Japan's economic activity in Asia as imperialist. Yada, yada, yada.

But self—criticism is active on the center and right flank of the Japanese political spectrum, too. Usually, it involves invidious comparison of Japan with the best country in the world in terms of the issue being discussed. At its best, this self—criticisim spurs Japan to aim higher and higher, and look abroad for inspiration. The Japanese have an extremely admirable characteristic in comparing themselves to the highest benchmark, and asking themselves, why can't we do better? Toyota and the other leading car makers employ this mental discipline on a daily basis.

I know less about Germany, but I would note that Daniel Goldhagen's book Hitler's Willing Executioners became a commercial sensation in Germany, and sparked an enormous political discussion. Although Germany is far from perfect, it appears to have undergone a process of self—reflection over the holocaust — certainly more thorough than the Japanese have undertaken over their own World War II sins. A bit more self—criticism by the Japanese in this vein would be welcome.

I would stipulate that there is a vast theoretical difference between reflective self—criticism intended to improve, and self—hatred, intended to harm. But it does depend on where you stand. Even Noam Chomsky thinks of himself as trying to improve America, I would wager.

I am a great admirer of Dennis Prager, the radio talk show host and writer. he is one of the most thoughtful commentators on politics, culture, and current events. And I agree with him that American leftists are entirely too full of hatred for our country, and that their screeds are used to harm us overseas. But Dennis is a little bit off—base when he asks in his latest Town Hall column:

Did you ever notice that there are no Germans going around the world saying, or making movies about, how awful Germany is or has been? Given that Germany unleashed two world wars and invented industrialized genocide, why has there been no German Michael Moore?

Are there any Japanese making films about the absence of Japanese soul—searching or expressions of sorrow over their country's enslavement, torture and murder of Asians in World War II? Has anyone ever encountered any Japanese self—hate?

He continues:

In fact, among all the world's peoples, only two produce large numbers of individuals who have greater sympathy for those who hate their country or national/ethnic group than for those who love it —— Americans and Jews.

Actually, Japan has long had a flourishing literary and journalistic tradition of self—criticism, some of it highly overblown. A couple of decades ago, a senior Japanese diplomat wrote a scathing critique of his country which became a massive best—seller. He even claimed that the Japanese are the ugliest people on earth, a level of self—hatred reminiscent of Michael Moore's claim that Americans are the supidest people on the planet.

The Japanese left, like our own, is hyperbolic about Japan's capitalist sins and excesses, and often also castigates Japan for being an ally of the United States. They see Japanese militarism as a threat to Asia, and denounce Japan's economic activity in Asia as imperialist. Yada, yada, yada.

But self—criticism is active on the center and right flank of the Japanese political spectrum, too. Usually, it involves invidious comparison of Japan with the best country in the world in terms of the issue being discussed. At its best, this self—criticisim spurs Japan to aim higher and higher, and look abroad for inspiration. The Japanese have an extremely admirable characteristic in comparing themselves to the highest benchmark, and asking themselves, why can't we do better? Toyota and the other leading car makers employ this mental discipline on a daily basis.

I know less about Germany, but I would note that Daniel Goldhagen's book Hitler's Willing Executioners became a commercial sensation in Germany, and sparked an enormous political discussion. Although Germany is far from perfect, it appears to have undergone a process of self—reflection over the holocaust — certainly more thorough than the Japanese have undertaken over their own World War II sins. A bit more self—criticism by the Japanese in this vein would be welcome.

I would stipulate that there is a vast theoretical difference between reflective self—criticism intended to improve, and self—hatred, intended to harm. But it does depend on where you stand. Even Noam Chomsky thinks of himself as trying to improve America, I would wager.