The War on Noticing
August 15, 2014
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From Noah Smith, aka yet another economist with a blog.
There are three common mistakes that many Westerners make when observing or analyzing Japanese culture. First, they essentialize it – they assume there are some core things that never change, and that you can understand these things by studying samurai culture, or stuff like that. Second, they exoticize it – they assume that Japanese culture is very different from Western culture, and that there are deep secrets that only Japanese people themselves understand. Third, they homogenize it – they assume that the difference between Japanese individuals or subcultures is much smaller than the group difference between Japan and other cultures.
Let me translate this to you: Pattern Recognition is Bad. No, it’s positively Evil. You should not try to use your brain and notice things. That may get you into trouble, and certainly prevent you from getting a job as an economics professor. What you need to do is ἐποχή squared; suspend all judgment, and if possible all cognitive function. Just do as you’re told by your academic betters, i.e. me.
Explanation of Japan for Westerners: Japan is a collection of rocks with some human beings on it. That’s the vast majority of what you need to know.
There you go. Nothing to see here. That’s the vast majority of what you need to know. For everything else, just get a student loan of 100,000 dollars and listen carefully to what I tell you. Which is not much because I myself do not judge, do not recognize patterns, and do not try to notice things. But I am en expert™ through living 3 years (on and off) there, during which my expertly trained non-noticing skills led me to not learn the language, not understand anything and certainly not noticing anything about the country. I did notice there were rocks and human beings; but that’s probably safe to notice. Right? Right??
That’s contemporary science for you.