Bathing in Japan

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Living in Japan from my earliest memory into childhood, and then returning when I was an early teen, included one of the most important and pleasurable events of most Japanese peoples’ daily and monthly life— bathing.  In Japan, bathing is not only a way to wash ourselves, and not only an individual pleasure, but a way of healing, relaxing, conversing with friend(s) and/or family, and ritual.

Many people are familiar with the Japanese bath in the home, which resembles what the Americans call a “hot tub.”  The tradition of bathing is not exclusive to Japan, of course.  While I was doing research in Turkey, it was a pleasure to learn of the Turkish bath traditions and to partake in its histories and pleasures there, and to think of the similarities and differences.

The private bath, in the home, is called お風呂 — Ofuro, in Japan, and is the most familiar to people who do not make their lives in Japan.

But in addition to this, I want to mention some other bathing traditions in Japan, mainly the public baths.

When I was growing up in Japan, once a month, my mother and I would visit a neighborhood public bath — 銭湯 Sentō. In addition, once a year or two years, when my mother could afford it, she would take us to the hot springs baths ­­­—  温泉 Onsen.   The neighborhood public baths have been losing business and there are fewer and fewer in Japan nowadays, as people individualize and the tradition of bathing is becoming increasingly private and preferred. Also, public baths are getting expensive as well as Japanese people having less leisure time. Many corporations in Japan sponsor their workers’ public bathing. Even so, these remain important cultural traditions that would most likely never die out in Japan, and remain one of the special Japanese traditions of healing, cleaning, and relaxation.

 

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Great POST by Mauro Sifuentes – Defining from where we are speaking

My colleague on his blog, has written a very straightforward piece, defining some terms.  When reading posts and comments, those of us who have invented/invested time, energy and commitment into the techniques of oppression that we and others practice as individuals, communities, groups, organizations, nations, etc., it cannot be taken for granted that we are speaking about the same things in the same way.

Especially terms that are ‘loaded.’  The issue is that when people bring certain words up, there are shields and defenses and attacks.  There is a wall that goes up.  When you, the reader, are reading my posts, please understand that all language has underpinnings and differences and purposes, no matter how ‘common’-sounding.

So Mauro Sifuentes has done a fantastic job in presenting what I feel/think/understand to be what I am speaking of when I talk about racism, for instance.  Other ‘ism’ terms are similar.  The issue is how our ‘good’ vs. ‘bad’ emotions about these things, work to protect ourselves from being ‘bad’ and therefore not dealing with how it works as a STRUCTURE, not ‘inside’ like some kind of cancer.  That is the common psychological language that keeps people in denial about how the structure is what we live within, through, with, as, and also in resistance to these ‘ism’-forms in various ways and amounts and intensities.

People who have been a target of isms, and have experienced more violence, and/or have seen it expressed upon others through physical, emotional, institutional, legal, military, and other ways in which violence is transmitted, will feel more urgency.

There are many factors in the maintaining of oppression that we practice everyday ‘without meaning to.’

Being mobile, being ‘good,’ equalizing, making people feel good, charity, and a whole host of other things have links to oppression (they aren’t necessarily maintaining, but play their part).  For example, being mobile–both physically and emotionally/mentally/spiritually, are conventient roads to escape and deny.  Being mobile is connected to privilege (some can move further and faster and easier than others due to socio-economic class/caste, race, gender, nation, etc.).

Individualism itself, embedded in individualities and corporate capitalism and western religious ideals, are also a factor in how racism and sexism and heterosexism, for instance, functions.  In other words— have we, as persons, grappled with how our individual sense of self, our individual lives and philosophies, are individualistic, or alienating, or isolating, or without history of community, etc.?  We are individuals, yes.  But individualism is not the same as individuality,  Individualism privileges American-centric, capitalist, community-destroying forms of relations.  Individuality is another thing altogether.

The issue of the ‘survival of the fittest’ in relation to science and progress, is very much an unquestioned aspect of the ignorance and escape from dealing with racism by the so-called ‘good’ people.  So the targets are sad, crazy, or cured through therapy.  The other end is that the targets are all equal to us and these are just isolated events that can just be taken care of with ‘don’t worry, be happy’ or with the understanding that an ism effects ‘them’ and not ‘me’ so I will feel sorry and do what I can for ‘that friend’ or ‘community’ but it really is their business and not ours.

One, and perhaps the most important point of Mauro’s posting, is forgetting and alive-ness.  Being alive is mere surviving when it is cut-off from history.  Our forgetting of where we’ve come from and the processes that create our current world is a primary reason why our lives are the way they are and increasingly smaller and smaller–personal joy and expression and comfort.  This fits in with the current state of the cultural malaise of the ‘meaning of life’ that has been trained into us in the United States, globalizing itself.  Colonialism plays out continually through us and our values.

They are not really ‘our’ values.  However, they are dependent on our forgetting the patterns and structures and powers that create our world and what we have to do or not do, survival, happiness, understanding and knowledge. Or not.

Understanding is the first open light towards change.

Here is the link to Mauro Sifuentes’ post:  Turning Our Backs On History: Internalized Racism and Class Oppression

Massacres, Democratic Societies, Colonization

This is a very short opinion piece on the massacre leading, so far, to 12 deaths — as of today, considered “one of the worst mass crimes in recent history” which occurred in Aurora, Colorado.

First, I want to remind readers that my perspectives are on social justice and social change and looking at history and relations of power, accumulations of dominance and resistances that create our lives.  I do not, detract from the deep sorrow and anger I feel, in various ways, about how this has occurred and the deaths and injuries and traumas that have come about.

This piece is very short and meant to be evocative, provocative.  I never speak of final conclusions and opinions that close off things and ideas.  I do not speak from a psychologized, or Christian or Muslim moral perspective, where “Good versus Evil” and “Crazy versus Sane” binaries rule.  I do NOT start there, nor do I begin there.  Those moralities and structures of dividing individuals, societies, dreams, and ideas, are not something I care to participate in.  Nor do I think they lead to social change or social justice.  Moral and Psychologized binaries always —ALWAYS– lead to more incarceration and more killing, more death sentences, more self-superior kinds of ways of dealing with the complexities of our lives.

Revenge and Roman gladiator coliseum mentalities still rule much of public emotion and reasons for setting up our “civilized” laws in a now globalizing colonizing mentality.  Disciplining and punishing (yes, I mean to evoke Michel Foucault’s famous book on the matter of internalizing violent structures through prison architecture).

In popular imagination, especially in the US, we have been culturally self-taught to believe that emotions are emotions and there are the sick and the unsick, the civilized and the uncivilized, the cruel and the nice, the crazy and the sane, the good and the bad.  We deal with it through the idea of either redemption and rehabilitation, and/or punishment or a combination.  Sequestering and putting to death.  Our creativity is gone.  What rules are the moralities we think are deep and real and true, and the moralities and spiritiualities and psychologies that we think we know and maintain and protect so dearly, even at the cost of arguments and fights at the dinner table and the ex-communication from groups, of friends and family-members that we love.

Let’s face it, modern civilization suffers from the “being right and good” syndrome.  Since we supposedly know these things, or can rely on “experts,” we make EASY EASY conclusions.  This means we don’t have to think.  We have lost the necessity for complex thinking.  Simple-mindedness is often valorized in US societies.  Being “Real” is often how this is languaged.

People want answers.

To have answers, means that any answer, any answer, will lead to further questions and further answers. I do not believe that things have “finished.”  Nor do I believe that the massacre that occurred “began” within James Holmes, the violent accused shooter at the movie theater in Aurora, or only within the shooters who killed at the 1999 Columbine High School spree in Colorado, or within the killer in Norway at the campsite approximately one year ago.  Yes these rampage killers are the carriers and shooters.

I have been just as saddened, in addition to the shooting and the deaths, at hearing the news reports and talk shows and reading the various articles across the board, in the US and in English language mostly everywhere, on how so many people around the world have begun to think alike on subjects such as death and life.

The same tired reactions and words and phrases and platitudes and moralities have circulated.  The same things I heard just after Columbine shootings and just after other mass rampage shootings, are being publicized and circulate.  We listen to the moralities of Left and Right politicians.  We listen to the church leaders and Hollywood personalities and song stars and talk show hosts.

It’s saddening.

People who shoot come from each one of us.  As we go shopping and care or not care for our own children and friends, as we say or not say things everyday, as we care and don’t care about certain people, we isolate.  In isolation, we accumulate cruelties that circulate.

Picking oneself up by the bootstraps–as an individual–is a norm nowadays.  Being normal, we do not question how it looks and how we perform these things.  In short, we are responsible for the violences that occur in societies.

We want the already-cruel, legalistic, bureacratic, psychologized, condescending, moral institutions to take care of “those people” so we can continue with our lives, as if our lives were rich and meaningful.  We try, but often we are fooling ourselves.  And further, we forget that we are fooling ourselves, convinced of our sureness, our goodness, our moralities.

The more thoughtful and intelligent people and thinkers and artists, have warned that our societies are in a deepening and darkening place.  It is not “normal” or “natural” or a product of “God.”  It is because each of us are not putting enough of our intelligence and creativity and strength into the complexities and changes required to take care of ourselves.  Almost everything these days, are in the hands of institutions.  When this happens, our own thinking is constricted, assimilated, and quite unresponsive to what is required.

People nowadays talk of being “smart” but who speaks of being “wise?”  Wisdom is something people don’t even understand anymore, from where I stand.  Compassion is seen only as something sentimental and kind and somewhat condescending.  Ooooh….you poor thing.   For those people like James Holmes and other people such as the Aum Shinrikyo Religious leader in Japan, who led the group to kill in the Japanese subways, we are not supposed to have compassion for “them.”

In this way, we ourselves are divided within ourselves.  We can learn a bit from some of the writings of Buddhism, where compassion is not compassion without the sword that cuts through bullshit and delusion.  It is strength.  And Wisdom is a cold and calculating “Rationality” that views itself “higher” in the presumed hierarchy of human experience than compassion and kindness and that it is an “opposite” quality – and therefore sometimes “in the way” of “true” wisdom.  Being “irrational” is the same as being insane, for many people, or a lower and “feminine”way that is unwanted.  This is left over from the Victorian era and mass colonization, the destruction of the feminine and the enshrining of SEXISM into our moral structures.  It keeps things rational and therefore these things are artificially separated into separate compartments.  In Buddhism, this must be seen through.  Wisdom is not wisdom without compassion.  Compassion is not compassion without wisdom.

The hierarchies that we perform in our lives are lived out in how we foreground something or background something, how we ignore some things while prioritizing others, how we know some things and how we perform with this unknowing. If contradictory things arise simultaneously, or are complex in any way, we may label it “confused” or “ambiguous” and therefore unwanted.  We “kill” an other.

First we must assume/presume, create that “other” that must be squashed and put away or looked-down upon.  Whether it be communities, people, beliefs or ideas, or ways of living and thinking, the civilized first-world nations and now almost every nation, has their own ways of doing this game of dominance and oppression.  To ourselves within us, to each other, and to that other.

Massacres and rampages are certain forms of the outcome of this, in a sociological angle.  No matter how we “understand” James Holmes, we still do not understand or accept what we have become and how, not James Holmes and the other monsters that WE CREATE through ignorance and uncaring, sentimentality and cold rationality, self-created moralities.

Massacres and rampages will continue because we as a society, ignore their causes.  The causes are not located in the individual that perpetrates, so that institutions can make money and gain credibility through scientific study, therapies and incarceration and death machines.  The society that created that person or persons who perpetrated, is us.  There are a myriad of causes and conditions we must deal with.

The violences we do, come also as ripples from the violence of our nation-state.  War and genocide built this nation, as much as resistance to dominance.  How we face up to uneasy complexities of nation and individual, various shades of history within us, is a big question. We must face how we have internalized the nation.  Americans feel that nationalism is what others do, but never acknowledge it within their own selves and lives and the structures of cultural realities.

And still, there are those who are deeply Christian, even if they are not religious at all, or even believe in religion.

I speak of how so many think that humanity is “inherently” evil, or bad.  Originally all humans are like this, according to that one snippet of Christianity.  Psychologically, a person usually internalized this from the structures (moralities and behaviors) of our cultures.  Colonization, first of this land in the US, and globally, has spread this kind of internalized oppression and made it normal.  Even the “good” things we do are meant to destroy good because in a deep deep place, there is that thought that we are “no-good” and we “always mess things up” and that the world is dark.  This is reinforced by modern socio-economic systems that delay and thwart our dreams, keep us slaves to the machine of money-making and money-spending.  We have to pay for WATER!!!  But hardly anyone is protesting on a mass scale.  Paying for water is not a “natural outgrowth of history or God.” Or we know this, but tell ourselves that it is futile to resist,  like it’s some act outside of human power and human privilege and the power of those that make the rules of violence. This his how we are responsible for giving the worst kinds of power and isolation and killing, their dominance in society.

There are many who are sensitive, very sensitive to what I’m saying.  Some act out. It cannot be suppressed for too long.

Yes there is danger.  But it doesn’t happen by itself.  Rampage killers are created by our society.  We must take care. If they are monsters, so are we.  We are intimately linked to what is happening.

Things can change.  But there needs to be further energy to make those changes.  But I’m afraid that there are so many people who are purposefully or by proxy–sadists, that social change will be slow in coming.  By this, I mean that there are so many people who divide the world into victim and perpetrator, and that there is joy in seeing someone put to sleep or put away into prison so they feel safe….not understanding that these are lives. The subconscious internalized colonization operates: I love it that they are in prison!  I love it that they have been put to death! Or… I don’t like it but they deserved to be tortured.  Some people won’t learn without violence.  What goes around comes around.  All the platitudes of our democracy.

All the sadism passing as superior morality.  All the violence.

Prisons and mental institutions and hospitals and psychiatrists’ offices.  These four things seem to be the ONLY THINGS many people think of, that will take care of society.

I say, each one of us do.  It is a painful request and a painful process to undertake.  Listen to ourselves, we are not easy and we don’t agree.  This is precise place where we must start.  Others cannot be convinced.  So what do we do?

Social Justice is not………..

Some people are confused……confused about “social justice” and what it is.

I am not seeking to define it.  I am seeking to carve some intelligence into the word, term, concept, action.

So much of the US notion of social justice is from within the reality of living in the Empire.

It is a crumbling empire, no less.  But it is empire.

When Americans think of people who are “activists,” they think of a whole array of people who seem to be shouting out for things that they feel are morally right, necessary, necessary for their particular concerns and people and political persuasion.

Disconnectedness—it is one of the main effects of extreme individualism.  Individualism, is different from empowered individuality.  Individualism is somewhat of an ideology, something made superior.

With US concerns for individual freedom, communities suffer.  Since most white people and wealthy people in the US, as well as a good portion of the middle class and the homeless, do not think of themselves as being part of any community, it even gets more precarious when working with struggling for a different world. The legal structure and the institutions in the US, provide legal freedoms to some degree, for individuals.  For groups, communities, there is very very very little, if any, recourse.  Case after case is thrown out in favor of 5000 individuals having to file individual claims to right a wrong done to a whole community.  In most cases, these individual cases are drawn out over years.  For the economic and social underclass, funds run out and energy is sapped and the three jobs they may have to go to becomes priority.  The cases become weaker.  Or the powers hire the attorneys that are high-powered and block any power that the underclassed individual may have.

Disconnected individuals (a fair amount of “normal” and not-so-normal people in the US especially–and increasingly in all first-world countries) tend to sabotage works and solidarities and political commitments that could be good for everyone, or at least a larger population of different kinds of people of differing socio-economic, ethnic, cultural, genders and sexual orientations, etc., feeding into division and conflict, violence and rupture.  They become “identities” which are separate from other “identities.”  So goes the ongoing disconnectedness. But I do think there are those forces that create these isolations need rupturing.

And when we speak of activism, those people wanting their “rights” to privileges, and the right to maintain them, are put on equal footing with those fighting for difference, for survival.  Fighting to MAINTAIN PRIVILEGES is NOT social justice.  Privilege and how it operates, makes invisible and priority, over those who have and are considered less, must be looked at and actions taken in regards to what is seen and realized, for a “social justice” to actually happen.  In other words, as many US Americans seek to access privileges of something that is defined as the “freedom to get, the freedom to be….” social justice is diminished because privileges cannot afford an “other.”

Here, we see the link between what many Americans call “Freedom” and the middle class ideals.  As I’ve mentioned before, people often confuse the access to middle-class, European elite (white), masculine and militarized material, emotional and spiritual values, as “freedom.”   Then this gets confused with “Liberation.”  Going on vacations, to “get away from reality” and “rest”—which are bourgeois leisure ideals made socially dominant as a desire in life by elites during the colonial days between the 17th to 19th centuries, becomes somewhat like the popular confusion about “liberation” these days.  Social liberation means, in this scenario, some kinds of escape.  And then guess what? Things deemed “in the way” of this escape, is deemed as some word exaggerated and confused with non-liberation.  We learn to block anything that stands in the way (or seen as standing in the way) of our disconnected and individualized freedom to escape, as needing to be disappeared, violated, jailed, tortured, maimed, stopped, killed.  Psychologically, culturally, intellectually, with the variety of arms and weapons of mind, heart and body that we have learned in the system of continual disconnection and valorized individuality (above solidarity, community, living with difference).

So in these ways of thinking and thrusts of behavior that I have mentioned above, social justice is suffering.  It is definitely not dead or gone.  It is in pain.  It is in pain because fewer and fewer people have the inclination, desire, time, and/or energy, to struggle with self and community enough.  Fewer and fewer people have the creative thinking enough to get out of the box that the Empire holds us in.  As the social-political forces that we have all internalized, confuse us and run our bodies as “spectacles” —as Guy Debord (December 1931-November 1994, French postmodern philosopher) has pointed to for us, we have a harder time interpreting the difference.

It is made worse by the crash of cultures, values, times and places that are incoherent.  Incoherence is NOT THE PROBLEM!!  It is our inability to not do violence to incoherence that is the problem!!!!  We incorporate, assimilate, violate, manipulate, imprison, sequester, make sick, make knowable–and therefore no longer that thing itself but our own other interpretation of that thing–person–place–time) that we create.  Now the world seems smaller and more alike.  Less diversity.

Put them away, make them criminals, make it hard on them, annihilate them, torture them, jail them, make them sick, control those people and those communities, feel sentimental about it after they are dead, it makes us good and holy.  On and on.  Refugees from ourselves—as we see refugees and the stateless, as if all of us were states.  It’s a joke. But we have definitely internalized the state.  There’s no escape.  How about starting with a realistic assessment and then assessing how we may do things differently?

The reactionary definition of “community,” in the eyes of many individualists, is that communities are like herds of cattle and animals, without minds, aimless and not able to think for themselves.  This dualistic notion of community has been developed through years and centuries of learning that the communities our ancestors killed or destroyed in order to create the wealthy “global” in favor of an individualism that was able to “capitalize” on making money for itself (not others).  And furthermore, when we try to make communities and join them (because we sense our loneliness, disconnectedness and isolation), we (US Americans) tend to get very very uncomfortable with the differences, the conflicts, the games, the political jostling, and general psychological violence that is practiced in groups, no matter how lofty.  If we don’t feel those things, it is usually because we have learned to ignore–or perhaps learned to become oblivious because no one is bothering “ME–THE INDIVIDUAL” and this asserts a “satisfaction” in the name of escaping the difficulty of being together with others of differences, and also the higher position of being alone and therefore “trouble-free.”  This is an illusion.

Mourning but knowing that there are so so many in this world who understand enough and care enough about this in the world, to begin steps and to empower toward social justice.  It is arduous and difficult and tedious, but must be done.  Individual heroes will be squashed.  Communities of difference, across different backgrounds of histories, etc. must learn to come together without the escape mechanisms we have all learned well.  Empowering toward social justice is tedious, arduous, precarious, uncertain, not attainable in a finality, but is a pathway that is immensely more loving than the loneliness of dieing in an old folks’ home somewhere in a desolate urban landscape. Some are working now and we must work together, learn how to.  The rest will most likely just wait for those few to do the work while they enjoy the fruits of empire, and maintain global injustice.