Medium Post #2

In the analysis of political struggle, the “cultural productions” created at the time, in my opinion, can play a key role in understanding why various people acted the way they did.

For example, thinking about the Okinawans in Osaka, I found it rather confusing how the Okinawans themselves attempted to eradicate their culture and former way of life. Tomiyama explains how this was a way of “proving their industriousness,” however, he fails to provide the how and why is association came to be, other than it simply did. The answer, I feel, is likely to be found in the various cultural works produced about the Okinawans by the Japanese. Thinking about how slaves were once portrayed in American newspapers as lazing around, the Irish as a bunch of drunkards, et cetera, I can’t help but wonder if something similar happened with the Okinawans.

I also wonder, though, if perhaps there was also some positive factors at work here. Tomiyama discussed how their was this image of an ideal Japanese that the Okinawans had in their heads. Now he uses this as a negative, stressing how it impossible for them to reach this ideal their minds had created, however, I’m curious if it provided some motivation. Thinking about the American advertisements of the 1960s, with their images of happy families, their nice houses and cars, I can definitely understand someone buying some WünderBread® believing their life might somehow become better. Did the Osaka Okinawans come to view being more like the Japanese as leading to better livelihoods? I’d definitely want to take a look at how those perceived as well-off Okinawans were portrayed versus those not so much both by the Japanese and native Okinawans.

As another example, take a look at the relation between Japanese industrialists and their Korean workers. As mentioned by Kawashima, there was a real scare with Bolshiviksim at the time. Looking at how the Octoboer Revolution was portrayed in Japanese media, and communism in general, might help us better understand how pre-emptive action against Koreans were justified. Perhaps a fervor similar to McCarthyism struck, explaining how the Japanese tolerated and how some even came to participate, as vigilantes, in the actions occurring with the Souaikai and others against the Koreans.

Besides explaining why people acted the way they did, cultural productions, I feel, can help give us an additional nuance to the actions people performed. Going back to the Okinawans in Osaka, I’m curious how much the Okinawans really believed in this “lifestyle” reform. Was is simply a facade on their part, to improve their job chances or look better, or did they really start to believe it? I’m not sure I could come to truly believe such things, however, I would probably fake it if I starting receiving flak. Looking at a private diary might yield some insight and change our view of their actions. I’d also be curious, though, about how children growing up during this time felt about their heritage. Were they embarrassed, to be seen doing strange things that other normal Japanese schoolchildren didn’t and take it upon themselves to be more Japanese? Or, perhaps they were in a situation with less choice, being bullied and harassed for their Okinawan background. A look at letters exchanged with friends, their school writing assignments, or maybe even teachers’ notes could provide answers.

Finally, by examining the cultural productions created during political struggle of one particular group, and then comparing them cultural productions we personally know, I feel, we can better connect and understand their plight. Looking at the situation with the Koreans, how they were harassed by police who were complicit and even aiding in the goals of various companies, there’s a strong similarity with events occurring in America during the Great Depression. Thinking about American literature, in particular, the Grapes of Wrath, and then seeing the stories of the Korean workers, how they suffered similar kinds of abuse, really helped me to form a connection with them. Cultural productions of the past, then, I feel, can play a role today, healing divisions between former enemies and creating ties between people whom would otherwise seem to have little in common.

Cultural productions, then, in my mind, not only serve as a way to understand what people were thinking and feeling when they aren’t there to answer your questions in person, but also, as a bridge between us and them, helping us to connect on a personal level as well.

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