A nation’s dilemma: Part One

Most people would think that the craziest president in the world right now is Donald Trump. I do not think these people have ever heard of the name of Rodrigo Duterte, the current president of the Philippines. While Trump has done crazy things, like claiming that he would build a great wall across the Mexican border, he has never received a warning about violating human rights from the United Nations. And he never told the United Nations to not f*** with him. Duterte did it and other crazy, stupid things as well.

My nation’s president seems to delight in making obscene and highly inappropriate comments. Aside from giving quite the colorful reply to the United Nations, he has also joked that he would pardon soldiers who raped women by claiming responsibility for it. He also proclaimed that he would pay people 500 USD per communist they killed and has likened himself to Hitler. Hitler, the man who killed over 3 million Jews and was one of the instigators of World War II. For some bizarre reason, this man, who appears to have never heard of the life-saving advice “Think before you speak.” is now the president of my country. While he has irreparably damaged the image of the Philippines with his lewd and brash words, his choice of words is the least of my nation’s problems.

Duterte has spearheaded the “war on drugs” in the Philippines. Other nations would attempt to jail drug users, pushers, and lords and try to stem-off the drug trade through socially acceptable means. Instead of heading to jail, some drug users could be sent to rehabilitation centers, giving them a second chance at life. In the mind of this strange man, a “war on drugs” also means giving the go-signal to kill people who are related to the illegal drug trade. He is firmly entrenched in his stance. When the United Nations came upon his doors shouting “This is a violation of human rights! A crime against humanity!”, he bluntly said, “Crime against humanity? In the first place, I’d like to be frank with you. Are they humans? What is your definition of a human being?”

With this this policy in mind, he mobilized the Philippine National Police to perform anti-drug campaigns, such as “Oplan Double Barrel” – an operation that was performed against high-value drug targets. In addition, he has also encouraged civilians to take up their own arms and to brutally punish these drug personalities.

The result? 12,000 Filipino lives snuffed out in a matter of 14 months.

The Philippine National Police killed 2,555 Filipinos. The other 9,445? Slaughtered by vigilante groups through extrajudicial killings, killings which are performed without any legal or judicial sanction.

A victim of extrajudicial killing left on the streets, dead (the carboard sign says, “I am a drug lord.”)

Now, Duterte wishes to give 42,000 guns to the public in order for them to effectively combat crime and drugs. His harsh and unforgiving anti-drug campaign is still ongoing and has lowered the number of drugs users in the Philippines. The drug personalities are being snuffed out one by one and the public knows better than to start doing drugs, as the fear of being targeted by an extrajudicial killing runs high. In fact, a 2016 Social Weather Stations survey reported that 78% of Filipinos feared that either they or someone they knew would be assassinated via an extrajudicial killing.

Duterte is on his merry way to winning his drug war through the use of fear and violence.

Behold, the President of the Philippines in all his glory, holding a gun

Yet, the anti-war drug cannot solve the dire problem of poverty, a dilemma that affects at least 26 million Filipinos. It cannot build the 30,000 classrooms that children and schools across the nation need. It cannot stop corruption from occurring throughout the government. All it can do is raise a death toll and cause fear. And as history has shown, a leader ruling through fear will not last forever.

In 2022, Duterte’s presidency will end, and a new president will take his place. If this president were to be against such violent policies, such as I am, then where would Duterte’s war on drugs go? To the garbage bin, never to see the light of day again. What would happen to the illegal drug trade? It would probably spring up again and recover, given the right conditions and amount of time. What would happen to all the lives lost, the time and effort spent, the money dedicated to the cause? Utterly wasted.

Everything my nation’s current president has campaigned so much for, gone in the blink of an eye. My nation would be back to square one, with its bloodied hands holding all of its old problems and making space for new ones.

And this is why I can only say, does this war on drugs not sound crazy and stupid?

Until next time.

As expressed by Jose Edelberto de Santiago. Jose is a student of Tohoku University.

Image References:

  1. https://deathpenaltynews.blogspot.com/2017/08/stop-wasting-human-lives-manila.html
  2. https://nypost.com/2018/06/15/duterte-wants-to-give-the-public-42000-free-guns/

Lost in translation : When culture shock shocks

One day, I introduced the Kawauchi campus of Tohoku University to international students. I was going to introduce ‘danwasitsu’ in Japanese. It is a room where students can relax, drink tea and do their homework. I wanted to tell them about it, but I couldn’t recollect the English word so, I just said, “This is the restroom”. After I said that, I realised that I made a mistake. Restroom is ‘toire’ (Toilet) in Japanese. I was very embarrassed about it but, I didn’t know how should I call the room otherwise? I thought that rest means ‘yasumu’ only and room means ‘heya’ in Japanese. Therefore, it can directly translate to ‘yasumu heya’ in Japanese. This is the reason why I made a mistake and I said ‘restroom’. Now that I have learnt from my mistake, I know I should use terms like ‘resting room’ or ‘break room’ and so on. English sometimes causes misunderstanding. This experience is very funny but embarrassing at the same time.

However, Japanese can also lead to similar mistakes. For example, take a case of a foreigner who wanted to ask his girlfriend’s father “atama ga itai desuka?” in Japanese. It means “Do you have a headache?”. But he misunderstood it and rather asked “atama ga warui desuka?”. It means “Are you stupid?”.  In English, the word of ‘warui’ and ‘itai’ are very similar. They can totally be lost in translation and hence, it is very confusing.

There are so many other examples in culture shock. Here are some examples that I read in a book: A man thought that Japanese always use chopsticks and so he tried to eat curry and rice with chopsticks! Another example is about the song of ishiyakiimo. The song is played when they sell baked sweet potatoes. The melody sounds sad and so when he listened to the song for the first time, he thought it is a funeral song!

I asked some of my friends from overseas about culture shock and funny stories they have experienced in Japan. A Chinese friend told me four stories. First, the size of a crow is big in Japan and she had never seen so many crows in China. So, she was very surprised. Second, Japanese eat dumpling with rice and most Japanese eat grilled dumplings. However, Chinese don’t eat them so often. They almost eat boiled dumplings. Third, she confuses with the phrase “iidesu”. It can translate both ok and no in Japanese. Even Japanese sometimes misunderstand. The phrase “sumimasen” is also confusing. It can translate to “thank you” and “I’m sorry”. The words are sometimes very convenient, but we often misunderstand them.

A Swede friend shared two interesting experiences in Japan. First, he was overwhelmed whenever he entered stores because every employee greeted with ‘irasshaimase’ which literally means ‘welcome’ and is a terminology often used in customer service. He was overwhelmed but he felt happy. Second, he thought the word ‘benjo’ is more polite than ‘toire’. They mean ‘restroom’ in English. He thought because ‘benjo’ is written in kanji whereas ‘toire’ is written in katakana and he believed that kanji is more polite than katakana. Usually, kanji has a more polite impression than katakana and hiragana but I had never considered such a thing until I heard from him.

One of my professors who has been to several countries shared some of her experiences of culture shock in Japan. First, Japanese are very punctual. The conference was scheduled to begin at 12:00 noon. However, when her friend arrived at 12:00, the conference had already started. Indeed, Japanese people always occupy their seats at least five minutes before. Second is the delivery system. The delivery item is always delivered to our home or company on time. Third, molds grow on the tatami. Most Japanese houses have tatami but, she didn’t know she had to take care of them. Fourth is the complicated hierarchal system. If she wants to inform something to another professor, at first, she has to tell her secretary. Then, the secretory will tell the professor’s secretory. At last, the secretory will tell the professor who she wants to tell. I don’t know if it happens only in this university or only in this campus, but it’s a very cumbersome process.

Here is a culture shock I experienced recently. When I went to an Indian restaurant with my Indian friend, a clerk brought water for us. He gave my friend water without ice but she gave me water with ice. Therefore, I wondered why she made this distinction. Then I found out that Indians don’t drink water with ice. It was very surprising. He thought it is since very hot outside in India, so if we drink something very cold, it may affect our body. He told me about some culture shocks in Japan. First, when he came to Japan for the first time, it was surprising for him that Japanese eat raw eggs. It looked so strange, so he can’t eat them even now. Second, he realised that there aren’t many trash cans outside such as on streets or in parks in Japan. Actually, when I went to Canada, there were so many trash cans that I could easily throw away my trash. I think that’s why Japanese usually bring back the trash. Third, he is in trouble that he has a lot of Japanese coins in his house. It’s because there are a lot of coins in Japan and it’s difficult to understand which coin is worth how much. I experienced the same thing in Russia. There were also so many coins with similar sizes that I have many Russian coins in my house now.

Many people have experienced culture shocks and they’re almost very funny stories. I was very interested in their culture shocks, because though it is usual for me, for foreigner it is unusual. Therefore, I learnt a lot of things. Culture shock depends on country, where it occurs, and nationality and character and so on. Have you ever experienced some culture shocks or funny stories so far?

I would like to express my gratitude to my foreign friends who help to answer interview.

As expressed by Shuka Endo. Shuka is currently a second year student of nursing at Tohoku University and has a keen interest in knowing about the world.