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We the Aliens

Author: Hana, Issue: April 2007, Topic: Commentary

Rome used to be the center of political power and the Romans exercised power, privilege and wealth beyond comparison during their high days. The Romans developed all forms of norms and code of conduct in their metropolitan center. The magnets of power and wealth attracted considerable number of people from all corners of the world to Rome. Coming to Rome, however, was not a cakewalk for the alien for various reasons. The Romans were so out of touch and living amongst them took considerable effort to just follow the daily routines of life. For the Romans, aliens were there to transform themselves beyond a trace of recognition so as to stand a better chance of being member of the civilized Roman society. After all, aliens were constantly reminded that "In Rome, do just like Romans!" That attitude indeed was a curse the Romans brought upon themselves. Prejudice eventually set the clock for the long road to decline. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

Rome and Romans learned the hard way the cost of their behavior. Subjecting foreigners to undeserved humiliation is against the long-term interest of the host community. Rome marginalized itself in power and influence in the world mainly because it failed to attract and exploit the dynamism of the aliens. All roads used to converge to Rome, but no more.

The spirit of the story is that aliens are part and core of a modern society. With the advancement of communication and information technology, it has become a common phenomenon for people to live and work away from their country of origin. This raises an interesting question of how aliens tend to adapt to the values and styles of their host nations and communities. What does it take for the host communities to benefit from the presence of aliens? How can the host community effectively exploit the rich and diverse experiences of the foreign community and avoid repeating the mistakes of the Romans before them? These are relevant issues that modern societies have to address in their own ways and manners.

If there is anything that binds all the foreigners in any society, it is their dynamism. Dynamism is part of their nature and the choice they make individually and collectively. As it stands now, to be an alien involves making various positive adjustments and effectively opening the heart for the un-chartered landscape of a foreign land and host community. Some face culture shock and in the extreme cases of racism and xenophobia. And in the process, the necessity of dropping some of the preconceived values and ideas become unavoidable skill of adaptation. It indeed takes considerable degree of flexibility and readiness to overcome adversities to squeeze some pleasant memories from such experiences.

Most of us have different skills in handling perceived or actual discrimination. As a recent exchange of views in the foreign community in Tsukuba and Japan partially reflects the source of such misunderstanding could come from any corner. Some just take it easy others find it worrisome and yet others take to heart. With a certain grain of spice, it is somewhat valid to claim that all of us have some preconceived ideas that are almost tangential to racism, donít we? No matter how minor it might sound, individuals are prone to discriminate on the basis of some preconceived ideas and values. This happens even among individuals whose norm of behavior is largely guided by reason and rationalizing.

In this respect, discrimination could be addressed only if we restrict our criticism to or admiration for individuals and refrain from jumping to unwarranted generalization. It is always wrong to bash the whole community on the basis of just an incident or a particular case. In the land of generalization, usually irrational individuals go away with their despicable behavior and racist slur. Mr. Watanabe may be a bad guy to deal with or Ms. Noriko might be a very kind person or Mr. Jones is a naÔve chap with a taste for bashing others. All this description could be correct and yet it does not make sense to generalize in one way or another based on such individual observations. And bashing others is far from a monopoly exercised by one group or another. Those who have developed the habit of bashing others should be held accountable for their behavior and should not be allowed to go away with it. It is the reaction of the community that shows their collective stand more than the provocative behavior of those who drum up conflict.

Tsukuba, as the center of excellence and science, should lead in creating exemplary cases by which harmonious life could be cultivated to the benefit of all community members. When reason and rationality set the rule of our judgment, harmony and peace have chances to become norm. This might be the way to end the blame game and strengthen efforts to mutual understanding and enriching our quality of life.

Tsukuba city hosts nearly seven thousand foreigners. This figure is quite sizable relative to the local population and stands more than double the national average of 1.55 % of foreigners relative to the Japanese population. I should note that the average person you bump into in town would be impressive enough with whom you can have an intelligent and sophisticated conversation. While all the potential ingredients for a vibrant community are visible to see, we lack the social skill to make it a wholesome and organic one. In this respect, members of the foreign community should keep our dynamism unconstrained. The contribution of individual members could take various forms, colors, and sophistication. It is time for all of us to dance in tune with the Tsukuba rhythm and initiate a charming offensive so that all residents of Tsukuba and beyond benefit from the experience. We, the alien people, should hereby stand and declare our commitment for nurturing a dynamic foreign community in which the mosaic of bright colors and cultures form into a truly beautiful and harmonious landscape of Tsukuba.

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