Monday, 1 February 2010

Sorry, but foreigners bloody well should vote in Japan, so there

Christ on a bike. Another day, another post (even the normally sane Mutant Frog boys were siding with the bone-heads the other day) by a foreign resident arguing AGAINST giving foreign residents the right to vote in Japan. What is wrong with you people (not the Japanese, the foreigners here)? Are you trying to be all reasonable - hey look at me I'm a foreigner but I like to think of myself as a second class citizen, because I, like, CHOSE to live here. Give Our Man a break.

Go ahead and read the two articles to why having the right to vote in local elections will lead to the space-time continuum imploding, Our Man can't face trying to rehash the arguments for him to knock them down. Let him get straight to the point.

Our Man lives here. He works here. He pays all his taxes here. He drives on the roads here. He shops here. His kids go to the schools here. He eats here. He drinks here. He buys shit here. His family is here. His friends are here. He sprinkles salt water on the genkan here. You get the point? His life is here. But his vote is 10,000km away.

Yeah yeah yeah yeah his papers say he ain't from round here, and he wants to keep it that way. So what, Kommandant?

Our Man seems to recall a certain similar argument from folk in Boston a while ago, what was their slogan again? Oh yeah:

No taxation without representation.

Look, Our Man doesn't particularly want to man the barricades on this one, it's just come on you blogerati, get some radical fire in your belly before you die of worthy-but-dull-I-sucked-up-all-my-life-because-I-could-itis.

Pic of miffed gaijin tossing green tea into Abiko Harbour lifted from here.


SOMA said...

here here! That was the first thought that popped into my mind, given a fair amount of Americans have been criticising it!

I think the big problem (speaking generally and not about MTF specifically) is that people are assuming that Japan is going to commit some calamitous act against international citizenship conventions. But this fails to recognise that conceptualisations of citizenship are different country to country - some it is tied up intimately with voting, others with legal protections, others simply the right to have a nice branded passport and your embassy help you out in an earthquake or if you commit a crime overseas. It smacks of people trying to impose their own ideals on to the Japanese debate.

I say let the Japanese decide with our silence- I support it because it would benefit me, not necessarily because it is "the right thing to do", but if they after a national discussion or protest or whatever decide it is not where they want to go, then so be it.

That aside, I can't get past the practical issue that it is bloody well harder to get PR in Japan than it is citizenship in many countries, like mine.

Janne Morén said...

I've avoided writing about this, mainly because I just can't get worked up about it.

Whether foreign residents should have a local vote or not really is something on which conscientious, well-informed people can reasonably disagree. There's good, solid, relevant arguments both for and against. The people who have a say should make an informed decision on it, and whichever way it goes is fine with me.

One reason I'm blasé is that we have local suffrage for foreign residents in Sweden. Few of them ever bother to vote, and fewer still get engaged in the political process itself. The practical consequences for everybody is fairly close to zero.

A major reason for this apathy is of course that it mirrors the apathy of the native residents, who usually only vote in local elections because they're held at the same time as the national ones. City council elections normally have all the drama and tension of a wet sponge; things like garbage collection fees and awarding the contract for senior citizen ready-meal delivery are not unimportant of course, but it's not something that makes people get engaged in the process. Even less so, of course, since local councils are usually all about "give and take"-style deals across parties, so you don't even know what policies you're really voting for in the end. If you are concerned about a specific question you have much more impact petitioning the council directly.

SOMA: I don't think the Japanese permanent residency is out of line to other places. I know Sweden has had similar requirements; 8 years uninterrupted residency, substantial connections to Sweden, no criminal record, that sort of thing.

sigma1 said...

Janne - you are probably quite right. Us in the colonial countries are generally more open (most of us being "recent" immigrants ourselves) to immigration not because we are more enlightened (clearly) but just because we 'need' it more. To me its seems harsh, anyway. But as we both seem to agree on, not for us to decide/pontificate about (too much).

Anonymous said...

Sorry folks, you are all way off the mark!
Soma, you're being relativistic and ignoring that we are taxed but we don't have any say in how that money is (mis)used.
Herr Moren, whether people get involved in the process or not is beside the point.
Point to Ou Rmanina Biko.

sigma1 said...

Hey, I think NTWR is a good principle. Just so few of our countries actually used that as the basis to give us the vote - all that hand wringing over philosophical issues of governance, religion and whether kings/emperors were really god etc etc. But for making the fatal mistake of sounding like a pamo lame-o Ill respectfully concede the point :-)

sigma1 said...

Sorry, PoMo not Pamo - not sure what that is.

Alex Luta said...

Living in Finland, right next to Mr Morén's old stomping grounds, where i enjoy the right to vote locally, and moving to Japan in less than two months, i have to join hands with Our Man and say "Hell Yeah" - i'll put my two hands together and heartily stomp my feet for voting rights. NTWR FTW.

datsun k said...

the only problem can be when there's noone to vote for.

D said...

Well, Our Man, I see you've gotten over that state of calm you were in a few days ago which was hampering your posting.

I haven't been following this issue closely, but as I recall some of those "permanent residents" who would be able to vote in local elections if the law is changed include those of Korean descent who have lived in Japan for generations. I assume few are opposing this---although we know what ass-u-me means.

Anyway, glad you got worked up and posted this. I tend to agree with you, but I haven't yet researched all of the opposing arguments as to why it would be bad for the country in which I live and most likely will continue to live.

Our Man in Abiko said...

Thank ye all for the comments, all of which, even from DK, were smarter than Our Man could come up with.

Actually, OMIA is quite happy to leave it up to the Japanese to decide how they want to run the place, and it was one of their ideas to extend suffrage to the (mostly Korean) foreign residents here.

The only thing that riled Our Man was having to read yet another blog post siding with the nationalists written by an American. Aren't we foreign ex-pats above the tedious them-and-us of the anti-immigrant haters?

Guess not.

Or Maybe it's just the folk that fought hard to get their Japanese citizenship don't want some Johnny-come-latelies getting the same rights without even trying.

Anyway, glad to have hit a nerve.

Durf said...

It should be possible to argue dispassionately that the vote is something belonging properly to citizens without getting painted as "siding with the nationalists." It isn't as though the American blogger(s) in question are in league with Hiranuma Takeo across the board, including when he hisses at the notion that a filthy blue-eye might screw an imperial princess or sneers at Renho or whatever.

Janne Morén said...

"No taxation without representation"

In the name of consistency I should thus lose my right to vote in Sweden since I'm not paying taxes there anymore.

And of course, anybody on the dole, or retired, or still a student would not have a vote either, not being taxpayers and all.

Grant local voting rights to residents, on the basis that we're, well residents. Or regard voting as the pinnacle of civic right that comes only with being a full adult citizen. Either view is reasonable. Neither view endorses any kind of extremism.

Our Man in Abiko said...

Our Man is not suggesting the good bloggers are some kind of Nazis or anything. The arguments that we should have unequal rights because we aren't proper ("national") citizens are of course all very proper reasonable and unextreme to the extreme.

It's just Our Man has a hard time squaring what his nationality is. British? Culturally. American? On paper. Japanese? Well, kinda. Whatever happened to globalisation anyways. The corporations bought into it, why can't we individuals?

Nationality is just a word, albeit an important one, on Our Man's passport. Why should his rights be tied to that?

Just a thought, even a half-baked one at that.