Those of you who have read my prior blogs know I travel. While doing so, I spend time and work in diverse cultural regions of the world. One of the most recent engagements took me to Japan, where the world-renowned Kyoto University kindly invited me as a Visiting Professor. Several of my earlier blogs were dedicated to this enlightening and thoroughly gratifying experience. Therefore, the topic of this reflection is not devoted to the experience of Japan but rather to returning from it to the “New World”.
Japanese people, in general, are rather delicate and refined in posture and behavior. They are famed for being very proper. In fact the ethical and moral codes, acquired and refined throughout ages, are extremely precious to them, to the ways they perceive themselves or perceive each other. The importance of such proprieties has shaped their society. While generalizing can be risky and unfair, for the sake of an argument I am about to make, I shall resort to doing so, for my goal is not to insult anyone, but instead to trigger personal reflections in those who are open-minded, or open to reflecting.
Their rules project them as polite, refined, well “designed” and groomed race of people. There are other factors that additionally contribute to this. Their diet is composed of fresh and usually chemically less treated foods. Since the way they are perceived is so critical, they take care of themselves, insuring that they look as well as they can. In Kyoto, many people, of all ages, bike everywhere. It is startling to see old ladies, even over 80, calmly pedaling along the streets. They also ride scooters and motorized bicycles. This keeps them sharp, focused and fit. You see mothers with two small children, one in a front and one in the back seat, riding their bikes calmly and without concern for anyone’s safety. Clearly, this has become a second nature to them, defined by the ways they themselves grew up or were brought up by their biking parents. Tradition being so vital, it dictates the way they groom their next offspring. That is the way they are, it is a norm, for them.
No wonder their society is so healthy and known for longevity. A foreigner wanders what is going on in the minds of a child sitting in a front basket, zooming along through the world they are only beginning to discover? What a sense of balance their parents must poses to ride bikes with such a heavy yet previous weight in from and back. No wonder the old folks are so fit, vibrant and independent. Again, this is a generalization, yet still…
Spending time, living in and discovering a foreign country is exciting and enlightening to me. But rich life requires contrasts. Without such, we cannot appreciate diversity of our world. In my belief, life without contrasts, good and bad, is dull, restrictive and narrow in exposure, perspectives, understanding, and open mindedness. All such are crucial to cultivating tolerance and respect for contrasting ways of live, thinking, ideas and beliefs.
And so, on this particular occasion returning to the “New World” proved to be more of a sobering experience than usual. As you read on, you will realize that it actually tested and contested my own tolerance and open mindedness.
From the moment of disembarkation, all my senses were rudely awaken and shaken up. Joining an endless line of tired, wrinkled, sweaty, eager to reach final destination people, offers an ample occasion for “people watching”. Such instances shape the initial, albeit instinctive impression of the country one has landed in. In some countries I visited, where the rules hardly apply, or civility can be a rarity, one questions ones initial desire to visit such a land, one’s ability to remain positive, open-minded, eager to learn or to explore and to mingle is challenged. In fact, it takes practice. Such initial moments can be very revealing and enlightening, both in positive as well as negative ways.
Back to returning to the “New World”, one I have chosen, the one I think of as my home. Having just departed from a society that is refined to the point of seeming artificiality, I find disturbing to see so many heavy, overweight, clumsy and unattractive people. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we consume foods that are bad for us? Why do we allow manufacturers of the unhealthy products to exploit us, even willing sponsor them?
Such a sight triggers an instinctive impression suggesting that one has landed amongst people who do not respect their own bodies, who are uncaring to themselves and thus, conceivably, not are too caring towards others. Standing in a sluggishly advancing line provides many signs of the delicate and bothersome point I am hesitantly making here. But having come from a country where people are so tuned into all facets of themselves makes one realize that we do have choices, we can control what we turn ourselves into. Hence, if we don’t chose to be wise, or do not care enough, what does it say about us?
But, to spice up this blog with imaginative sprinkle, here are some intriguing alternatives. Is it possible that we are being fattened up by the well known to us, ever hungry and all greedy fast food conglomerates? Just maybe, these companies are run by alien beings implanted here by extraterrestrial races intending to, in a near future, invade the Earth?
Thus, in preparation, they are now prudently working on insuring fresh and tender meat supplies, one that does not even require refrigeration. An so, since they had to start this scheme somewhere on our planet, why not in the country known for growing the tallest, allegedly the most advanced, independent and free spirited, the best educated (at least till recent years) the most entrepreneurial and feisty of the human race? If they are able to succeed here, then they can be assured to make out even better anywhere else; so they could have reasoned to themselve. Given the numerous, mountainous, voluminous overweight specimens now wobblingly populating our “New World”, these aliens have been appallingly effective, and stunningly prosperous too. Accordingly, thus reassured by an outlandish success, they are now advancing to the next stage of their expansive scheme, applying the same process throughout the rest of the unsuspecting world.
Or is it likely that the bodies of our planet’s unaware and blissfully ignorant populace, is being secretly infused with chemical agents (supposed stabilizing preservatives) that not only make us addicted to them but are also slowly and surely deteriorate our health? Thus, sooner then it would otherwise had been necessary, these cause us to resort to extraordinarily expensive, unquestionably and artificially overprices, overinflated and obviously overprescribed medical and drug requiring help, such profiting the monstrously greedy insurance industry and drug manufacturing conglomerates?
Or maybe, we are simply been brainwashed by the ever present, ceaseless, invasive, manipulative, ferocious and ravenous advertising, bankrolling “our” whole mass media? Why you might us? Well, to make either, or both of the above proposed and seemingly over-imaginative, or even seemingly preposterous scenarios, work as successfully as they seem to, base on the current and obviously expanding overweightness epidemic.
Question is, have we by now been brainwashed to the point of no resistance or return?