Using Translation to Change the World and Japan in 2019

米国翻訳専門職大学院(USA)副学長 堀田都茂樹

Tomoki Hotta
Vice Chancellor
Babel University Professional School of Translation

Reflecting on the past year, just what kind of year was 2018?

It’s no stretch to say 2018 will remain in history as a pivotal historical turning point.
That being the case, what meaning does “translational value” possess?

If you listen to news reports, you’re likely aware that the world is currently in a state of exhaustion from globalization.

Countries have been manipulated by financial capitalists represented by Wall Street, and as a result of being led to liberalize people, goods, and money, nations’ structures have been destroyed, leaving those nations in the miserable situations they find themselves in now.

Sensible Britain declared its withdrawal from the EU (Brexit) in June of last year and is now working to restore itself as a nation. You’ll likely recall that President Sarkozy of France, whose immigrant population ratio is around 15% as well, worked also to restore France during his presidency.

Apparently, in recent years, it’s become difficult for European countries to boldly assert national autonomy using the argument of, “we want to preserve how our country has been since is ancient times.”

People that blindly believe that globalism is good and thus so is the free movement of people, things, money, and information might say anyway that this desire for self-preservation is meaningless.

For example, currently Germany is becoming a country where citizens cannot boldly say that Germany is any certain type of country. Over 100,000 immigrants, mostly Islamic, pour into Germany annually. Germany has utterly become a country where citizens who speak out to protect their own country are labeled as racist. What’s more, reportedly the immigrants pouring in are becoming a hotbed for atrocious crimes.

According to Britain’s national census, less than half of London residents are Caucasian. In 22 of the 33 districts in London Caucasians have fallen to minority status.

The percentage of Christians among British citizens in the past ten years has also greatly decreased from 72% to 59%, and by 2050 that percentage is expected will fall to around 30%.

Then there’s, for example, Sweden, where it’s estimated that within the next 30 years Swedes (Swedish people of Swede descent) will fall to minority status in all major cities in Sweden.

This all shows how by becoming immigrant nations, which starts with the acceptance of foreign workers as initiated by globalists, European countries are being transformed when it comes to ethnic makeup, religion, and culture. Without openly checking first with citizens, the governments of these countries are incrementally changing their national structure in a profound way. This will result in European culture dying out and Europeans losing their irreplaceable native lands.

To summarize, the global trends following Brexit are as follows:

From Globalism to neo-nationalism (localism)
Countries are moving from losing their national borders, liberalizing interactions among people, and opening markets to limiting the unrestricted migration of refugees and seeking recovery as a nation.

From Elitism to Populism
A shift from an era driven by the elite represented by international financial capitalists to an era driven by the masses.

It’s no exaggeration to say there’s a paradigm shift happening towards neo-nationalism and populism. Trump’s motto of “America first” is in one way an example of this shift towards neo-nationalism (localism) and populism.

Globalists have pushed forward with neo-liberalist policies, open economies, deregulation, small government, and restructured the global economy based on these changes. However, those who’ve objected to such changes have helped to establish changes in 2018 to move away from such policies.

In other words, there’s a large global trend towards being independent. It’s a trend towards having independent people, societies, and countries with interdependent relationships with other independent people, societies, and countries, through which they achieve harmony. There of course will be some conflicts that arise in the process, which we should expect in this pursuit of harmony.

The circumstances of European countries are not unrelated to Japan, who’s on the verge of deciding to accept large numbers of foreign workers. We as Japanese citizens need to learn from the crisis enveloping Europe.

Japan is at an advantage geographically, and its immigrant population percentage of 1.7% is about one-tenth of the 15% immigrant population percentage in the United States, UK, France, and other European countries. Currently, although reportedly immigration inflows are contained within a certain level, the government is beginning to move to accept more immigrants to work in areas such as agriculture and nursing-home care. It’s not an overstatement to say that Japan is traveling the road to becoming a nation dependent on the US or China.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) has recently made proposals for English education policies at the elementary school level and for making universities “super” global universities. I think its time for MEXT to rethink its actions based on catering to the whims of globalists based in the US, thus switching university and graduate school instruction to English, adopting TOEFL and theses written in English for university testing, and other excessive policies.

One can say that Japan is steadily moving towards becoming an immigration state. I’ve noticed recently that store clerks at the local convenience stores are of Asian descent (not Japanese). Immigration policies are progressing in places we don’t even realize.

The aim of Japan’s acceptance of immigrants was for those from other countries to come as technical trainees to reside in Japan for five years, and then take the technological skills they learned back to their own country. However, that five years has been extended to another five years, and if trainees fulfill certain requirements, they are considered workers with professional skills and allowed to have their family members accompany them to Japan, which is basically the same as becoming immigrants to Japan. Also, I’ve heard that often times there’s a grey area when it comes to what universities and other schools that don’t have enough applicants call foreign exchange students, that eventually become immigrants to Japan. The same misgivings also hold true for nursing care and agriculture.

Of course, I don’t reject all such immigration policies, but if the government doesn’t provide clear eligibility requirements, various concessions like these will sneak their way into the system, only to be used by interested businesses and leading to the danger of gradually relaxing Japan’s immigration policies. For example, Japan should, of course, require immigrants to have professional skills and also for them to pass a certification test of Japanese proficiency, or else Japan will inevitably repeat the same failures as Europe.

As a side note, the country with the highest percentage in the world of immigrants is the UAE, where 88% of the population are immigrants. Next is French Guyane at 40%, Saudi Arabia (37%), Switzerland (30%), Australia (29%), Israel (25%), New Zealand (23%), Canada (22%), Kazakhstan (20%), followed by the US (15%), Germany (15%), Britain (13%), and Italy (10%). Japan seems to be setting itself up to rank right behind these countries.

So why then are Japan’s immigration policies covertly moving forward? One reason is the demands of those in financial circles who don’t want to increase personnel expenses and are pushing for bringing in immigrant workers to simply keep such costs down rather than make productivity improvements. It’s clear that behind those demands are the desires of global capitalists and stockholders prioritizing their own profit.

In addition, there are reserves of potential immigrants such as those from China, who see the opportunity to capitalize on the currently vulnerable Japan. China’s so-called Belt and Road Initiative symbolizes China’s push for dominance in global affairs, and one can imagine after looking at history that China is aiming to send its people into various countries to engage in a sort of ethnic cleansing.

To escape high-cost medical expenses in China, Chinese citizens begin businesses in Japan. Once three years have elapsed after they’ve earned their visa, these Chinese citizens can enter into Japan’s national health insurance program, and thus receive high-cost medical care that would be astronomically expensive in China. What’s more, reportedly there are intermediary businesses in China quite active in helping Chinese citizens escape the high-cost medical expenses in China and instead leech on Japan’s national health insurance program. What’s deplorable is that Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare hasn’t fully grasped the extent of this situation.

Looking at this situation makes one want to say to the Japanese government, “don’t you see the disastrous condition the ‘developed’ countries of Europe are in after relaxing their immigration policies?” Yet Japan nonchalantly continues to push its policies forward to increase immigrants. I’m astounded at the now defenseless Japan. What Japan – who’s lost its sense of danger as it nestles under the umbrella of the US – needs now is independence and autonomy.

It’s in such an era that we can find the meaning for the existence of translation.

People are reconsidering the translation method, where individuals mutually respect each other’s culture and based on that respect mutually interact using translation.

The doctrine of English supremacy and loud cries for companies in Japan to use English companywide is shaking the mass media scene, which is exactly what globalists and international financial capitalists want. At this rate, Japan will soon fall to the status of a second-rate country.

Namely, Japan will become like India, Malaysia, Kenya, and other former British colonies that adopted English as their second official language. Or like the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and other US occupied territories who have in a sense adopted English as their official language and become content as second-rate countries.

Looking at Singapore, which is supposedly an ideal nation, first residents have to always be learning several languages. Then there’s the economic disparity brought on by elitism and a lack of solidarity among that nation’s people. I’m sure everyone is aware of the fact that Singapore is also lacking culturally, without creating its own unique culture or art. These issues I believe are the weaknesses found in policies pushing for English.

Japan up to now has used translation as it’s shield, adhering to keeping Japanese as its official language, and not letting Japanese decline to the status of a local dialect. Japan brought in Chinese civilization in the sixth and seventh centuries, forming an eclectic style of integrating Chinese and Japanese, bringing the Chinese language into its culture, using kanji and kana characters to enhance that culture which is now the versatile translation culture of Japan.

Following the Meiji Restoration, Japan used translation to incorporate the cultures of the then civilized nations of Europe and the US, and in doing so raised the cultural level of its people to become one of the top players in the international community.

Japan modernized in the Meiji Period using translation to incorporate intellectual ideas and created an environment where all citizens could come into contact with leading knowledge in the world. During this time where, if Japan made one slip it could have lost its independence, Japan avoided talks of making English its official language and through translation achieved modernization.

I’m amazed anew by the innovative spirit of that strategy, as well as extremely grateful for the foresight shown by our predecessors.

We stand now at the entrance of a world where multiple languages and culture coexist.

I used the term neo-nationalism, but another term that could be used is multicultural symbiosis, where it can be said that the world is moving away from an era where civilizations, cultures, and values are ranked against each other.

Did you know that although those from the West used to divide civilizations into Christian, Islam, and the Orient, famous historian Arnold Toynbee re-divided those civilizations into seven different areas? He divided them as follows: Orthodox Christian (main), Russian Orthodox Christian, Islam, Hindu, Sinic, Latin American, and Japanese. Toynbee asserted that Japan is the only country that had its own unique cultural region.

Those of you that have been in contact with BUPST for some time have likely heard of the story of the Tower of Babel.

I like to assume that the true Tower of Babel story is not necessarily based on God admonishing the pride of humans. This idea is based on an interpretation in a children’s book on the Bible I found over 20 years ago in a bookstore in Australia.

The interpretation was that God wanted mankind to not stay in one place, but to spread wisdom throughout the world and thus prosper, which is why God scattered people throughout the world. Thus, mankind developed languages and cultures in their various languages and regions, and diverse languages and cultures were interwoven throughout the world to create a global culture.

It’s as if God is angry now with the privileged class globalists who are trying to create a Tower of Babel using the single language of English, and God is therefore giving people different languages and telling them to spread out throughout the world.

However, one might say it’s because of the ego of mankind that pride has existed from the first Tower of Babel, and that people cannot break free from the idea that their own culture is supreme. Thus, we forget or fail to understand that all cultures at one point were once one, and therefore cannot communicate (translate) our cultures to others.

The spirit of translation is the attempt to relativize one’s own culture, respect the cultures of others, place independent cultures at an equal distance, and attempt to equally convert those cultures into forms that can be understood by people from other cultures. In that process, we also remember that those cultures were all one in the beginning.

Having the world reclaim one language – that doesn’t mean having all people speak in one language as people did before the Tower of Babel. It means that even though people will have different languages and cultures, they will respect that autonomy of other cultures, and reclaim a “translator’s awareness,” in which they relativize and understand their own culture as their foundation.

I believe that’s what the story of the Tower of Babel is hinting at.