All of us believe things that are just plain wrong. We don’t know it either, that’s why we still believe them. That is also why debate is important, because it’s the process of revealing and correcting these mental inefficiencies. In American culture debate is prevalent. We argue constantly. In the classroom we are allowed to contradict our teachers in search of the best answer. In Japan this is not the case. It’s not impossible, but it’s not nearly as easy to disagree with someone who ranks higher than you on the social spectrum. In my experience it really depends on the topic. If it’s a matter of fact, like money, then discussion is easily allowed. If it’s a more tenuous topic, like race relations, then discussion isn’t really plausible in public.
The logical conclusion here is that Japanese people generally hold misguided opinions, but it’s obviously not as simple as that. I don’t know enough about the discussions that go on in and around Japan to make such a statement. Still, I think the nation really needs to embrace more discussions about these difficult topics. [i]
We should not be afraid or ashamed of our tendency to argue in the United States. A good intellectual argument is one of the most enjoyable permissions of American culture. We just need to learn how to argue better, to keep these disagreements from turning stupid and circular, or worse: into violence. That’s where our educational system excels. We don’t do well on tests, compared to other countries of our economic stature, but we really know how to argue. However, we simply don’t put enough energy and money into refining the bureaucracy of the system. So our arguments, among other things, go unrefined.
[i] The internet might be a good place for this because it affords a good amount of anonymity for people to offer their opinions without ridicule or consequence. As we all know however, that same anonymity usually makes it impossible to have an intelligent argument. It’s kind of like that Monty python sketch.