Sam: You know I’m just a frontline leader, small potato. From what I hear and see, there is not much you can do. No solution in sight, with the top leaders tightening their hold on power. The recent exercise of requiring leaders to sign a pledge, stating that they will never go against the General Director, is one last push to cleanse the organization of dissenters. It’s totally unnecessary and never heard of before.Alan: A lot of stuff you never heard of, Sam. Get used to it.
Sam: And it’s working brilliantly. It has the intended effect when you ask people to sign on the dotted line. Quite intimidating for some. Those who refused were immediately notified that they are no longer leaders. I know a few didn’t sign, some for personal reason others just didn’t like it. What’s your take in all this?
Alan: You know I am a big fan of Jin Yong for a long time. The beautiful language can bring the actions and characters into real life. A genius. A true giant of the chinese literary world. And I can only say that places where there is Chinese around, there will be trouble for Soka Gakkai. Look at Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia. These countries Soka organisations are all embroiled in one scandal after another. Maybe it’s a Chinese problem. Or a Chinese-Japanese problem.
Sam: C’mon, can you be more serious? What nonsense are you talking about? I’m in no mood for fairy tales.
Alan: Thousand apologies, my good friend. Please bear with me a little longer. I’ll get to the point. Something struck me while I was reading recently. You see, Dr M resurrected his Look East policy and urged young Malaysians to emulate the hardworking, responsible and ethical Japanese.
But Mr Ikeda has a different viewpoint. As usual, he was harsh on his countrymen. He said, there is a weakness with the Japanese; friendship. Friendship, a relationship build on equal footing is rather foreign to this little island country. They have a vertical, superior-subordinate relationship. The dominant theme in their literature classics is loyalty. Even if the master is a tyrant, abusive, unjust, you just suck it up. That’s a strongly embedded Japanese culture. The core of Bushido, the way of the Japanese warrior, is loyalty.
This is the first reason why it is difficult to cultivate true bonds of friendship with equal footing relationship among Japanese.
Sam: Loyalty and friendship are difficult to co-exist. 忠谊两难存.
Alan: The Chinese are a little different. The concept of friendship is strong and much favoured in the classics of the Chinese, including the work of Jin Yong and the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. In the Tales of the Eagle Shooting Heroes, the protagonist Guo Jing, became sworn brothers, an-da, with the son of Temujin [later Genghis Khan] when he was a little boy. Later, he become sworn brothers with Chao Batong and even his nemesis, Yang Kang. The swearing ceremony include these words, ‘Though we were not born on the same day of the same month of the same year, but we desire to die on the same day of the same month of the same year.’ [This is adopted by the triads in Hong Kong today]. That brothers will stick together through good and bad times. If necessary, even sacrifice oneself for the sake of others.
In the Analects of Confucius is a passage,
‘To see what is right and not do it is cowardly.’ In other words, if you know what is the most righteous and correct course of action, you must take that action, even if it means laying down your life in battle or sacrificing it for the sake of another. [Compassionate Light in Asia – p.61].
Are you following?
Sam: I guess. You just continue, I will ask later.
Alan: There is another obstacles in cultivating strong friendship among the Japanese, according to Mr Ikeda besides the vertical relationshoip society. It is the lack of a strong sense of identity among the people. He said,
When people do not have a firm sense of their identity as an individual and as human beings, they simply follow the crowd in all their actions. They have no concept of actively participating in the rough-and-tumble world of individuals interacting with other individuals. They lack a readiness to engage in a shared pursuit of character development and self-improvement, which, at times, may involve sharp interchanges and a thorough airing of opinions.
Conversely, there is a dominant tendency to avoid any kind of behavior that makes one stand out or appear too bold, and so they try to obstruct and interfere with the efforts of a person who excel above others. Frankly speaking, they gloss over problems in relationships for the sake of appearances and would rather avoid the clash of individuals striving for greater understanding and self-improvement.
Compassionate Light in Asia – p.64
Sam: What does that has to do with the problem we are facing in SGM?
Alan: Well, SGM take orders for Japan, right? So, they are not likely going to listen to the grievances or allegations of misconduct and arrogance from the lower rank leaders here.
Sam: You just suck it up.
Alan: Abuse of power by the superior is tolerable, even accepted in the Japanese culture, despite repeated reminders by Mr Ikeda that we are all equal, that culture is not easily changed. Tell me, despite the huge crisis of Johor that resulted in the resignations of over 300 leaders in Johor, has the South Asia Chief, Usihoda, ever step foot on Malaysia?
The bigger obstacle I see is the second reason. Not just Japanese, but Malaysians too, SGM members in particular. We have a very weak sense of identity. We adore foreigners. From cars, to mobile phones, to kitchen utensils, wine, clothing, handbags, and even stationery, to education, foreign is better. Imported goods always fetch a higher price, regardless of quality.
When SGM was desperate in achieving its target of 20,000 POH, and wanted to include kids, they got Mr Ouchi, a Japanese, to declare that, yes, we can add in junior division members too. SGM members just accepted it without question because it came from a foreigner. Somehow, it has more legitimacy.
And there we started child conversion without even realizing it. And soon, babies as old as two months old were also included to get that 20,000. Instead of dipping babies into water for baptizing, SGM simply put the baby’s name in form 18. By hook or by crook, SGM just need to declare victory and have something to shout about.
Sam: So you saying we shouldn’t trust Japanese? You trying to put down SGI leaders and undermine foreigners in general?
Alan: No, that wasn’t my point. My point is that we should listen and judge each and every thing that we heard, regardless of whether it is from a Japanese SGI leader or a local Teochew Chinaman, or even a Malay man with a songkok, with the same rigour and standard. If it’s crap, it’s still crap no matter who says it.
Sam: Okay. You digress.
Alan: Yup, sorry. Coming back to sense of identity. So, when I tried to get my friends and other leaders to discuss, understand more and compare notes, they do not want to engage me. Some avoided me by giving me various excuses and not returning my messages. This group belongs to those who want to keep up with appearances and avoid clashes. Too afraid to thoroughly air their opinions and the sharp interchanges.
Others just slam me right in the face, taking the high moral ground and accused me of being arrogant and being smarter than GD himself. Some simply tell me to see GD and ask him myself. They do not want to engage.
I did manage to get a few people to discuss this issue in depth, learning different perspectives and checking my own biases, putting them under the microscope. I never failed to come away wiser from such exchanges. But sad to say, these independent thinkers were sidelined or got chopped later. Looks like the organization only want people to obey and to follow, not question.
Sam: Aiya… why take such a long explanation? Many of our members are immature. They cannot discuss sensitive issue thoroughly and objectively. They lack the courage to listen to others with different views, afraid they may discover that they have were wrong. Right?
Alan: You nail it, brother! Your conclusion is brilliant, and even make me sound stupid.
Sam: No worry, Alan. You know Guo Jing (Eagles shotting heroes) also pretty dim-witted, yet he gets all the pretty girls and learned Kungfu from various top sifu.