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Body and Organ Donation

“If the doctor had asked for the body of my daughter, I would have said yes. I don’t want any parent to go through this. Hope they’ll soon find the real cause and treatment for it.” I couldn’t control the tears rolling down my cheeks thinking of the generosity of this mother who burried her 19yo daughter three days before my visit to her home.

Comparing food and well/ill being in 125 countries

This month, it hasn’t been easy to decide what to write as there as several interesting issues that have come my way. Should I respond to my English friends' remarks about French politics, morality and mentality? Should I share my first chess tournament experience involving nearly one hundred (only about a dozen female) players? The PISA results? How about food and health?

Goodbye 2013 Welcome 2014

Happy new year to you and your loved ones!

Like most of you, during the festive season, I spent a lot of time with my family and friends dining, playing board games and watching movies. I particularly like films which are based on facts or true stories, and in 2013 these ranged from horror (e.g. ‘The Conjuring’) to politics.

The last one I saw in 2013 was ‘The Wolf of Wall Street.’ While queuing my attention was directed at the classification notice, and I wondered why it’s not allowed for viewers under 12 years old. My husband chose this film and since I didn’t read the reviews, all I knew was that the main actor was Leonardo di Caprio (playing Jordan Belfort) and it’s about the world of finance and stock market.

After 20 minutes of the 3 hours, I thought of the under 12yo restriction. How can it be only ‘-12yo’; it should be at least ‘-18yo’. Upon returning home, I told my 18yo son that this is not worth his while -- there’s unnecessary show of drug use, sex and swearing. He looked surprised and mentioned the talent of the director. Well, to be objective, I pointed out that there are only two positive things in this movie: 1. You can start from scratch and be successful (but contrary to what Belfort’s said, I believe money does not automatically make you a better person); and 2. Crime doesn’t pay (Belfort made millions by defrauding others. In his Dad’s words “someday you’ve to mend the broken pieces”. I watched it in French so this may not be the exact phrase in the English version).

On the other hand, my 12yo and 18yo sons have watched “Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom” and I’m glad they did. At first, I was skeptical due to the scenes of violence (which really happened; e.g. police brutality and ‘Soweto uprising’ in 1976). To date, we still continue to talk about it; especially issues regarding human rights, equality and what make a ‘great person’ – discussions that have led us, so far, to exchange views on Gandhi and notable presidents.

市民の目と口をふさぎたい理由


世界がネルソン・マンデラの訃報に接した12月6日、安倍政権は特定秘密保護法案を強行採決しました。自由の闘士が亡くなった日に、日本の民主主義が踏みにじられるとは、あまりにも皮肉です。

なるほど今の法律ではできない情報隠蔽や言論弾圧の必要性が差し迫ってきた、知られるとまずいことがあるのだということが、彼らの拙速なやり方でかえって明らかになりました。

秘密は隠せば隠すほど、ハデに知れ渡る
1898年1月13日、文豪エミール・ゾラがスパイ容疑で逮捕されたドレフュスを弁護する手紙を、L'Aurore紙の一面に「J'Accuse...! 我は弾劾する!」という見出しで発表しました。フォール大統領に宛てたその手紙が世論を喚起し、冤罪事件解決への大きな一歩となりました。

Quand on enferme la vérité sous terre, elle s’y amasse, elle y prend une force telle d’explosion, que, le jour où elle éclate, elle fait tout sauter avec elle. On verra bien si l’on ne vient pas de préparer, pour plus tard, le plus retentissant des désastres.

(要約)真実を黙らせて地下にうめると、それは増幅し爆発力としての力をたくわえ、ある日、一切を爆破しふきとばす。有名な一節です。

Japan's secrecy law

"Quand on enferme la vérité sous terre, elle s’y amasse, elle y prend une force telle d’explosion, que, le jour où elle éclate, elle fait tout sauter avec elle. On verra bien si l’on ne vient pas de préparer, pour plus tard, le plus retentissant des désastres."

Émile Zola (1840-1902)

(Extrait de la lettre "J'Accuse... ! Lettre au Président de la République, M. Félix FAURE")

(When truth is buried underground, it grows and it builds up so much force that the day it explodes it blasts everything with it. We shall see whether we have been setting ourselves up for the most resounding of disasters, yet to come.)

(Excerpt of the letter "I accuse... ! Letter to the President of the Republic, M. Félix FAURE")

[Translation and notes © Shelley Temchin and Jean-Max Guieu, Georgetown University, 2001]
 
 

The hasty passage of the secrecy law has made me think that some leaders have urgent issues to desperately hide. In other words, they are afraid that the truth will hurt them soon. I can think of two of them.

特定秘密保護法案

欧州にいてもこの法案を、ずっと心配してましたよ。この法案が通れば、日本を離れる人がさらに増えると思い、じゃあヨーロッパに移住したい人たちのお手伝いをしようかと昨夜は考えたものでした。でも、簡単に日本を出れない人のほうが多いでしょう。

自民党の石破氏は、「大声を出すデモはテロと同じ」とおしゃったそうですが。ヨーロッパのデモを体験したことがないのでしょう、あの方。農民がトラクターで高速や幹線道路を完全にふさぎ、トラクターの古タイヤ(タイヤだけで人の背丈ほどある)を議会の前で燃やすのですよ。黒煙はあがり、公道はめちゃくちゃになるし、トラクターで一気に突進するから負傷者も多くでる。でも、職を失ったり税金が上がることがどういうことかみんな知っているから、互いにかばいあい、社会の機能は麻痺して、政府は大被害がでるから民意を尊重せざるを得なくなる。市民の声を聞かない代償は、高くつくのですね。

飛行機だって客を乗せてからスト、鉄道だって客を「人質」に国境あたりでいきなり動かなくなるのですよ。いつ終わるかもわからないゼネスト。日本のデモやストは、みなさんがんばってらしゃるけど、お行儀がいいなあと感じます。

。。。下につづく

応用力におとる日本人 *** 「OECD国際成人力調査」

通称・金持ちクラブ。

経済協力開発機構(OECD)加盟国が行っているPIAACやPISAなどの国順リスト調査結果は、国の威信がかかっている。政治的な責任が問われるから、不面目な恥ずかしい結果は公表しづらく、できればいちゃもんをつけてごまかしたい。逆にいい結果は、誇張したいという各国の裏事情があるようだ。

OECDに限らず国際調査結果を見ると、世界のどこにも完璧なユートピアの国はないとあらためて感じる。

日本はどうだろう。どうも関係者から聴いた情報と日本の文部科学省・報道発表内容との間に、ズレがあるように思う。

。。。下につづく

Generosity, Politics, Economy and Disasters

Like most weekends, my last Saturday was spent talking to family and friends in Australia. Our conversations focused mainly on Halyan, a category 5 typhoon that hit the Philippines badly on November 2013 causing deaths, injuries and destructions. One of these friends was still saying goodbye to her guests when I called. They had a birthday party and instead of gifts, she requested cash donation for the typhoon victims. The A$1,000 she collected will be used to buy nails, lumber and other basic construction materials for three families whose houses were destroyed. When there’s a disaster, no effort or help is insignificant.

Overall, the global community has been kind to the Halyan victims and there are reports of many Governments that pledged to send cash: e.g. the USA US$20 plus massive military rescue operations; Australia A$10M; Japan A$10M; European Union about E13M; UK £6M – just to name a few. As well, there are international, national and local NGOs; banks; companies and individuals whose generosity hasn’t made headlines. On the contrary, China – the second largest economy in the world – has attracted world’s attention due to its original pledge of $200,000 (which was increased to $2M after global criticisms – i.e. “peanuts” compared to a Swedish furniture chain’s offer of $2.7M through its charitable foundation). Meanwhile the Canadian Government matches every dollar donated by its citizens to the Halyan victims.

Is giving aid or helping others (during disaster or not) culturally- and nationally-driven?

Literature & Arts or Maths & Science?

I bumped recently into an acquaintance, who with an obvious sigh of relief on her face, announced that her high school daughter is doing Literature. We’re in France, hence I would like to talk first about the secondary schooling in this country.

Secondary education in France consists of Collège (junior high, 11 - 14 years old; 4 years of schooling) and Lycée (senior high, 15 - 18 years old; 3 years of schooling). Like in most high schools in developed countries, the core subjects in Collège are Math, Science, History, Geography, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Music, Physical Education and languages. At the Lycée students prepare for the Baccalauréat (known as ‘le bac’) which opens the door to a tertiary education or the workforce.

The Lycée is divided into general (for university studies), technology (for short-term studies) and professional (vocational qualification). During the first year at Lycée (known as Seconde), students choose a stream (série): S – Scientific, ES – Economic and Social, and L – Literature. The S is mainly high level mathematics, physics-chemistry and biology-geology. The L is heavily focused on French language & literature, foreign languages & literature and philosophy. ES covers economics and social sciences.

アメリカとのつき合いかた

米国に胸をかりた。アメリカに育ててもらった、と感謝している。

加藤周一だったと思う。はてしなく広大なアメリカでは、とてつもなく美しい頭脳と美しい心の両方を持ち合わせた人に出会う(大意)と書いていた。私の知る昔日の米国は、そうだった。

アメリカの底力、生真面目さや良さを深く知らない人は、その恐ろしさも知りえないだろう。アメリカに住んで、どうしてこんな超大国と戦争をしたのだろうと、母国の愚かさを実感した。日本ではエリートと目された人たちも、あちらではかなり稚拙に見劣りした(もちろん活躍している人も多いが)。

欧州に移住してから、第三者として日米を俯瞰するヨーロッパの視点が加わった。国際会議の場でいつも末席に座り、他国の思惑や交渉の場から孤立している日本の代表や官僚に出くわした。

Taxes, taxes, taxes

There’s no half a day when I don’t encounter newspaper articles, radio reports, TV documentaries and talks about taxes. Every tax payer I come across sounds unhappy with how much they contribute to Government services.

Late last year, in France, there was the famous (or infamous) decision of one of its film stars, Gerard Depardieu, to take a Russian citizenship for tax reason, i.e. in response to the Socialist Government’s introduction of 75% tax on earnings above 1M Euros. Paying taxes is an act of duty and solidarity, but …

When we think of taxes, we often have ‘personal income tax’ in mind; but there are many other national, regional and local taxes, such as those imposed on capital gains, land and residential properties, corporations and specific situations (e.g. inheritance and lodging taxes in France). It’s true though that we mostly pay taxes on our personal income and purchases (VAT - Value Added Tax).

There are national similarities and differences when it comes to taxes and how these are spent. In France, its citizen-residents have to pay taxes on their world-wide income; whereas non-residents must complete a return only if they receive income from letting properties in the country. Similarly, in Australia, non-residents are taxed only on their Australian-sourced income.

TPP as Star Wars’ Trade Federation!?

I find trading is like a war. When I wrote a blog on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement in Japanese a few months ago, I drew an analogy between the TPP and Star Wars’ Trade Federation. I did not mean to be funny at all. Rather, I think my analogy was not bad at all. Senator Palpatine (who seemed to be a good guy in the beginning) said:

"Supreme Chancellor, delegates of the Senate, a tragedy has occurred, which started right here with the taxation of trade routes, and has now engulfed our entire planet in the oppression of the Trade Federation!" (from Star Wars wikia)

Now I see Mr. Obama is like Senator Palpatine who is eager to conclude the TPP, “corporate power tool of the 1%.”

Remember? In his August 31 statement on Syria, President Obama said:

"I’m also mindful that I’m the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. I’ve long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Find more references here...

オリンピックとTPP。希望を歴史の中に見つける

フランス人の友人が「さちえ、オリンピックの招致おめでとう」と言ったのがきっかけで、欧州の仲間はブラック・ユーモアで日本の放射能問題を延々と笑いとばした。 日本は大地震、津波、台風、竜巻、豪雨、豪雪と災害が多いけど、一番の災害はあの人だ。もはや安倍首相の嘘は、世界中に知れ渡ることとなった。「ああいう友達がいるだけで、もう敵は他にいらない。(バカな友達を持つと、自分に大きな災いをもたらすという意味)」ヨーロッパ地方の言い伝えがある。

ヨーロッパのブラック・ユーモアは、イジメではなく徹底的に苦いニガイ風刺で、日本も欧州の問題も自らの死でさえも、トコトン笑い飛ばし辛らつに批判する。(笑い飛ばすからと言って、彼らが死を怖れないのではない)。でもあそこまでブラックに笑い飛ばすと、ともかく「後は、元気に一日一日を生きていこう」という気になるから不思議だ。

。。。下につづく

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