How politics causes depression: Senkaku/Diaoyu disputes

Untitled” by Times Asi is licensed under CC BY 2.0

No, this is not a scientific study on how politics causes depression. This is my story of how my fragile mind was sent tumbling into darkness and seclusion in late 2012.

Looking back at it now, I have always had mild symptoms of depression and anxiety but politics was what truly sent me to the darkest places I have ever been. It is vague and incorrect for me to label this as ‘politics’. When I say ‘politics’ I refer to the Sino-Japanese tensions that have existed ever since the end of World War II. I grew up in a very international community surrounded by people who had undefined national identities and that was considered a very normal thing. I consider myself Japanese – yet still Chinese because my father is such.

Living in Beijing, all I have ever experienced is the discrimination against Japanese people which I find very difficult to understand. You can feel the nationalism and propaganda that has been drilled into all these citizens being exuded(there is a massive population of S. Koreans here in Beijing and I must say they give off a toned down yet similar vibe). Chinese and South Korean citizens have a lot to be pissed off about, I would agree, yet I cannot stand what I can only perceive as blatant racism and discrimination. It is one thing to be critical of government and to be unhappy about it and it is another thing to violently attack and harass innocent Japanese nationals living in China.

During the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute in late 2012 government supported anti-Japanese demonstrations occurred all over China, with many Japanese shops and companies being rioted and looted in the name of demonstration. I can say with confidence that many Chinese citizens don’t give a hoot about the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands nor do they know very much at all about the historical dispute. For many of the poor in China it was an excuse to let off their steam in the name of anti-Japanese sentiment.

I heard too many stories of my friends, colleagues, acquaintances being harassed, discriminated, abused, attacked which made me sick to my guts. It is one thing to protest against another country’s government and another thing to witness scenes that almost reminded me of pogroms.

I can only point to examples such as Hong Kong and Taiwan where they surely must have faced similar horrendous experiences under Japanese occupation, yet I feel at ease with them and no fears that they might bash my head in while I’m asleep. In my opinion, a lot of it is about the maturity of the press and the role of the state in the brainwashing education. Watching Chinese news, they seem to use Japan almost as a scapegoat for all the domestic issues at hand. Let me reiterate that I myself accuse Japan of holding a revisionist stance of history and taking actions that quite rightly infuriates their Asian neighbours. Yet, this is no green light for the state to stir up the media and educate toddlers to an extent that I must fear for my own safety.

I despise blind nationalism as it is in China and I sympathise with many of these people that they are unable to judge me as person, and judge me by my nationality. I have been lucky to not have been educated under such nationalistic education and to have the privilege to judge people for the values they hold and the person that they are. If I can draw any conclusion from my experiences it is that we truly are products of the state. We are told different versions of history, told who we should like/dislike according to our education system and our media. It is unfortunate that the Chinese government teach hatred at such a young age to an extent many can only judge the Japanese by their nationality and not by who they are.

It was the inability to understand how people could have so much hate in their heart that drove me to depression. It was the inability to understand how such atrocities in war could be committed. It was the inability to understand why people could not treat each others like other humans. It was the general failure of humanity in my heart that drove me to such lows. I suffered from common cognitive distortions but was it so surprising that such thoughts triggered me into depression and seclusion?

I should not have to worry about thugs armed with baseball bats beating me in a local Chinese bus for being Japanese. Yet, this is exactly what a friend of mine saw only a few weeks ago.


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