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The East Asian Conference

Held in Tokyo, Japan, May 2 to 5, 1997

We had the RC Pre-World-Conference Conference for East Asia in Tokyo, Japan, on May 2 to 5. Seventy RC leaders came-seven from China, six from the Philippines, six from the United States, and fifty-one from Japan (from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south). Tim Jackins and Diane Balser were the leaders of the conference.

I organized teams of people to work with me, since the conference involved so much work. Because we had delegates from China and the Philippines this time, we had to think ahead about getting visas for all of them. I never imagined how hard and complicated it was for other Asian people to get visas to come to Japan. It is clearly an oppression of other Asian people because USers and others from the Western countries never need visas to travel in Japan-only other Asian people need visas. It was such a relief when we were finally able to get everybody's visas except one. The people from the Philippines got visas just one day before they left their country.

It was beautiful and moving to see so many people from other Asian countries gathered in one room that first night. The International Liberation Reference Persons for Asian heritages also joined the conference-Francie Chew for Chinese-heritage people, Teresa Enrico for Filipino/a-heritage people, and Jan Yoshiwara for Japanese-heritage people. Dan Kwong, Regional Reference Person for Los Angeles, USA was there as a man of Japanese and Chinese heritage. We were a beautiful mixture of people living in Asia and outside of Asia.

THE OVERVIEW

We all had a variety of experience in RC. The Chinese and Japanese RC Communities have a similar RC history of about ten years, and the Community in the Philippines just started last March when Teresa and I led the first RC fundamentals class there. For almost all of us, the conference itself was a new experience, so it took a while for us to figure out what it was for and the difference between the conference and a workshop.

We worked very hard for the full four days, from early morning fundamentals classes for the new leaders, to a variety of support groups and sessions, all the way through to nighttime sessions, support groups, and gatherings. The safe environment provided us with deep discharge, but at first there were many headaches and staying in bed feeling 'sick.'

The goals for the conference were as follows:

1. Becoming a Public Organization

For the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities to become bolder and to become more visible as an organization. To do this we can use the strengths we have already developed:

  • We have become much clearer in our theory.
  • Our own re-emergence has given us confidence.
  • Our leaders at many levels have built up large stores of experience.
  • Although we have had very little publicity, we are held in far-reaching respect.

 2. Continual Growth

To recognize the principle that for a Community to function well, it must be growing continually. To establish that principle as a basic indication of how healthy our Communities are.

3. Differences of Opinion

To clarify our respect for differences of opinion, whatever the differences are based on. This does not mean we should tolerate attacks. Nor does it mean we should put up with oppressive practices, addictions, and timidities that are 'concealed' or 'traditional.'

4. Integrity and Courage

To clarify that we cannot do without integrity and courage and to take decisive steps in reclaiming them and maintaining them.

To clarify the rational relationship between maintaining unity and taking bold initiatives.

5. RC Literature

To completely transform the way RC literature is prepared, circulated, financed, and translated on a world-wide scale.

Tim started the conference by talking about individuals taking responsibility for their own re-emergence. It turned out to be a really good way to start.

On the second day, Diane talked about the RC Guidelines. It was good for us to be able to look at them directly for the first time. It was a little difficult for many leaders from Japan and the Philippines since the Guidelines have not been translated into our languages yet. It was clear that we needed to translate the Guidelines as soon as possible, which fits in with the fifth goal for this conference.

I saw a lot of deep discharge, and very active support groups were going on throughout the conference. Support groups were a mixture of different nationalities, which provided us a picture of all of us being Asians. For most of us, it was the first time to be among different Asian nationalities. Translations were done mainly from English to Japanese, but sometimes also to Chinese. It was good to hear different languages and listen to each other's stories.

On the third day, Tim talked about integrity and courage and Diane went over the theory about handling attacks and gossiping. These topics, in particular, were very interesting and brought a lot of discharge.

We also had two panels, one of Chinese and one of Filipinos. The questions asked were: (1) What is good about being Chinese? What is good about being Filipino? (2) What is hard about being Chinese? What is hard about being Filipino? (3) What would you like other people to know about your people? Melanie, the new pioneer leader from the Philippines, showed great strength. The Filipino panel sang a beautiful and powerful song. The Chinese talked about some difficult situations in their country and the struggles to build their Community. For most of the Japanese, to directly listen to Chinese people and Filipino people was a precious experience. Many of the Japanese mentioned that as a highlight.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE JAPANESE?

As Japanese, we carry a lot of guilt feelings about having been the oppressor in the past to other Asian countries. We heard from the Filipino panel that over six hundred thousand people were killed by the Japanese soldiers who invaded the Philippines. We also know that millions and millions of Chinese people were killed by our fathers and grandfathers during the last war. Having the people from China and the Philippines at the conference and being close with them was very restimulating for many Japanese RCers. Francie and Teresa were assisting these groups so well that both of the groups stood up and were visible among the majority of Japanese. I think it was an epoch-making event for us to gather in one place to work on being Asian. I think that for the first time the Japanese RCers, who live in such a homogeneous country, were able to think about their own identity as Japanese.

HEARING STORIES OF ASIANS LIVING OUTSIDE OF ASIA

Also epoch-making was that we had Japanese-heritage leaders from the United States joining in this conference. We had a support group every morning to work on our internalized oppression as Japanese, through listening to Asians living outside of Asia. We found out that information about the oppression of Japanese in the United States had not been well shared among us in Japan. We in Japan simply do not know how hard the oppression is in the United States.

We had a gathering one night about liberation issues and were able to hear personal stories from the International Liberation Reference People-Francie, Jan, and Teresa-and Dan Kwong. Most of the information was new for most of the Japanese. I think hearing their personal stories made us think of Asian liberation as an international project. We realized there were so many things we did not know about Asians, even though we live in Asia. Having these perspectives pushed us to think that Asian liberation needs to happen at both ends, from Asians living in Asia and Asians living outside of Asia.

SELF-ESTIMATION OF TWO LEADERS

On the fourth day we had self-estimation by two outstanding leaders, Li Mei Ge and Yuho Asaka. There were many, many appreciations voiced about both of them, and this was moving to hear since it was plain we loved both of them so deeply. I could not keep from crying hearing Yuho speak about how much she loved Mei Ge and about the mutual love and trust between them. Many delegates later mentioned this as one of their highlights of the conference. I think Li Mei Ge and Yuho have built very good Communities, which all of us can be very proud of.

LOOKING AT THE GOALS OF THE CONFERENCE

We had one evening to discuss in topic groups the three goals of the conference. The three goals were: (1) going public, (2) Community growth, and (3) RC literature and translation. (I shall report here only about the Japanese RC Community.)

(1) In Japan, Yuho has been an excellent model of going public about RC. She started RC very publicly from the beginning, so as a Community we have been doing this in many different areas already. Many of the leaders have applied RC in their work, giving talks about RC and using the theory in the community and schools.

(2) The RC Community in Japan has spread out without much use of the Guidelines, yet we developed very clear guidelines among ourselves, which are working fine. Also, our Community has thought well about money. We were able to establish our own Asian Outreach Fund. (It was used in building the RC Community in the Philippines and also in assisting delegates to attend this conference from China and the Philippines.)

(3) We need to develop a team of translators in Japan. The next goal in Japan is to create a group to think about translation.

THE UNIQUENESS OF THE JAPANESE COMMUNITY

Having RCers from other countries present made us aware of our uniqueness as a Japanese Community.

First of all, we have developed inclusion work in our Community. Around ten percent of the RCers in Japan are persons with disabilities. At fundamentals classes and workshops, people with disabilities are always at the center. We have good teams of allies thinking with disabled leaders about this inclusion work.

Second, we have good leadership of young adults, and now they are assisting young people's liberation very well. At the conference I could see that the people with disabilities and the young adults were always at the front.

CHALLENGES WE ARE FACING IN OUR COMMUNITY

Denial of reality

As Diane mentioned in the workshop prior to the conference, the Japanese culture has an appearance of being benign, partly because the Japanese are not used to showing any aggressiveness openly. This also means that people are still very tolerant of distress patterns and are not yet good at challenging each other enough. There are still many people who think of the RC Community only as a place wherethey can cry safely and feel comfortable. At the workshop on eliminating sexism, Diane spoke at length about 'denial' of the oppressions in Japan. There still is a great deal of pretense, inside and outside of the RC Community, that no oppressions exist. Japan has developed very rapidly in the past fifty years and has been successful at hiding the economically oppressed groups from notice. Over ninety percent of the Japanese people think they are 'middle class,' which is a false impression. 'Japan is an affluent society' is a favorite statement used by the government, and the people tend to believe in that. This pretense diverts our attention away from the reality, away from the real oppressions which exist in our society. Therefore, we must struggle to challenge the oppressive behaviors, even within the RC Community.

Internalized racism

Second, there is our internalized racism as Asians. Having six U.S. leaders at this conference revealed our deep-rooted internalized oppression about being Asians. We in Japan are aware of being the oppressors to other kinds of Asians and carry a lot of guilt towards them. However, we have a hard time noticing how much we admire and believe in Western 'democracy.' We were forced to believe that the Japanese imperialism was 'bad' and the Western democracy was 'good.' So we don't question our attitudes towards the Western countries, especially towards the United States. I was taking Diane around downtown Tokyo one day, and it was so interesting to notice that the 'fancy' areas in Tokyo look exactly like those in the United States. Our internalized racism is so deep-rooted that we don't usually notice this. We don't question our belief in the West. 'Even RC came from the West,' and we invite one leader, either from the United States or from England, to lead a workshop every year. We just take it for granted. This internalized oppression needs to be brought up to the surface of our consciousness. I learned how important it is to look at our internalized racism before looking at our being the oppressor to other Asian countries. We would never have agreed to become the oppressor unless we had first been oppressed ourselves.

The pre-conference conference was a real success in terms of us Asians getting together in one place and thinking about this world-wide project together. We were able to see ourselves as Asians on a global scale. It was also a gift to have Diane Balser, a Jewish leader, and Tim Jackins, a white male leader, as allies for our liberation. They kept pushing us and made us realize that we never need to be invisible in this project.

For me, personally, it was a wonderful opportunity to be able to organize the conference and work closely with Diane for ten days, both at the workshop and the conference. She constantly challenged me about being a 'good' Japanese woman and encouraged me to speak up for myself. At the same time, I learned a great deal about Jewish oppression. She was good at pushing me and the other leaders to think about our internalized racism as Japanese. I never knew that Jewish people and Japanese Americans in the United States are oppressed in a similar way.

I would also like to thank the other two organizers: Tsugumi Fujita, an Area Reference Person of Northeast Tokyo, took care of all the participants in Japan, and Hidetoshi Mizoguchi handled visa problems brilliantly. Both of them helped me think well about the conference.

Shiom Morita
Tokyo,
Japan


Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00