Dean Irvine’s February 9, 2015 updated CNN.com article, titled “Japan’s hidden people: Ainu try to keep ancient traditions alive,” reveals additional evidence of the ongoing global problem of bigoted prejudices projected towards human beings who differ in ethnic, racial, sexual, religious, socionomic, economic, genealogical, or even geographical origin(s). In a world where the gap within polycultural differences should be closing because of increased technology and the ability to communicate across the globe within a matter of seconds, it appears that no matter how “educated” main-stream society becomes, the tendency to pass judgment on others based on individual perceptions clouds the truth to reality. Seow Ting Lee’s (2011) article further explains this concept by identifying “conceptualization of tacit” knowledge (knowledge that is highly personalized and circumstantial) “vs. explicit knowledge” (knowledge that is reliant on the straightforwardness of classification and relocation) as the “nature of ethical characteristics” and is “grounded in individual actions or experiences” (p. 96).
Ainu is a relatively unknown indigenous society consisting of a population of approximately 24,000 and have settlements in Hokkaido, Japan’s northern island of Honshu, as well as the island of Sakhalin, which is located off of Russia’s eastern coast. The Ainu Museum and cultural village, which was created in Hokkaido, Japan, is an outdoor museum with thatched houses and botanical as a way to protect Ainu traditions. Perhaps the best way to understand Ainu culture would be to compare their rituals to those of Pagan religions. According to Irvine’s article (2015), Ainu from centuries ago engaged in animistic beliefs as well as fire worship. Documentation shows that there are only ten individuals who speak the critically endangered Ainu language.
To further exacerbate the divide between mainstream Japan and indigenous Ainu society, Japan’s government did not “formally recognize” Ainu’s culture and language till 2008, almost a hundred years after the incorporation of westernized influences with mainstream Japanese ethos (Irvine, 2015). Consistent with other indigenous societies around the globe, Ainu are not immune to the segregation and prejudices that their mainstream counter-parts subject them to. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why modern day Ainu citizens are ashamed to reveal their cultural origin to outsiders, which feeds the lack of young Ainu’s desire to learn the language. According to Beck (2000), the resistance to change from both mainstream and indigenous societies is a result of assuming that each respective society is deliberately imposing their economic, social, and political ethos onto the other (p. 38). Because of this economic and political influx, twice as many Ainu compared to the rest of the Japanese population are on welfare and do not have the education or resources to upgrade their living conditions. Similar living conditions can be seen throughout the globe as with the American Indians, and the Aboriginal Canadians and Australians, to name a few.
An additional component to the global discord of mainstream and indigenous societies is the accelerated rise of technology and super intelligence infiltrating the employment sector, thus creating a high influx in unemployment and educational opportunities. In a recent interview, Bill Gates noted that if technology continues to advance at such accelerated rates, as with the use of super intelligence, not only will indigenous cultures meet a fate of extinction, so will the entire human race if left to its own devices. Should this fate come to fruition, because of the determination of unchanged attitudes brought on by mainstream and indigenous cultures, non-conformities brought on by economic, political, and social influx could inevitably collapse. Clearly, globalization influences have prompted Japan’s mainstream population to view Ainu culture as an anachronistic.
Trail-blazers such as Nelson Mandela, who found a way to merge two opposing cultures in South Africa, and Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, who advocate for “biological and IT breakthroughs” to better serve the underprivileged, sought solutions to mending this global situation; whereby one unified a country and the other found a way to bring education and technology to the home and office. Some additional solutions may include the education of traditional and mainstream societies (in order to bring an understanding of all cultures); a world-wide tolerance and acceptance of different societies that include a transcendence as opposed to the trespassing of geographic, cultural, and political boundaries. Perhaps a global dialogue is needed to broaden the understanding and acceptance of all cultures without undue force and negative implications.
What are your thoughts?
I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence. First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned. – Bill Gates (2015)