NYT’s Martin Fackler says Japan’s young people’s talent is being wasted.

I couldn’t agree more with this piece, which appears in tomorrow’s edition.

[Of course, this kind of thing is going on worldwide. But it’s particularly acute in Japan, where, as I’ve written, it seems that the elite of the country really don’t care that Japan is shrinking in population and that potential employment opportunities are being frittered away to Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei and even Seoul. (Not to mention Singapore.)

It’s a sad story. The young Japanese kids are told to jump through a set of hoops, spin around, and say “hai hai hai”. (Yes, yes, yes!) If they don’t, they get branded a nonconformist and have doors shut in their faces. You can imagine that the same tactics are used on the foreigner population in Japan, too. (Today the writing is for the kids, though.)

Anyone coming of age in the 1980’s in America can remember that head-game sh*t. “Here: do this and this and this, and then you’ll get your reward.” You do this and this and this, and you end up with bupkis and beans. Or some corporate Don Pardo telling you what you’ve won as a consolation prize as you get downsized out the door. You bet barely credible promises of continued employment, that inevitably get yanked because you’re busy actually doing the job and giving 100%, and your expectations on society are supposed to be zero.

Western culture has more of a revolutionary spirit, and the religious sense that we are all God’s unique children, so I don’t think the kind of stuff that the elites routinely play against the Japanese would last in our society without some sort of turmoil. In fact, I’m surprised there isn’t more in America. But in Japan, the focus is on always on “gaman”, or quiet endurance.

(I know my Japan-side readers know this already. I am just saying it to say it.)

So where the natural reaction in America might be, “hey, we have to do something about this!”–only to be ignored anyway by power people–in Japan it’s “what are the ramifications if I don’t ‘gaman’ and put up with this ridiculous situation.”

So now, Japan has had 20 years of this. In its big-lie sort of unchanging way, the people are probably going to get handed several more years of excuses why things can’t change for the next 10 years. From Fackler’s article, it sounds like it will be whatever time it takes for the “silver democracy” generation to fully vest in their corporate pensions.

The failure of the Japanese government to provide the right kind of education, social support, and labor rules is the ultimate undoing of Japan. The clock is ticking, even though the betting money in the past has been on the people there just muddling through. I think the society has just been running these beggar-thy-neighbor risks among themselves that are going to come back and bite the country as a whole in the a**. For a people who allegedly value stability, it’s surprising that such an unstable long-term situation is tolerated.]