The JET alumni have been getting a little louder lately, with Japan talking about finally revising the 23-year-old boondoggle. As you may know, JET stands for Japan Exchange Teachers, which is a program that was greatly expanded during the Trade Wars era of the Reagan Administration and the Government of Nakasone Yasuhiro.
The Japan Times has a piece up, “Former JETs defend program“, and their main points seem to be two:
1) Emphasize the “E” of exchange, rather than the “T” of teach. They feel they are being exchanged into Japan, and paid money, not to teach, but to exchange certain cultural aspects that apparently Japan can’t get from all the other regular doofuses out there from foreign countries. Maybe the pitch should be, “Not just gaijin, JET-TO gaijin.”
2) Emphasize that fact that out of the alumnus pool, a certain number end up in cushy jobs with the U.S. state department, influencing the bilateral politics of Japan and America. (What this really means is that they push for whatever the expats attached to big corporations and/or the military want, vis-a-vis Japan. This has nothing to do with finding out what the expat citizenry are concerned about and pushing for it. Particularly, nothing about what civil rights activists Japan-side, or those various gaijin unions want.)
As I have been saying, JET is a honey pot. Additionally, now, JET is being painted as some sort of unchangeable institution within Japan. That’s dangerous, because by the same token, people in America are trying to tell Japan that they need to change other things, like child custody laws and their outreach to Asia. So which is it? Don’t review things that haven’t changed? Or review them? Or just review the ones that connected people want?
[More in a bit.]
They are saying that the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo alone has 25 ex-JETs. What does that tell you about your chances of working for the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo? What does that tell you about how the U.S. State Department selects the people who work in the Embassy—who then influence U.S.-Japan policy?
They let the Japanese decide who the Americans are who will decide what America gets from Japan! Oh my!
You would think that, with the Teabagger House having some influence in 2011, that someone would be looking into how the JET Programme influences U.S.-Japan decision making. There is the military level, where I think the military has its rightful say. But then, there is the political level, where I think the Japanese government eats America’s lunch and then makes America pay the bill.
Let’s go down the list. What use has the Tokyo Embassy been?
1) Child abductions in international divorce disputes: finally getting their ass in gear, ever since Chris Savoie made a big stink about it with Representative Chris Smith and Congress. There were others making noise on the issue, but the one Chris screamed to the other Chris, and now you have John Roos in there on this one.
2) Treaty violations surrounding U.S.-Japan social security totalization. Nothing. Nothing. And now look: it’s no problem for the JETs. They get the 3.6 million a year PLUS paid shakai hoken. It’s no problem for them, and so it should be no problem for YOU. Once they’re on State Department payroll, now they’re sucking Uncle Sam’s tit and covered by social security.
(I know Uncle Sam doesn’t have tits, but you get my point.)
3) Labor and contract issues. Again, from a JET perspective, no problem, right? They had their contracts honored by the Japanese in the JET Program, so, obviously, that’s how things work in Japan!
4) The image that Japan presents in Asia about America. I guess all that stuff coming out of Tamogami Toshio’s, Fukushima Mizuho’s and Ozawa’s mouths is the direct result of our great bilateral relations. Now, what I want to know is, did the Embassy lodge a protest or did they throw in an additional free one while those characters were embarrassing us in the news.
5) Civil rights issues. Denying people equal protection of the law by asserting that a treatment is the same as what you’d get in your home country; or, that you’re “lucky to be there”; or, by referring to where the land for your country came from; or how Japanese were treated in the 19th century is not my idea of how you should be treated in a country that you have these strong military and trading ties with. And they all seem like the kind of insinuations that would be let run wild when your consulate is filled with people who the Japanese took nice care of at the start of their working careers. (Work, ehem, rather “exchange duties”.)
The problem with clubby corruption is that few in the club seem to realize that others see the clubby corruption.