The idea of kaizen (Change-to-Good 改善) occurs rather naturally in Japan because people here are so anchored to the immediate, to the actual-now situation (現状 genjo):
What is happening now, that is bad?
There is an insistence on first looking at and identifying the immediate reality.
Where another culture encourages people to take a more long-term approach
“Let’s plan something as far away as the ideal, the perfect society”: Utopia
in Japan people ask
“Okay, but how does it compare with the world we live in, now?”
The kaizen idea recognizes the small place we occupy in the world and acknowledges that improvements will be achieved on a very small scale (if at all). That being said, it is this sum of small contributions, of reducing that which is bad (from the world), which brings us closer to the good.
If we set out to achieve peace on Earth, we have to ask:
What is peace? It is absence of war, which is bad; peace is good.
If we can create an environment where everybody treats everybody else like an equal dialogue partner, then that’s something good.
These are ideals, though. Let’s look at the current situation.
What is the current situation? The current situation, where? In my personal life? In your personal life? In a society?
Consider North Korea. If you’re in North Korea, what kind of dialogue could you have if you apply the concept of kaizen? What can you improve?
How can you make your society better if you’re North Korean?
Ask yourself that.
Is there something bad in North Korea, now? Yes, there is: Political prisons, torture, human rights abuses, plenty of bad things.
How do we deal with all the bad stuff? Of course, we might try to describe the ideal society that North Korea should become. I don’t know, maybe we think of South Korea as the ideal society, at least in terms of geographical proximity; American style democracy? Northern European style democracy? South American style of political organisation?
These are not important: These are OUR ideals.
What’s important is what a North Korean can do in his country. What can he do? He can look around, take a good look around and ask himself: Can I see what is bad? And how can I improve it? How can I make some small part of it good again? Well, let me give you a hint:
Start by considering others as dialogue partners, not as objects of fear.
Fear is the dominant feeling in North Korea. What is bad around you? Think about it.
But if you’re North Korean you’re not listening to this; or if you’re listening, you probably don’t understand this. Do you understand the kaizen concept? Or do you think that it’s an imperialist Japanese plot? Of course you think that it’s a plot: That’s the politically correct thing to do if you’re North Korean.
What is bad in South Korea? The island that Japan wants to claim as its territory? Or that China wants to claim as its territory?
We are talking about places over which millions of people would literally go to death over, in the 21st-century. How crazy is that?
Why do we still do this? Because we still think that it’s better to concentrate on the ideals, not on eliminating that which is bad at our level, but on re-creating from scratch an entirely new structure, an ideal form, which we never achieve.
We can never achieve perfection. The perfect good does not exist. Not in this world. There would always be something bad, but nothing will change if we are not working in the current situation, Japanese-style:
1. Look at the Current-Situation (gen-jo 現状)
2. Think what wec an do to improve it
3. Explain the method
4. Describe the results you expect
5. Implement the change
6. Compare expected results with the actual results
Did I improve anything by creating a blog in this spoken-dialogue format? Not yet.
Why do I do this? Because I’m trying to improve the dialogue.
What dialogue? The one that we have, whoever we are, wherever we are.
How about if you’re somebody in the United States? How can you improve your society? Not make it perfect, just improve it by thinking about what is bad NOW. The drone idea is bad now.
People are being killed right now and we think it is justified; people are killed by machines flying in the sky, for reasons everybody forgot: terrorism, religion… Is it?
Why is it bad? It’s bad because we are killing other people as well. Who are these people? What are these people? “Collateral damage”? These other (innocent) people are important too, but more crucially we the Americans are killing ourselves.
If we are Americans, if we think of ourselves as Americans, we are killing ourselves.
If you don’t believe me, read the testimony from any soldier, talk to any soldier that has been in Afghanistan or Iraq and you’ll realise that a significant part of them has died together with those people that he blew to pieces by pressing the rifle trigger (or a button on the joystick perhaps in Colorado).
These people have died together, even if they continue to live as shadows haunting their own families at home.
It would be a huge fight ahead for anybody who has been through this; of course, more so for the victims, but the Americans have the freedom to stop this. The Afghans? Who knows? What kind of freedom do you have if you are in Afghanistan?
How can you improve things if you’re in Afghanistan? In Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq and everywhere else where things are flying in the sky and blasting your world apart because a mad man walks nearby.
How can we (anywhere) improve things? Well, first of all, how about treating each other as equal dialogue partners? Sounds naïve, right? Sounds idealistic. Yes, but let’s talk first about what is good, and when we come up with a pretty good definition of what is good in our understanding
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
let’s put it out to a vote. Let’s vote in both places: in the US and in Afghanistan, for example.
Should the bombing stop? Let’s vote on this. Are we voting already? Are the Americans still voting to bomb? Did anybody ask them? Or is it Congress only? Could we have a referendum not only for the laws of our own country (on constitutional revision), but also on what we do as a nation to another nation?
On top of what is our flag being waved?
Is it on top of the Reichstag?
Or is it on top of a nuclear missile?
What are we doing? Where are we going with this?
I hope the dialogues can improve the future, of course.
Why do I care about the future? It’s a good question. I have a daughter and I want her to have a future. What’s the future? The future is one where the whole planet comes together and deals with this situation we’ve created called Global warming:
We’ve heated up the planet and this has caused much instability. I hope you’ve noticed.
So what do we do now? We learn to deal with it, but we’ve got to have a dialogue about this.
With whom? With the people who don’t agree, with those living in denial? No, with Nature. We have to have our own dialogue with Nature and listen to what it’s saying back to us. What is the feedback?
Is nature that thing from which we get our resources and that’s it? Or are we giving something back?
If we’re giving something back, what is it? Carbon dioxide? Anything else? Plastic?
What else do we give, what else did we create on this planet? Pyramids, skyscrapers, cities, rivers of waste, millions of animals sacrificed every day to eat, forests cut down?
What do we give BACK? Not what we take, but what we give back, what we create.
We create dialogues, we create meaning, we’ve created language to communicate and to help us work together in better ways, with better dialogues.