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    Shikata ga Nai and Gaman

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    Kyouri Kai
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    Shikata ga Nai and Gaman

    Post by Kyouri Kai on Fri 22 Feb 2008, 2:41 pm

    Shikata ga nai means "There's nothing you can do about it", and is often used by Japanese when they face a troubling situation they think they can't change. It is in fact a strong form of brainwashing put on the Japanese from the day they're born to conform and follow orders without question. Again, this fits in with Tate Shakai in that the strong control the weak and the weak exist to serve the strong -- be it the almighty Company, or the Establishment. You will find the Japanese do an enormous amount of complaining about things they can't change (e.g. the weather), but put up and shut up about things they can (e.g. political corruption, unfair treatment by superiors, etc.). At least until they're full of liquor and you see their personality do a 180. By making the underlings feel powerless it is far easier to control them, make them work harder or give "voluntary overtime" (work for free, which is illegal but many companies practice), sacrifice themselves more for the group, etc. In the West this would be seen as sinister, and it can be. But to be objective, it also makes the Japanese tougher competitors in both Japanese and international markets. If ever one falters, or feels he can't take it, he is told to put up with it (gaman). Gaman means to take it or be patient, and again, is a double-edged sword. For Japanese it's a source of great strength. No matter how hard things get, they just keep fighting (ganbaru). This has allowed Japanese to overcome enormously difficult times, including natural disasters as well as a bad economy. But on the negative side, there is also a time to cut your losses and reform -- and Japanese sometimes get blinded to this and fail to see when more fundamental structural changes need to be made.

    taken from Japanese Culture: A Primer for Newcomers