CREATIVITY AND FREEDOM

The WW II ended in 1945: Many silly little life-style restrictions also ended in Japan. I was an incorrigible grade seven boy. Free at last! I decided to let my hair grow. Under the war-time regime, all school boys had to keep their hair very short. Only one shaggy head among several hundred short cropped hairs: mine must have stood out.

It took a while for people in the administration to decide how to handle the new situation. I was called to the principal’s office. They asked me why I had to look different. They didn’t know what to do with me, but they knew they couldn’t force me to cut my hair. I said, I got tired of cutting hair so often. Besides I said, my hair would not harm anybody except making me look weird.

Many people seem to have a problem wearing masks. Is the face mask the same question as length of hair? Is it attack on fundamental rights to freedom? I disagree. We wear a mask to prevent transmission of virus to other people; we don’t know if we have virus or not. But some people don’t see it that way. A face mask is uncomfortable. Maybe some people simply don’t like to be told, like the boy in the grade seven.

We do have the rights to liberty but we do not have freedom to endanger people’s lives. It’s like ignoring the traffic lights or texting while driving. Gun ownership poses the same problem.

Of course freedom is our fundamental right. It’s the hallmark of liberal democracy. It’s also what makes us creative and dynamic. Autocracy stifles creativity and is an attack on human dignity. It is a particular American dilemma. The U.S.A. is proudly a land of liberty. Freedom is sacred. The Second Amendment gives the right to bear arms against arbitrary measures.

That’s why Americans are creative and their society violent. Americans have won the largest number of Nobel Prize in many fields. Meanwhile it’s where the largest number of people killed by the guns held by fellow Americans: the second largest number of deaths after traffic accidents.

I treasure my freedom. I hold dear the same spirit of a long hair wiredo. But I want to live longer too.

Glass Ceiling created a new class of professionals

PROFESSIONALS FROM MINORITY GROUPS

About three decades ago, we began to see more women in theological schools overtaking men. We see the same trend unfolding in Law and Medical Schools. The result is apparent at the press conferences on Covid-19. Many women appear as Chief Medical Officers representing Provinces. The same is true of other professions like law and veterinary medicine. Likewise you see larger number of persons from ethnic minority groups in those professions.

Though it is a positive development, it also exposes a negative side. We have seen misogynist and racist attacks on women by angry white men, such as the one against Dr. Theresa Tam, the Federal Chief Public Health Officer by Conservative politicians. Some people have not quite caught up with the 21st Century. They will soon find themselves left in the museums like stuffed dinosaurs.

Another important point is that it reveals the invisible wall built around the big corporate board rooms. Large number of women and persons from minority ethnic groups in the professions is the result of the barrier. For many decades, many Jewish parents have encouraged their children to go into law and medicine. Americans and Canadians of Asian descent have followed suit close behind.

According to a sociologist who specializes in “Sociology of Work,” there is an unspoken protective barrier around the class that controls big corporations. For women, it has been known as the “glass ceiling.” It prevents women and minority groups to join the clique of highly paid executive men and/or membership in the “board room.”

In Japan, it is called “Gakubatsu,” which is “old boys’ network” from elite universities, like Keio, Todai, and Waseda, that controls the board rooms and the government bureaucracy. Few people admits its existence, but it’s there. “Collegiality” is the excuse they use to exclude capable women and minority.

The result is law and medicine have become the choice for those women and people of minority groups who are excluded from high executive positions and the board rooms of big corporations. In law and medicine, skills count more than the connections with “Dad’s old buddies,” When I came to Canada in 1957, I worked among Japanese Canadians. I saw it was common for parents to encourage their children to go into law and medicine. And they did.

Crucified Santa Claus

DON’T CRUCIFY SANTA CLAUS

Ginger Beef was concocted in Alberta, not original Chinese. Chop Suey is American food in Chinese style. We are lucky that we live in the 21st Century when we enjoy many things from other cultures like those foods. I am happy also we are free to adapt them to suit our taste. There are many examples:

Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden in Lethbridge is called “Canadian Garden in Japanese style.” All trees are Canadian that look like Japanese. Many native Japanese plants do not survive Canadian winter.

Poutine was food for working class Quebeckers. Original ingredients are just fries, cheese curd, and gravy. It is only recently it began to appear with many add-ons like chicken bits. Ramen has the same story. It was cheap street food for students, only Chinese noodles in pork broth. California Roll is not Japanese. It’s American sushi. Pineapple bits on Pizza? Italians would look at it with horror.

I was once surprised by quality of rice cooked for sushi which was prepared by a couple of well known otherwise first class kitchens in town. Fussy Japanese sushi gourmands would be dismayed. Well, let them. Many people didn’t mind and loved it. It’s O.K. so long as people like it and are willing to pay for it. It’s Japanese style Canadian sushi.

We have to watch out for appropriation or misappropriation of cultural and traditional practices and sacred symbols. Last Spring, I attended a wedding in Yokohama celebrated at a commercial wedding chapel. The building was a cheap imitation of a Baroque period European church. Attendants, females included, dressed like Franciscan monks. Japanese young people think Christian wedding is cool though most of them are not Christians. I was dismayed by the blatant appropriation of Christian ritual. Often, the person officiating the ceremony is an European or anyone with white skin. Japan like many European countries legal marriage is civil done at city halls or registry, and religious part is only social; officiant is not required of licence.

The worst was the Crucified Santa Claus hung in department stores in Tokyo. It was a response to the criticism of absent religion during unabashed Christmas Sales. Appropriation of Indigenous culture is just as grotesque: it’s cultural thievery and desecration of the sacred.

We celebrate many cultures today that had until recently been strange to us. Culture and language define our identity. We deny culture we deny people’s existence. We nearly succeeded in destroying the people who accepted us to the land we now live on. Treat culture and tradition with respect. They define what we are.

Cats are annoying. We love them.

Bad manners in public discourse is a sign of decaying civilization.

Some people never agree with anything you say. They have to say “no” first. Relationships break up when one side always insists “I’m right.” You should realize if you know someone who never disagrees with you, he is a boot-licking liar.

Can we agree to disagree without calling names, and continue talking? Disagreement is not a sign of a dysfunctional society. It’s natural. We are all different from each other. It’s normal. It’s OK if we do not accept what is offered or said without checking it. The civilized society knows how to deal with disagreement constructively.

You put a cat on a nicely fluffed up cushion. It has to get up, sniffs at it, walks around it as though there is something wrong with it, and finally lies down on that very same spot on the cushion. If you love the cat, you have to learn to be patient. More so with people.

Some people are like that. If you say ‘this,’ they say ‘that.’ When you see red, they say “It’s sort of red.” Many professors are like that. They have to say “no” first as a mark of a learned person. In Japan such a person is called “heso magari.” Literal translation is, “a person with a crooked navel.” I don’t know where ‘belly button’ comes from, but it means “an annoying contrarian.” Kings of yesteryears used to chop the head off of anyone who contradicted them. We know some dictators who behave like that today.

We are all different and independent minded. We think, disagree and question first. When your child begins to ask, “Why?” you should be happy. The kid is growing up. We are all different. It’s a mark of Homo Sapiens. The trick is to accept the difference as normal and to find the way to live together on a small boat without throwing anyone overboard. Good manners help you do that.

Decriminalization is the way to solve opioid crisis

Regarding opioid crisis, I want to begin speaking about three addicts I knew personally. None of them was a criminal. Thinking about them I have realized that the solution may have to be de-criminalization, like in Portugal. Prohibition of alcohol during the 1920’s failed totally. “War on Drugs” has failed too. When the law requires impossibility it emboldens criminals.

Prof. Zenta Watanabe got doctorate in Germany and was a well known Old Testament scholar in Japan when I was at the Tokyo Union Theological Seminary during the 1950’s. He was a heroin addict. It started with prescription after a major surgery. He was persuaded to go for rehabilitation through total abstention. It was so difficult he attempted suicide several times. He said he would never recommend abstention as a solution.

My grand father, Dr. Yukichi Takeda was a veterinarian served in the Japanese Imperial Cavalry during the Ruso-Japan War of early 1900’s. He saw the worst. I found only recently that he was an addict all his life. I guess it’s called PTSD today. He managed to look normal and conducted an active working life until he died at the age of 82. I remember the smell of disinfectant every time I walked into his den. Being a veterinarian, he had an easy access.

I met many damaged souls when I came to Canada. Japanese Canadians were released from internment and gradually returning to the coast. Visiting the Mental Hospital in Fraser Valley was my regular routine. J.O. was addicted to substance but wanted desperately to be rehabilitated. Many times he went into the rehabilitation program; failed every time. He died trying, a few years later.

In the Victorian England, opium was a common recreational drug like alcohol and was sold in any drugstore. Connan Doyle, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Browning, George Elliot and many other prominent people were well known regular users. It was a profitable commodity for the East India Company. England waged a war against China when it tried to stop opium import. England was a world’s biggest drug dealer then.

We take some kinds of substance for recreation. Alcohol for example. Many painkillers contain opioid. Many cultures have used substance of some kind, like qat, coca, cola nuts. Abused them, they are addictive and toxic. But with control they can be medicinal. Current crisis is the result of illegal product of questionable quality produced by criminal elements.

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Why do we have to avoid what we like: FAT, SALT AND SUGAR

WE ARE STILL EVOLVING

Life is unfair. I have to stay away from what we crave. I have to watch the intake of fat, salt, and sugar to stay healthy. I think our body has not evolved to live in time of plenty. Our body is still conditioned to live like hunter gatherers. When you have to run after the animals for meat and walk all day to pick berries and seeds, find edible grass and roots under the hot Sun, you have to consume fat, salt, and sugar whenever you find them. But those things are available easily today; and they are killing us. Like a drug used as effective painkiller is now seen as a curse.

When I was a child in Japan there was a popular caramel candy called “Glico.” It came in the box of ten. I loved it. On the box it said, “One is worth 200 meters” with a picture of a runner. The message is: one candy gives you energy to run 200 meters. But we don’t run 200 meters every time we eat a candy.

Carbohydrate intake turns into sugar. We burn it to generate energy. Surplus sugar turns into fat and is stays in our body. Most of us do not move enough to burn it all up so the amount of stored fat becomes bigger and bigger. Our heart has to work harder to bring oxygen to the increasingly bigger body mass. Consequently obesity has become ubiquitous, and heart decease is now the major cause of death.

Fat is important for survival at the time of want. It supplies source of energy from within. It’s why when food is scarce big people survive better than skinny people. They eat what’s stored in their body. Likewise, salt retains water in our body under the hot Sun: it cools the body and prevents heat-stroke. When I first went to Africa for volunteer work in 1964, the organizer gave everyone anti-malaria pills and salt tablets.

The body of Homo Sapiens has not yet evolved to dislike superfluous nutrient. We lust for big fat juicy hamburger and fries, with sweet soda drinks: all fat, salt, and sugar. We are indulging ourselves to death. So we have to go to gym, to suffer the dictate of diet, and banish natural desire. I know it’s unfair. But that’s life.

SWITZERLAND – I worked for the World University Service in Geneva, Switzerland

WUS INTERNATIONAL, 1975 – 1979

by Tad Mitsui

I was employed by the International Office of the WUS in Geneva, Switzerland from 1975 until 1979. My job title was Associate Secretary for East and Southern Africa. I administered the largest funds in Southern Africa, namely Zimbabwe (as was called Rhodesia then) and South Africa. I was assigned also to keep contact with the national committees in Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Rhodesia, and Lesotho. There was no WUS Committee in South Africa but the WUS International worked directly with the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) for white students and the South African Students Organization (SASO) for blacks. I was also a lead contact with the committees in Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea because of my language ability.

I visited all the above national committees at least twice during my tenure, except for South Africa. When I was hired by the WUS International, I had been a “prohibited immigrant” in South Africa since 1971 following a brief incarceration and expulsion. So, I was not able to visit South Africa from Geneva, though it was where WUS International raised and spent the largest sum; Rhodesia being the number two. I met with South African project holders often in Lesotho. Other times, they came to Geneva.

* I once asked Richard Taylor, General Secretary, to visit all the WUS supported programs in South Africa.  I was very excited that Richard managed to spend time even with Steve Biko who was under house arrest as a  banned person.  Little did we know that Richard was followed by the security police everywhere he went.  We planned the whole excursion on consultation with Craig Williamson, who was working for the IUEF (International University Education Fund) as Deputy Director.  After I left Geneva, in 1980 Williamson was exposed to be a spy for the South African Police, a captain in the Special Branch. 

I was made aware of WUS for the first time by a plaque at the entrance of the university library in Lesotho in 1970. The plaque indicated the building was the donation of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the WUS. I tried to find the WUS Committee in Lesotho. There was none. The committee had existed apparently but was disbanded. The relation with WUS was severed after the decision of the WUS General Assembly to establish contacts with anti-Apartheid movements and organizations. The Vice Chancellor at the time was British who did not think that keeping the connection with the organization explicitly against South Africa prudent because of the presence of a large number of South African students. It must have been the sign that a change was happening in WUS. In the 1960s many altruistic and activist organizations were shifting the emphasis towards social justice and away from merely charity and welfare.

In 1974, as Dean of Students of the university I encouraged students to revive the national WUS committee. I thought it would be a way for them to be involved in community and national development. The Committee did revive and was recognized at the 1974 WUS General Assembly. When the WUS Lesotho Committee was recognized, the new University Vice Chancellor was very pleased seeing a WUS national committee as an important channel of international assistance.

Among 12 national committees I was assigned to – nine were in Africa and three in Asia, – I observed that there were three categories of programs being implemented:
(1) Service to the students typically by providing important facilities e.g. libraries, residential accommodations and tuberculises sanatoria;
(2) Assistance to international students particularly refugees and disadvantaged students by unjust policy and system.
(3) participation in community development and popular consciousness raising programs.

Categories 1 and 2 were the original type of WUS programs in Europe after the World War I, which provided opportunity to continue university education for the prisoners of wars and the students with tuberculosis. Scholarships to refugee students displaced by war, civil unrest, and those disadvantaged by unjust society were a part of the category 2.

I classify most of the consciousness raising programs to No.3. They were, for example, the South African Committee for Higher Education (SACHED) and a few community development programs in black townships. There were several programs carried out by Black Consciousness Movement headed by Steve Biko. There was only one rural development program, which was based in an university; it was in Rwanda. I found it interesting that Tanzania and Zambia committees had not found their new niche after the governments introduced university students national service for development. Their Presidents’ (Julius Nyerere and Kenneth Kaunda) socialistic philosophy pre-empted WUS’s impetus. They have not found a new direction after ‘bricks and mortar’ foreign aid program in the WUS’ donor community became redundant.

  1. Of the committees I had related to, Sudan, Korea, and Japan focussed more on category one. Student residence s were in Khartoum in Sudan and Seoul in Korea and in Tokyo Japan. I believe Japan had a TB sanatorium as well. It was no longer there when I visited from Geneva.
  2. Scholarships: Burundi, Lesotho, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) administered scholarship program. In South Africa it was implemented by NUSAS which was a scholarship programs for black medical students and political prisoners. Burundi and Uganda administered the scholarships for Tutsi refugee students who escaped violence in Rwanda. They were the victims of the Hutu dominated government’s ethnic cleansing policy. In Lesotho, the WCC took over the WUS scholarship program for South Africans after the national committee was disbanded. WCC transferred the funds directly to the University administration, and it selected the recipients. Because scholarship administration required strict accounting protocol, all scholarship programs had volunteer financial administrators under national committee oversight. Most of my time was spent to keep contact with the administrators in stead of volunteer student committees. Administrators were mostly faculty members.

Program in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe was by far the largest in terms of the size of funds as well as the number of recipients. It was the program to support all black students at the University of Salisbury. Though the university admitted all races on A level school leavers, most black students could not afford the cost which was determined by the average income of white population: Hence the scholarship assistance. Source of funds was the WUS committees in Canada, Denmark, and the U.K. and one government direct, Sweden. WUS committees received their contributions from the government aid agencies also. Even in the implementation of scholarship programs, what should be noted was the shift from emphasis on welfare to social justice. All WUS scholarships were social justice actions fighting political and social injustice..

  1. Participation in development: a shift from welfare programs to an emphasis on social justice must have grown from the mere support of refugee students to include the support of students who were disadvantaged due to discrimination and other unjust practices. This shift towards social action programs included consciousness raising popular education to create more just society, it became massive and effective such as News Paper Education Supplement, and was exemplified by programs such as one created by the South African Committee on Higher Education (SACHED) and the Domestic Workers’ Project to make maids, nannies, and gardeners more aware of their conditions and their rights. The fact that those popular education programs quickly became the target of attack by the South African government proves that it was effective. News paper education supplement and the educators were banned very quickly. All the funds for South African programs were Swedish government grants. SACHED was the biggest program in terms of the size of funds in the WUS International.

One curious twist I found was in Rwanda: There was an active agricultural reserach program implemented by WUS students at the National University of Rwanda directly funded by Canadian government, in Butare in Southern Rwanda. I found it creative and well run. When I visited the university, the student body was exclusively from people of Hutu ethnic group. It might have been the result of civil unrest and exodus of the Tutsi population. It is an interesting question why the violent persecution, even the massacre and resultant exodus of the Tutsis produced an university where students were all Hutu and keenly interested in rural development. Was it accidental? I never had time to solve the puzzle. A decade and a half later, the genocides of the Tutsi by the Hutu government happened.

Another interesting feature of some WUS national committees was the relationship with the Student Christian Movement (SCM). I found this in Japan, Korea, and Zambia. Of course, until 1970, WUS International office was sharing the same building and services such as the receptionist and the custodian on rue Calvin in the historical old Geneva on the hill, with the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF), which is the international headquarters of the SCM. Japan and Korea still operated student residences with strong tie with SCM. In Zambia, the WUS committee did not have any WUS program. It looked like a SCM national chapter. I know this because before I joined WUS in 1975, I was Regional Director of the South African UCM (SCM) for Lesotho and Orange Free State.

Finally, let me say a few words about the International office of the WUS in Geneva. The running of the office in Geneva on rue Cointrin was not in my job descriptions. For that reason, I never raised a serious alarm about the existential problem of the WUS International. However, I thought there were two dangerous aspects. Firstly, there was an over-dependence on government funding exclusively for Southern Africa programs; and secondly the source of largest amount of funds for Southern Africa was mostly from one country namely Sweden, where WUS had no national counterpart. Yet, the cost of running the office in Geneva was mainly financed by Swedish government funds as the fee for administration, which created a sort of organizational instability.

EPILOGUE
I conclude with the challenge from the experience of working in the World University Service in regards to the role of Civil Society, such as NGO, in the global human family. There has to be a balance of power between three sectors of global human family: Market, Civil Society, and Government. Margaret Thatcher said, “There is no such thing as SOCIETY. There is only MARKET.” Charles de Gaulle said, “Government has no CAUSE only INTEREST.” The demise of WUS International is the result of NGO losing its independence as it turned into GONGO (Government sponsored NGO.)

PENTECOST: Arrogant word divides. Spirit of Love unites

Genesis 11: 1 – 9, Acts 2: 1 – 12

SERMON FOR PENTECOST 2020
“Arrogance divides, Spirit unites”
Genesis 11: 1-9
Acts 2: 1-13

There is a story about people who were very arrogant in the Book of Genesis, chapter two. They thought they were so clever that they could reach the sky and God. They started to build a very tall tower determined to reach the sky where they thought god lived. The tower never reached the sky because of language difference among the workers. If you think, “I know everything” and dismiss what others say, you are acting like those ancient builders. Different languages were the God’s way to punish arrogant people. Marriage and friendship will not last very long either, if you think you are never wrong and only others are.

You hear the same arrogant words in today’s politics. The man with big ego says: “Whatever I say is always right. Others are “fake news.” He is now the most divisive figure we have ever had. God’s punishment for such arrogance is a divided nation. Canada is not doing any better. When you think you are perfect and never make mistake, you can not hear the truth. That is how a country falls apart. Friendship and marriage fail too. Dalai Lama said, “When you speak you are repeating yourself. When you listen to others you are learning something you didn’t know.”

I don’t think it is language as such that breaks up relationship. It’s the idea behind word that does it. A word is an expression of what you have in mind. When you know another language, you know it is impossible to translate one language into another to say exactly the same thing, because different peoples think differently. You think differently depending on culture and tradition. So your words can never find the one in a foreign language with exactly the same meaning.

For example: 1. At one General Council of the UCC, delegates debated the question of the authority of the Bible. They spent two days debating if the Bible is “an” authority or “the” authority of our faith. I thought it was such a waste of time. Because I didn’t understand what the whole fuss was all about. You see, there is no article as such, definite or indefinite, in Japanese and Sesotho.

  1. There is no such word as “NO” in Japanese and Sesotho. They are polite people. They never say “no” to another person. If you don’t agree, you say something like, “Yes, but.”
  2. On the shore of Lake Galilee, three times the risen Christ asked Peter if he loved him. The word “love” Jesus used (agape) is not in English language. But Peter answered every time using the word people often used for love. He was distressed that Jesus asked the same question three times. The problem here was that there is no one word for love in the Bible: there are at least three: agape, eros, and phileo. They mean three different kinds of love. Peter answered that he “loved” him as we love our parents, children, friends, sisters and brothers. The word is phileo. But Jesus asked if Peter loved him with the kind of love that has no English translation, agape, King James version translated it “charity” not love. The word Jesus used was the kind you give up everything for love. It’s the kind of love even when you don’t like the person.

On the day of Pentecost, the Book of Acts reports people started to speak different languages and different people heard the same messages in their native tongues. It is because they were possessed with the same spirit of the Risen Christ, who lived the life of love. They were possessed with that spirit of Christ. This is spirit that makes many people understand each other despite the difference of language.

People were eager to speak of the Good News of perfect love that the life and teaching of Jesus Christ demonstrated. People saw that such life never dies. They were so possessed by the conviction that Love of Jesus did not end on the cross. So, they were overcome with joy that they could not keep their mouths shut. When you are willing to learn the languages of other people, it means you are showing your willingness to understand and communicate with those people on their terms, not yours.

On the day of Pentecost, people spoke in different languages and understood each other. They understood each other because they felt the spirit of the one who lived God’s love. When there is spirit there will be unity despite language difference.

Bible is a collection of diverse ideas

LATERAL VIEWS OF DIVERSITY

  • How to read Esther, Ruth, Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs –

For many centuries, the Church had tried to see the Bible as the book that would bring unity of faith. Christians believed there was one continual chain of thoughts; ultimately reaching a consensus – one correct doctrine. However, after two thousand years we are discovering that is not possible. The churches are divided as ever. We must realize the Bible is a collection of diverse literature arranged laterally, like a drug store shelf displaying different brands of nutrition supplements. Linear approach to understand it does not work. The Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament is a good example where even opposing views are co-existing side by side.

* When the Hebrew word “wisdom” was translated into Greek, the feminine word “Sophia” was chosen.  It introduces an image of God as a female figure.  So, I believe in the fourth person of God, Wisdom, in addition to God the creator, Jesus the human, and the spirit the friend.

The Old Testament is normally divided into three categories of literature: Torah (Law) – Genesis to Deuteronomy, Prophets (history) – Samuel to Ezekiel and13 minor prophets, and Wisdom Literature. All of them refer extensively but often not factually, to the history of Hebrew people. In this paper, I propose to discuss the thirdt category, Wisdom Literature.

I bundle the following books into one category as Wisdom Literature: Esther, Ruth, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of songs (Song of Solomon.) Some Biblical scholars do it differently by including some prophets and history books as Writings such as Jonah and Daniel in this category because they are mostly fictitious and stand on thinner ice to claim historicity than other Torah and Prophets.

One thing that distinguish them from Torah and Prophet is its diversity of content. For one thing, it is impossible to find any unity of thoughts among them. Esther and Ruth for example. Esther is adamantly Hebrew nationalist, and Ruth is delightfully universalist: totally opposing views. In other words, it is impossible to find any co-relation between them to formulate one cohesive doctrine: Diversity prevents any simple and homogeneous description of one unified faith. In this sense, they are very appropriate to be quoted in our age of diversity and ecumenism (unity as humans, not of one faith as such). This is rather astonishing as we have long considered Judaism as the founding faith of monotheism (belief in one God), such as Christianity and Islam. It is ironical that the two religions are notorious in history for their intolerance and doctrinal conflicts and disputes. Wars have been fought over doctrinal differences and heretics were burned at the stake.

Also they include different types of literature. Psalms are hymns; Esther, Jonah, and Ruth are fictions; Proverbs are exactly that, “proverbs”; Lamentation and Song of Songs are poems; and Ecclesiastes is like a collection of succinct sayings of sages. In other words, they are not related to each other, and they lack of unity of thought. It means they were not compiled in one book in linear sequence but offer lateral thinking. They do not demand “either or” choice but rather “and also” inclusion.

I think there is a reason for this. They were written by people who were exposed to different cultures and the cosmopolitan way of living in a pluralistic society, like ours. All those books I mentioned the above as Wisdom Literature were included in the Hebrew holy books after traumatic experience of defeat and exile as captives in Babylon. ((Circa 600 – 400 B.C.E.) Up until then, the experiences of defeat had not caused to question their faith in their God, Yahweh. In fact, some of them strengthened it because of suffering and made them stronger in their resolve in their faith in one God. Liberation from slavery in Egypt gave them the nature of God as the Law, thus giving them a stronger self-consciousness as the God’s Chosen People. The secret of their strength after Holocaust is another example.

However, the exile in Babylon was different. Unlike enslavement of common masses of labourers by Egyptians, Babylonians selected and removed the Jewish elite; aristocrats, educated, priests, and scribes (scholars) away from the populous. It was a cultural and spiritual genocide, that left the masses without the caretakers of the spiritual foundation and the traditions. Many who remained in Palestine were uneducated and easily became acculturated into pagan spirituality, and intermarried racially and religiously. Furthermore those in captivity were also exposed to different cultures, and often forced to practice different religions. It was impossible not to be influenced by them. Wisdom literature was the result.

When they were liberated by Persian King Cyrus, and were allowed to return to the homeland on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, there were two different groups among the returnees: Nationalist Traditionalists and Cosmopolitan Universalists. The first was led by Ezra and Nehemiah, who gathered people in Jerusalem and read Torah known as the books of Moses in pubic squares. Esther is the fiction representing a typical example of this school of thought. The second group was pluralist who accepted the cultural and religious practices that the traditionalists adamantly rejected such as inter-racial and inter-religious marriages such as Samaritans. Ruth is a good example of that tolerant attitude. It’s intriguing to note that two opposing views are complied into one Holy Book as the Old Testament as we know it.

Also, because those captives were educated elite, they were able to observe foreign culture and spiritual practices of their captors. That experience was devastating, but also educative. Traditionalists rejected to heed the wisdom in those foreign sayings and poetic traditions; insisted on purity of race and spirituality; like Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. But cosmopolitan pluralist recognised the value of foreign traditions, and adopted lot of their wisdom and interracial marriage were valued. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Ruth are the examples. It is interesting to note that today among many religions the same dichotomy exists: Exclusivists and Universalists e.g. Fundamentalist and Liberal Christians; Orthodox and Reform Synagogues, Radical Jihadists and Muslim majority.

WOMEN AND MINORITY ARE TAKING OVER PROFESSIONS

PROFESSIONALS FROM MINORITY GROUPS

When theological schools began to see more women than men, the same trend was unfolding in Law and Medical Schools. That was more than three decades ago. We see the results at the press conference where mostly women are Chief Medical Officers of the Provinces. The same can be said of other professions like dentistry, veterinary, and law: you see more women. Also you see larger number of persons from minority ethnic groups.

Though it is a positive development, there is a dark side to this trend. There are misogynist and racist attacks, at times violent, by angry white men. The attack on Dr. Theresa Tam, the Federal Chief Public Health Officer is an example. This shows some people have not quite caught up with the 21st Century. They will soon find themselves left on the dusty shelf of antiques. They may also find themselves without a family doctor if they insist on being seeing by a white male physician.

Another interesting thing about the trend in question is the reason for larger number of women and persons from minority ethnic groups in the professions. There is an invisible wall built around the big business. For many decades, persons of Jewish ancestry have led the way encouraging their children to go into law and medicine. Americans and Canadians of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean background have followed suit. Why?

According to a Sociologist who specializes in “Sociology of Work,” there is an unspoken protective barrier around the class that controls big corporations. It’s like a transparent plexiglass. For women, it is known as the “glass ceiling.” It prevents them to join the high executive positions and/or membership in the “board rooms” of multi-billion dollar corporations. In Japan, it is often “old boys’ network” of elite universities that controls the board rooms. It’s called “Gakubatsu.” Few people admits its existence, but it’s there. Just look at the number of universities where they come from. The excuse is “collegiality.”.

The result is law and medicine have become the choice for those who are excluded from high executive positions in big corporations, namely women and minorities. In law and medicine, skills count not the connections with “old buddies,” When I came to Canada in 1957, I worked among Japanese Canadians. I saw it was common for parents to encourage their children to go into law and medicine. And they did.