There were two types of people who annoyed me in my language class when I took Japanese in college: The first were obviously those who thought that Japanese culture consisted solely of anime and manga, and were only learning the language to scratch a weird cultural itch, or to meet their perfect Japanese mate. I was often mistaken for being half-Japanese by this variety of people (usually the men) and they thought it was a good way to impress me with their knowledge of anime and how to use chopsticks, until they found out I was nothing but the usual Euro-pudding, Jewish, and Blackfoot, and then they scattered like roaches. If I *were* half Japanese, I’d just be annoyed by these yo-yos for boiling down my cultural background to a bunch of comics and TV shows. As if Belgium is all Tintin and chocolate. The other type were starry eyed types who were interested in Reiki, reflexology, and what they call “energy medicine” I’ve done a lot of analysis on the patronizing and pathetic marginalization of Japanese culture committed by group one, today, group two is going to feel my steely gaze on their backs.
I think the most obvious problematic part of this fascination with Reiki and “Nonwestern” medicine is how it needlessly exoticizes the country that the medicine/healing allegedly is from (I say “allegedly” because it’s quite common for clever marketers to play up an “exotic” connotation in a product when there really is not much of one, or none at all. See: Himalayan salt lamps and “Hopi” ear candles) In the case of Japanese and East Asian “healing”, it plays around with the old, insulting stereotype of the “inscrutable” East, which has mystic medicines which can make you better in ways “Western” medicine can’t.
It puts up an artificial divide between “Western” medicine, which is calculating, scientific, and modern, and “Eastern” medicine, which is intuitive, ancient, and doesn’t play by the rules. Such false distinctions are also seen manifesting as a form of sexism, only replace “Eastern” with “Woman/Feminine” and “West” with “Man/Masculine”. Just like the sex/gender one, this one unwittingly insults the entire group associated with it. It paints this “East” as a place in a time warp, and never lets it modernize, evolve, and take on a new identity other than the one assigned by the starry-eyed student. It must remain forever a static Westerner’s fantasy, filled with monks in robes and almond-eyed women preparing potent brews to cure what ails ya. In short, these lolos prefer the *idea* of the country, rather than the actual country as it is.
But there’s more to this than just the Western fantasy keeping the country static and unchanging in their minds. There’s the matter of implicitly trusting something because it’s “exotic”, and so many other issues I could dive into. But all of it is pathetic, and if you are one of these people, please, take my language classes. You annoy me to no end, but I sincerely hope you learn something from it. Just please, don’t offer to “heal” any classmates you see who are acting grumpy.