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  Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Stolen from the blog tongodeon:

I was helping a Japanese friend move a while ago and I noticed a book in her collection: "How To Deal With Americans Who Don't Hansei". The cover art was striking and I became interested.

"What's hansei?"
"There really isn't a word for it in English."
"So what does it mean?"
"Hmmm, it is hard to explain."

"Hansei" literally means "reflection". Figuratively it describes being conscious of your behavior and its impact on others. People who take pride in driving noisy cars do not hansei. People having loud conversations while walking past your bedroom window at 2AM do not hansei. People who stall checkout lines at the grocery store while they figure out whether or not they've got the money to buy what they selected do not hansei. Hansei is the reason why mobile phones are always on vibrate and only used for sms in public areas: text creates less disturbance than loud conversations. Hansei is at the center of Japan's iconic anti-smoking ads, reminding smokers not of their own health risks but of the disturbance they are causing to others. Hansei also means greeting success with modesty and humility.

To stop hansei means to stop learning. With hansei one never becomes so convinced of one's own superiority that there is no more room or need for further improvement. George Bush is the international no-hansei icon; he does not self-reflect, and because of this he makes the same mistakes over and over. The Iraq War is a no-hansei disaster with no regard for world opinion and no plan for victory beyond the presumption that our supremacy makes success inevitable and guaranteed. Without familiarity with such a basic concept we are a nation whose parents did not raise us right.

UPDATE: Curious about it? Here's the book cover.

Posted by Dave    Blog Tag: Opinion


At 7/24/2007 11:02 PM, Blogger beFrank said...

Thanks, Dave.

I may actually get a tattoo of this word.

(okay, probably not, but I really appreciate your post)

At 7/25/2007 12:07 AM, Blogger dkgoodman said...

You're one of the more socially conscious people I know. You probably don't need it. At least, not for yourself. :)

At 7/25/2007 9:57 PM, Blogger beFrank said...

Shhhhh. Don't let it get out that I'm conscious of anything. I'm trying to beef up my bad-boy/rebel image.

At 7/25/2007 9:59 PM, Blogger beFrank said...

. . .and thanks. I learn much from good people like you.

At 7/25/2007 10:06 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

If I understand the word correctly, there is an American word for hansei, consideration.

At 7/26/2007 11:14 AM, Blogger dkgoodman said...

Maybe so. But hansei sounds so cool! :)

At 7/27/2007 11:42 AM, Blogger Candace said...

I soooooo love this post.


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