It was in 1969, a year when it seemed the whole world was in the throes of social revolution. College campuses were torn with radical protests and violence. The campus of the Seminary where I was teaching in Tokyo, Japan, was stricken with the same spirit of rebellion. Our students were holding secret meetings and kangaroo courts. Our faculty were perplexed about how to handle this strange new phenomenon of student aggression. (Japanese students have been traditionally docile, passive listeners.) We had endless meetings to discuss the situation. The faculty, led by the president, took the position of just standing their ground and handling students with kid gloves, from afar. The atmosphere was tense.
This situation continued for week after week. I had tried to suggest dialogue and openness with the students and faculty. During the night, I pinned it on the central bulletin board. The next morning brought the surprise of my life. Our school president, a highly respected man of integrity and faith with whom I had a close relationship, called me into his office. “Good, He’ll surely respond favorably to my proposal to initiate dialogue,” I thought. But to my great consternation, he stared at me in angry astonishment.
“Do you know what you have done?! You are tearing apart our unity as a faculty. You are
trying to stand alone on your opinion, but all the faculty absolutely must stand together!” he said with a tremble in his voice. During the moments of that brief but critical meeting I learned a deep lesson of what unity and peace mean in the Japanese social context. It means letting go of your personal opinions, your individual ‘stand’, and subordinating yourself to the consensus of your group. At a deep level I grasped this core of Japanese society.
The above might not sound right to Western ears, and it might not be right according to higher standards of ethics, but it is a way, feeling and relating that must be learned by anyone who wants to live peaceably in many Asian contexts. And moreover, it has much to teach our Western manner–so set on individuality and individual rights. For the sake of peace-making, there is a time to let go and give in to a larger reality than my own interests.
– by Ken Dale
The faculty, led by the president, took the position of just standing their ground and handling students with kid gloves, from afar. The atmosphere was tense.
Kenneth (Ken) Dale and his wife Eloise spent 45 years as co-workers with the Japanese in pastoral and educational work in Japan. They are both graduates of Bethany College Lindsburg, KS and both received awards for from there for distinguished service. Ken has a Master of Divinity from Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago and a PhD from Union Seminary, NY. He established and was director of the Personal Growth and Counseling Center in Tokyo in addition to teaching at the Lutheran College and Seminary. He has published six books, three of which are translated into Japanese. He and his wife are “busily retired” at Pilgrim Place.
– by Constance Waddell