Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Commentary: Rapelay and the Globalization of Self-Righteousness

I was watching satellite TV last night, and it was eye opening since I hadn't watched Western TV for a long time. After such a long absence, it was like watching TV for the first time; my eyes were rubbed raw by the Western bias of mainstream television. It hurt, it stunned me.

After watching a bit of CNN and noticing after ten minutes that cable news was still in the same format of spinning the same stories again and again so that in one hour you learn nothing you couldn't have learned in five minutes, I switched to the Discovery channel. Immediately I saw an advertisement for an upcoming show, "Profiling a Serial Murderer" and I blurted out loud: "This channel should be called 'Discover Fear' channel," and I was shocked by my observation.

The Discovery channel, CNN and every other mainstream media all want you to watch and follow their own channels, and they will attract you and interest you with fear. To accentuate my point, another upcoming show on the Discovery channel is "World's Greatest Disasters"; this show and the serial killer one are inherently watchable because people want to know what to be scared of.

That's how "Rapelay" (2006), a Japanese eroge game made by Illusion Software, has come into global prominence recently - for being something new to be fearful of. Nevermind the fact that this game was made three years ago and by Japanese law is not legally for sale internationally; this game has made the rounds lately on media outlets around the world alarming people to this new insidious threat that they now must be vigilant against.

Rapelay is pornography of the lewdest and most perverse kind; that it be pornography in the medium of video games is most alarming to those with the stereotype that video games are still just for children, despite being an bigger industry than movies and having a main demographic of adults over 30. Nonetheless, Rapelay is immoral and deplorable: it is a video game that tells the story of a man's domination and cruelty over a family of women whom he rapes repeatedly into submission.

As depraved as Rapelay is, it still is in essence what all pornography is: a fantasy. Charges that Rapelay acts as a "rape-simulator" are about as groundless as charges that a Grand Theft Auto game acts as a "crime simulator", teaching children with parents that allow them to play such a game how to carjack a car or beat up hookers. If video games teach the respective in-game skills to the people that play them, then the world would be full of children trained to be special ops commandos with formidable hand to hand combat skills and proficient in small and large arms weaponry as well as being able to pilot jet planes and space craft.

Rapelay is a game, and as such with a push of a button or move of the mouse can enable you to experience things that you would not normally be able to do, just like a Grand Theft Auto game or any other game. In fact, this is the main selling point of video games to many that play them; never would we get to throw the winning pass in a Superbowl game, save the universe or time travel to the distant future. Rapelay follows this very same concept, only that it allows players to victimize virtual people by raping them rather than the more acceptable behavior of fragging your friend with a head shot in Call of Duty 4 and celebrating with a teabagging.

Rapelay is a deplorable and depraved game; any defense of the game in terms of free speech, artistic expression and the pursuit of fantasy has to accept this fact. Rapelay is misogynistic and especially cruel; to enjoy this game is to actively delight in the suffering of others. To like Rapelay is also liking to be sadistic and vicious.

However, to the contrary of what the western media would have you believe and fear that which you do not know, Rapelay is not your concern. Instead, the western media shouldn't impose our western values upon other cultures; in this case, its upon Japanese eroge culture (or hentai or whatever you call it).

To western culture and sensibilities, Rapelay is reprehensible and morally wrong. To the typical Japanese person, it likely is as well; its not unreasonable to think that the average Japanese person is morally sound and wouldn't condone a video game that celebrates rape culture. However, there is a difference here: Japanese people live in Japan. Other people don't - they live somewhere else, obviously. Therefore, while as citizens of the world we should be knowledgeable and aware of other cultures, we shouldn't we so quick to pass judgement on these cultures by using values of our own respective cultures.

It's so easy to ostracize other cultures, and in this case the culture of Japan. It's well publicized in the West the nonsensical excess and absurdity of Japanese culture: women's panties sold in vending machines, schoolgirl fetishes, tentacle porn - these and more cultural oddities have Westerners laughing with ridicule at such foolishness, saying with scorn "only in Japan".

While globalization of the world in the internet age has made the world a smaller place, it has made the world a less tolerable one. When peering in on an outside culture and judging it to be improper, we "think locally, act globally" and improperly impose our values on another culture. While we may rightly see Rapelay as misogynist and celebrate violence against women, we shouldn't condemn it as a blight upon Japanese culture and involve ourselves in what is the domestic issue of another country.

Consider this: the act of female genital mutilation is a horrific act of brutality wherein the gentailia of a young girl is removed. Not at all analogous to male circumcision, female genital mutilation is a oppressive act that subjugates women and denies them their sexuality. The world community has gotten involved in stopping female genital mutilation through the UN, who among other practices and measures have declared February 6 "Internation Day Against Female Genital Mutilation".

The point here is that it is through the activitism of members of the cultures that practice this horrible act that have influenced change, and in fact should remain the spear-headers on these issues. While the world should aid when help is asked for, this remains an issue that has to change from within the culture that affect it.

I remember watching on the news a conference in which a beautiful model revealed that she is a victim of female genital mutilation; it was her hope in telling her sad story that she could shine a light upon this issue and hopefully impact change. This is the same type of action required of Rapelay if there is any action to be done: it needs to be started internally, and spearheaded by these same people. In the current case of Rapelay in the news, this is not at all the case. Instead, we have the western media shining a spotlight into someone else's backyard to promote unnecessary fear mongering.

That said, the real issue of Rapelay in the news being sold over Amazon.com is that parents still can't police their own children and control what games they play; instead, these same people look to the help of the government and others to help raise their children. The issue of Rapelay for the west should instead be, "how to keep adult and otherwise harmful materials out of the reach of minors"; with all the copies sold on Amazon being illegal and not sanctioned by the Japanese government, the country of Japan is doing their part. We should respect another culture to take care of its own domestic problems, rather than impose our judgement and will over that which we consider improper.

Rapelay is filth. Rapelay is degenerate pornography. Rapelay is also none of the west's problem. If the west finds this unsuitable, then it should be noted that many of the inherent freedoms and liberties that the west enjoys are seen with reprehension and disgust by some cultures. Some cultures find the liberalization of women in opinion and sexual expression and independence to be completely unacceptable. Similarily, they may find the acceptance of homosexuals and lesbians to be an abomination, just as they do the availibility of pornography, illegal drugs and casual sex. To some, the west is morally decadent and needs to be cleaned up.

Let's consider democracy. A country like the United States considers democracy a central tenet to life - in fact, New Hampshire licence plates all read "Live Free or Die". Americans, to put it mildly, love democracy. The United States, to put it mildly again, have started wars and invaded countries with the "proliferation of democracy" as a main reason.

To that, US citizens look upon other countries and their citizens with pity if they are not democratic; for instance, Cuba. However, if democracy is going to come to Cuba, it should be of mitigating internal factors and not something akin to a forced military incursion; this is because no matter what you think, what matters to other people is what they want. It sounds simple, and so it should be similarly simple to follow except that the peoples of the world do share something in common: we all have a ego-centric world view - we all think we are all right.

It's worth noting that license plate doesn't read "Live Free or Kill Them"; while this seems to be the case for Iraq, I don't see this being true anytime with a war between Cuba and the US.

Rapelay is morally repugnant decadent pornography made by Japan. So, let Japan deal with it.

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