June 06, 2007

Bring 'Em Young

Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man.
-Jesuit proverb

Japan has a long history of being a very regimented society. Social mores were stictly enforced through peer pressure and absolute laws for a simple reason: that many people, that close together, and you could quickly have problems. Ask any night club owner.

It's interesting to compare any of the North American societies, where a strong individualism is encouraged and expected (right up until you actually become dangerous to yourself or others) to a people who live a codified life but cut loose with vigour - when appropriate.

One thing that the Japanese do to unwind is drink - heavily. They drink at work meetings with clients; they drink with their employers; they drink with guests. One of the many unspoken rules at such times, is that nobody remembers what was said during these occasions. Meaning people can speak frankly to each other in ways that would get them fired/sued/arrested at other times. Now, when I say nobody remembers, I don't necessarily mean they drink themselves into oblivion, though that happens too: it's that nobody officially remembers the next day. You have to do something awfully damn stupid for it to be recalled, and even then you won't be fired because you told your boss he's a fish-faced fornicator who has carnal knowledge of billy goats. You'll just be fired, and nobody will mention why.

Here, on the other hand, it's considered a very stupid move to go get drunk with someone you don't know very well and upon whom your future rests. Politeness counts, but is not demanded here, and insults are freely used to greet friends and loved ones. You're free to behave boorishly: it's seen as your problem, not society's. But losing control of yourself is strictly against the law: public drunkenness can bring fines or jail time; likewise many forms of private intoxication. Encouraging others to behave this way is also frowned upon, especially if you are encouraging someone considered "under society's protection", ie. children.

Way I figure it, kids are psychotic enough without the encouragement so fair enough.

As much as you're not encouraged to entice children to use intoxicants, even ones as mild as alcohol and cigarettes, advertisers of these things can't even state any sort of benifit gained by using them, no matter what the target age. Even those candy sticks that were sold in packs of twenty from way back when now call themselves "candy sticks" instead of "candy cigarettes" (or even just "candy", like these folks. Notice something missing?)

Compare that, if you will, to Japan's Kampai company, which advertises its foaming apple juice, faux-champaigne, wine, and cocktails specifically targeting kids in commercials like this, while selling a hangover cure here.

How well do you think those would go over on this side of the Pacific?

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posted by Thursday at 11:49 am

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