Facinating example, for an upper middle class american, of the maintenance of group norms.
The young Japanese civilians taken hostage in Iraq returned home this week, not to the warmth of a yellow-ribbon embrace but to a disapproving nation’s cold stare.
Three of them, including a woman who helped street children on the streets of Baghdad, appeared on television two weeks ago as their knife-brandishing kidnappers threatened to slit their throats. A few days after their release, they landed here on Sunday, in the eye of a peculiarly Japanese storm.
“You got what you deserve!” read one hand-written sign at the airport where they landed. “You are Japan’s shame,” another wrote on the Web site of one of the former hostages. They had “caused trouble” for everybody. The government, not to be outdone, announced it would bill the former hostages $6,000 for air fare.
Now before I start muzing about this as an example of group membrane maintanance let me say that having watched documentaries about the US on television in Europe I’d take that entire story with a grain of salt. The actions of even a significant minority of people do not necessarily a nation make.
You can’t have a group membrane without having some degree of exclusion; and sooner or later (usually later) your going to have top ostracize somebody. While it’s amazing what a adaptible thing humans are and how different groups can have such amazingly different configurations of such stuff it get’s you a mess of point on my cult score card when you become black and white about this kind of stuff.
It’s often very hard to discern the source of shunning. Sometimes it’s the inate fear that association will just lead to spreading infection. Sometimes it is necessary the maintenance of group norms. Sometimes it’s just blame the victum or kill the messenger.
If anybody should want to think that such things don’t happen in the US I would suggest they go back and read about the period around Vietnam; or some of the vitrolic things getting said about anybody that acts out against the war in Iraq; or this story about fast food resturant managers and their relationship to authority.