18 July 2011

Human Rights Abuse by Robots in Japan

I am human and I have the right to know.

(...why a certain legal procedure is being carried out on me.)

We all know about Japan's stand on whaling. Have you guys seen that movie, The Cove? When you come to Japan, expect the same kind of "hospitality." Not from everyone, of course. There are really nice people here. And then there are the few incomprehensible. And then there is their great love of country, that is above all else. Justice is difficult for murder victims of foreign nationality. Koreans were blamed for fire and for other things after the "Great" 1923 Tokyo area (Kanto) earthquake. Many foreigners of various nationalities have been stopped in the street or visited in their homes, and "requested" for their Alien Registration ID and passport, without any due cause.

Anyway, I arrived from a trip to Amsterdam that was scheduled to arrive 11:40, but thankfully arrived an hour earlier. There's a bus ride from 11:40 that directly goes to the train station closest home, and so I thought I could catch that. No need to take the next bus at around 14:00, nor the 12:00 or 13:00 bus that goes to a train station a further 15 minutes away.

By 11:05 I was already at the customs - just one stop away before buying my bus ticket!

And then, the customs officer, a young man apparently still in his 20's, appeared to have looked at a list and then held my passport and told me that he needs to inspect my baggage.

Me, having nothing to hide, and having done nor brought nothing illegal, "cooperated." I've been inspected by customs officers before, like on a few of the times I visited the US, but those felt like random inspections and didn't last more than 5 minutes.

This time though, it took around 25 minutes. All my bags' every nook and cranny, as well as all my worn coats' pockets down to the insoles of my shoes were all thoroughly checked. After just a few minutes, I realized it wasn't gonna be just a regular, random, 5-minute inspection. I was suspected of something.

If there's one thing I hate so much, it's that being suspected of something that I didn't do nor have anything to do about. I was getting frustrated.

But at the same time, every time he was going to open a bag pocket, the customs officer asked me "politely," "Is it okay if I open this part?" Every time of course I said yes. "Yes, of course." I felt though that he was doing that so that later, if I formally complain, they would just say, "You agreed to the inspection." I felt though that if I said no, they would suspect me even more. What the hell was I supposed to do. Japanese politeness, eh? It is starting to feel superficial after this incident.

Before he started opening my bags, he pointed to some photos of drugs, first and asked, "Did you bring this?" DUH. I politely said "no." Why the hell would I???????????????????? See, yes or no, he would have inspected my bag anyway. Next he pointed to photos of what appears to be porn DVDs and the like and asked "How about this?" DUH. What the hell!!!!!!!

And then the last stage of the inspection, finally, was to inspect me. At that point I started to ask why I was being inspected. Did I do something wrong? Personally, all I wanted to know was how could I have avoided this from happening to me? Because I don't do these wrong or illegal things because I surely have a decent life and I surely would like to avoid these bothersome circumstances.

But surely this was no random inspection! I was being a victim here. And I felt like I really had no choice. I was a slave, and I had to "cooperate" with the master's wish. WTF.

The only answer he gave me was that "We only need your cooperation." It's the blackbox answer. If I try to pry some more, I think I will just expose how much they do not know or pretend to not know about communicating in English. In other words, they were saying "You are in our country, you follow our orders, bitch, or else." And, "it's difficult to explain." Now here I follow every rule, of course. I always do. I respect that this is not my country. But at the same time, I expect that, if I don't do anything wrong, I will be respected. Because I am a human being. And hey, I work hard. Just like they do. But I don't try to step on other people's toes. Most specially innocent toes.

To me, now almost 24 hours after, my questions are still unanswered? WTF?????

I have a few suspicions why - and I'm still not really sure which one is the answer:
  1. A few Filipinos before me have been caught (maybe recently?) bringing either illegal drugs or pornography into Japan. Me being a Filipino, I was, to a robot, automatically a suspect. Talk about the fallacy of generalization. Talk about artificial intelligence. Or lack there of.
  2. I came from Amsterdam where certain drugs (i.e. marijuana) and prostitution are legal, although it is not in almost all other places. So, the robot thinking was, because I'm not a goody-two-shoes, law-following (blindly) Japanese citizen, I must have went there to try marijuana and prostitution. And I was bringing the experience all back to Japan with me. Because I can't get that here. So I was thought of a junkie and a perv. This, after I explained that I was a student in Japan and that I was in Amsterdam for 8 days, to attend a conference and now I'm back. By the way, I was probably the only Filipino on this KLM flight from Amsterdam. They probably thought that KLM was not an airline a Filipino (or a student) can usually afford, and I must have gotten rich by selling drugs or porn. Oh and yeah, me being a Filipino, I was a suspect.
  3. The customs officer probably needed some actual, hands-on training in inspection. The safest person to practice on was me. Because I am a Filipino? "We only need your cooperation." That's the reason why????
  4. I forgot that I brought some "salaminis," small salami, and failed to declare it. So I was probably bringing drugs and porn and didn't declare it as well. Anyways, the robot saw my salaminis and didn't comment. I think he was really looking for drugs and porn. See #7.
  5. They have a thriving porn and sex-related industry here. Prostitution is legal for as long as there is no intercourse. If I had brought porn, these high money industries might have been affected. DUH!
  6. The robots need to meet some inspection quota. And I was the perfect one to do it on - it's just un-Japanese to suspect fellow Japanese of bad things. So they can do it only on me. Oh, and certainly, not the white people. There's a double standard here.
  7. The robots are not robots after all. They've seen too many hero movies though, and knew how good it felt to be the hero of the day. Me being a Filipino male, travelling by myself, to the land of pot and prostitutes, was going to make him the hero of the day. It was going to be a big bust! NOT.
  8. In a span of 15 months, I've been out of this country and back for four times already. Twice on business trip (to Korea once, and then this last one) and twice on a personal trip (to the Philippines). Maybe that was too much for them? For those who do not know, when you get a visa to work or study in Japan, it is only a single entry visa. If you want to be able to come back, you can either get a single or a multiple re-entry permit. The former costs 3000 yen and the latter only 6000 yen. So obviously I have the multiple re-entry permit. Could it be that they dislike people coming and re-entering Japan for more than two times? Because if I paid for every re-entry, I would have paid them 12000 yen already, not just 6000 yen! And now what, I need to go back home this October and then again in December. At the same time, I'm afraid now for my wife to travel by herself. She'll just get suspected as well. The first time she visited me here as a tourist at first, she was also suspected of maybe trying to find work and become an illegal alien here. It was a good thing she brought her company ID back then.
Smart people can tell when one person, a Filipino for example, is to be "suspected" or not. Robots would automatically assume if one Filipino can do it, everyone else is a suspect. FUCK YOU ROBOTS.

You know, at the very least, I wished I was given a reason why I was being inspected. I would have accepted any reason. "We only need your cooperation," is no reason. It's the same as "You slave, I master, you really have no choice." Or at least that I had been warned earlier (like at immigration check point?) that it would take long and at least given a seat. If this had happened in the US, I think I would've gotten a reason. "Sir, you are suspected of bringing drugs and porn." Or, "Sir, you brought meat products and didn't declare it. So now we suspect you might have brought other illegal things." I wouldn't mind. At least I know. And next time, I know better to be more careful. And in the US at least I could ask back, "Why would that be?" And I would be given another good answer. And then we could have a conversation. Because they have humans and not pre-programmed, protocol-friendly robots as customs officers there. They know that we, travellers, do-gooders or otherwise, are humans as well. Sometimes harsh, but sure, they are doing their job but usually harsh only for good reason. "We only need your cooperation." FUCK IT.

One thing is for sure now. I am afraid of this country and what the few people robots here could do. It was something I never expected of Japan. Of all the things I would like to avoid, it is abuse, particularly of authority. And particularly by robots I cannot ever reason with. I am very afraid.

I had a "stash" of 10 chocolate bars - from the Netherlands, of course. When the inspector saw it, you know I really felt that the first thing that came to his mind was that those chocolates might have marijuana in it. "So, you like chocolates?," he suspectingly asked. I told the truth, of course, "No, not really." But I was like, duh! I was like thinking, unlike him, I'm not a robot and I have friends! And that it's "Omiyage." Souvenirs/gifts from the place that I visited for friends and family. Ah the disappointment on his face. He was not going to be a hero that day.

I told the story to some Japanese friends here - no, I don't have robots as friends; these are real human beings with feelings - and they suggested it might be a combination of #2 and #8, and maybe they won't say it to me directly but I think they think it's #1, #2, and #8. Okay. But still, I still don't know the real reasons why. I have the right to know, robots! But, how to argue, much alone converse with robots, that is the question.

My friends did suggest also though that I might have looked suspicious. Yup, that's how Japanese think. I think the ordinary "salaryman," the office worker and breadwinner of families, do not wear blue shirts because blue is for blue-collared workers. When it's March 20th, the Spring solstice, plenty of robots start wearing spring attire and ditch their winter apparel. That is, even if the temperatures are still the same as winter temperatures. Because it's spring already! And so on. I knew all this beforehand, and so actually I made sure I was wearing a long-sleeved polo (i.e. with a collar) and I shaved. Oh yeah, because you are usually thought of as a criminal if you have a beard or mustache on. But at the end of it all, I think it was just because of my face and skin color. It's dead obvious I'm not a member of the yellow race. Racism? Human rights abuse? Whatever it is, it is very insulting.