37 new JETS, $40 of M&Ms, and Rights vs Responsibilities

It’s that time of the year again.

37 odd new JETS who have endured the excruciatingly long “8 month wait” are flying off to Japan tomorrow where they will go to “Tokyo Orientation” and some exciting times ahead in that incredible country that we all love and want to go back to!!!

Today was an exciting day for me. I organised and faciliated 2 hours of workshops at the pre-departure orientation for the 2011 Auckland JETS. See the pictures below. I also gave a speech at the reception and as the last speaker gave a toast – a toast to the JET programme and everybody who makes it happen. I did however forget to say “Kanpai” at the end. Obviously, I’ve been back in NZ too long!!! Thanks to all the JETAA members who came and helped today. My big thing these days is all about community building and the JET community is a strong community made up of truly amazing and talented people. I’m lucky to be involved with such awesome people.

Looking at the incredibly talented and amazing individuals today that make up the 2011 Auckland JETS cohort, I couldn’t help thinking that they were just another great bunch of Kiwis headed off on their own little adventure to experience all the wonderful things that I, and all the other ex-JETs, had experienced in our time in Japan. In some ways I felt jealous, but it is an exciting time to see the next group of JETs off on their way. I wish them the very best of luck. It reminded me of the all important season of “Spring” in Japan where the old is out and the new is in. It’s all just a normal process of life, isn’t it!?

Thoughts for today:

I decided to buy a couple of bags of M&Ms for the new JETs to consume during the workshops. $40 later! Can someone please explain to me how the current economic situation that is driving prices sky high for all goods and services can be a good thing, apart from the sellers who must be grinning from ear to ear?? Is any politician making a statement about this, or do they all have their heads in the sand? No wait…I’ve asked the wrong question, let me try this one – has anybody tried to start a rational debate about how we can bring prices down to a reasonable level?

Some people might think I’m rambling at this point but it does bring me back to Japan and some of the important lessons we can learn from Japanese society.

I got a ride home tonight with a friend whose car was parked in the Wilson parking building on Kitchener St. When we arrived at the car we found that the back right window had been smashed and somebody had rifled through everything in the car. The car was parked close to the entrance way and next to a BMW and yet someone, who obviously has no sense of either personal or social responsibility, had decided to try and break into a car. For what? My friend asked Wilson Parking about whether their cameras had caught anything and their response was “We don’t install cameras…on principle!”

I couldn’t help thinking about those 37 JETS headed off to Japan, to one of the safest countries in the world. And why is it one of the safest? It’s because everybody there understands the concept of personal responsibility and not wanting to cause “迷惑” (meiwaku – inconvenience) to anybody.

In NZ the talk is often about rights – my right to do this, my right to do that, my right to be whoever I want to be! Indeed they are important and central to society where we embody the pursuit of indiviudal freedoms….but what about responsibilities – do we ever talk about them? How about: My responsibility to do the right thing in society, my responsbility to ensure that everybody around me is getting along fine and I can help them out in anyway to ensure all of us are leading a good life. My responsibility to think about my actions and how they might affect others!

Perhaps today’s lesson for me was that “community” and society as a whole is made up of incredible individuals and the trick to finding harmony amongst a groups of rights-driven individualists is to find that common ground that drives a community forward and then encouraging everybody to work towards that vision.

I’d be interested to hear your views because JETAA is a great community and I want to ensure that it remains strong and vibrant, well into the future. I will retain my right to buy $40 of M&Ms but I will also stay steadfast to my responsibility to ensuring that our strong and vibrant community continues on, for the benefit of everybody.

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