Sunday 15 September 2013

Onion: honne and tatemae

This morning I discovered For The Promptless which is dedicated to "sharing perspectives and expanding minds". My mind needs a little expanding today. I am putting all my CDs (and I have a lot of very old school CDs) on my computer in order to prepare my snazzy, new, green iPod with... well, all that old music. I am a CD-ripping monkey. My mind needs expanding.

We are told:
Honne is a Japanese noun referring to the behaviour and opinions someone truly believes in - often displayed with one’s closest confidants. It contrasts with the behaviour a person displays in public - called Tatemae. 

There was a man standing outside the train station. I didn't understand what he was saying because I didn't speak his language, but he was waving a book in his hand. He was shouting, violently, passionately, spit flying out of his mouth, arms flapping. He believed in what he was saying so much, he might have taken off at any moment.

I sat having tea with a friend of a friend of a friend. She spouted on about shopping and people and languages and children and travel. A lot of nonsense. I drank my tea and said nothing: the patient, absorbing ear, desperately wanting to find another wavelength.

The team had terrible ideas, but at least they were usable. More than our managers' ideas, which were stuffy, self-congratulating (for what?) and boring. It's not a dictatorship if you're allowed to answer back and protest. It feels like it when the sublime and ridiculous grace the pages of your work. It is not your work, but nobody knows that and they smile and say Good job!

I have been called argumentative recently, by my husband and my dad. I disagree (you knew that was coming, right?). I'm not argumentative per se; it's more that I simply have a different opinion. And I need to express it. These are two people I can do that with. Or is the cultural space of my parents' house a Honne-Tatemae zone, with carefully drawn invisible lines? Can my husband defer my Honne to the outside world and compare me to other mortals, just because he is the nicer person?

The Queen has to make a speech about the difficult year, pulling together as one nation, the bravery of troops, recovery. She really wants to throw the speech out of the window and tell everyone what a joy it was working with Daniel Craig and making the nation laugh. Her heart likes that.

On a small island nation that needs help, its leader stands before his people. For centuries they have misunderstood what they have to do. They have been lazy, relying on their neighbours, always turning with their hands out in front, palms up. It is time for action, control of their own destiny. He sees only one way of doing this. The army rolls in.

I peel an onion and it makes me cry. There are so many layers, each with their own tears. It is the onion that makes me cry.

Isn't it?



  1. Nice take on the prompt. We all have to decide if we even want to play the game of putting a better face forward...

    1. Many thanks, Sreejit, for stopping by and reading. It is true what you say.


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