In our opinion: Americans still have plenty to learn


    So just how do young music fans celebrate the ideals of peace and love in Japanese society?

    Apparently in a more tempered manner than their American counterparts.

    Just over a week removed from the frenzy of violence, vandalism and chaos that erupted at the close of the Woodstock ’99 music festival in Rome, N.Y., 25,000 Japanese music fans gathered at the Fuji Rock Festival in Naeba, Japan. The lineup featured many of the same bands who, just one week earlier, had apparently provoked riotous behavior among the 225,000 people at Woodstock — a name and location that has been romanticized to represent the ideals of peace, love and freedom through music.

    But a funny thing happened on the overseas flight. Apparently, bands like Rage Against the Machine and Limp Bizkit lost the magic touch — or, in other words, the ability to incite groups of young people to insanely irrational behavior.

    Instead, according to an article from Knight-Ridder news services, the Japanese crowd actually maintained some semblance of control. The article stated that once the show had ended, “25,000 Japanese kids silently picked up their trash, gathered up their plastic tarps and picnic coolers and meekly retreated, leaving behind a tidy, pastoral hillside.”

    Japan, a country celebrated for its technological advancements, has apparently accomplished something we Americans haven’t been able to — an actual separation of rock ‘n’ roll from its companions of sex, drugs and violence. According to Knight Ridder, during the Fuji Rock Festival, drugs were basically non-existent, the concert goers kept their clothes on and the aggressive behavior was limited to mild “body surfing.”

    In an ironic twist, The Associated Press reported that promoters of Woodstock ’99 are under criticism for not anticipating problems with the type of lineup put together for the event. Woodstock’s promoter, John Scher, told The Associated Press, “I didn’t take into account the frenzy the audience could have been in by putting those three acts (Limp Bizkit, Rage Against the Machine and Metallica) together.”

    So did the aggressive music just not register with the Japanese audience? Or was it more about who was off the stage than who was on it?

    Woodstock ’99 came to a close with a reports of behavior that was nothing short of repulsive if not criminal. Getting a little frantic in a mosh pit is one thing, but things like arson fires and accusations of rape are completely different.

    Those who participated in Woodstock ’99 seemed to take the music they heard as licence to abandon self control and personal accountability. Meanwhile, at the Fuji Rock Festival, Japanese concertgoers were proving that the frenzy at Woodstock had more to do with the audience than the music. The Japanese enjoyed the same music while maintaining decency and respect for others.

    This isn’t to say that Japanese culture or the Japanese themselves are perfect. But the difference between the reactions of two groups to the same music is astounding.

    The reasons for the contrast go beyond cultural stereotypes — it’s all about ethics. In short, while the music played, the Japanese audience behaved and the Americans didn’t.

    Apparently, we still have plenty to learn from other cultures.

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