Our debt to the Nisei generation

Pg-34-copyAbraham Maslow in his academic paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation”, offered his theory on human behaviour based on a ‘hierarchy of needs’ that was illustrated in the form of a pyramid. Maslow identified Physiological needs as the most basic (food, shelter), followed by Safety, Love and Belonging, Esteem and the highest need being Self-Actualization. He believed that progressively smaller number of people go beyond their own ego/physiological state to reach the highest level. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can be used as one perspective in our understanding of the motivation behind those Nikkei volunteers who were involved in the Redress movement as well as those who rallied to rebuild our communities after 1949 when the War Measures Act was allowed to lapse by the Canadian Government. Most social and political movements begin with a small number of ‘self-actualized’ individuals who create the synergy that – in due course- attracts and mobilizes the mainstream. Maslow’s theory has given way today to the importance of attachment to explain human motivation; the relationship of a child with at least one parent that will have an impact on the child’s development in the future.

The fact that we are now five generations is due to the ‘gambare’ spirit of the Nisei. We owe a tremendous ‘ON’ (debt) to this generation – a debt that can never be repaid fully. The internment robbed them of educational and career opportunities and left some with very deep emotional and psychological scars. Due to the political and racist obstacles, the Nisei had no other choice but to do what was necessary to survive by looking after their financial and physiological needs first.

In spite of the challenges of eking out a livelihood, a small number of volunteers across the country devoted precious evenings and weekends to rebuild our cultural, religious and political institutions. In addition, they provided monetary support and participated in fund-raising campaigns – some putting their own names forward as guarantors on a mortgage. It is the Sansei who must now take over from this selfless generation. It is hearting to see that Sansei are now becoming engaged and are assuming many of the leadership positions among our member organizations but we need more to step forward! My generation is now in their mid-60s and early 70s and some have yonsei children who have or about to complete post-secondary education. The need for volunteers, financial sustainability, and the preservation of our Japanese Canadian culture and history, are permanent challenges that are further aggravated by our small population.

I urge Sansei to volunteer a few hours a month at their local Nikkei organization and if that is not possible, to donate what you can on an annual basis. As the number of Nisei supporters decline, we must assume a greater financial burden in supporting our community organizations for the sake of future generations. Each of us must take ownership for the survival of our precious Nikkei community. Teach your children well by talking to them about the challenges faced by early generations of Japanese Canadians in this country and to nurture in them a positive sense of self-worth by instilling in them confidence in their racial identity and ability.


Mariko Paterson’s Koi for Peace

A few months ago, Mariko Paterson of Forage Studies on Gariola Island, British Columbia informed our national office in Winnipeg that she had initiated a Koi for Peace lapel pin campaign to help raise money for the NAJC Sustaining Fund in memory of her dear parents. This generous act of compassion has raised several hundred dollars and the NAJC is truly indebted to Mariko who donated all proceeds. Thank you Mariko and to all those who purchased her pins! Please visit her website at: www.ForageStudios.com

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