Via “Hon’ne” and “Tatemae”: A Basic Explanation For Westerners, By a Westerner.

I got turned onto this blog by Irina and I’m really glad I visited. It is well written and interesting. (WAIT – You Guys Haven’t discovered The Unpopular Poplar!!??!!)

I think we all have our private and public persona. There are things we never reveal to anyone, not friends, not even to lovers and spouses and sure as heck, not employers. I’ve had my share of experiences where I thought what I was revealing was perfectly innocuous only to find someone else thought it was creepy or delusional or too politically incorrect to be accepted. And that is why even people who might want to be completely honest and accepted for who they are will put up a front – a “tatemae.”

Even something as trivial as waxing rhapsodic over the latest advances in particle physics is enough to have people glancing askance at you. “Normal” people don’t do that. You learn to shut up and say nothing.

Elon Musk’s appreciation of anime cat-girls is an example. There is a very large section of the American public – both on the religious right and feminist left – who would find it offensive for a middle-aged male to openly express feelings that are culturally restricted to teenage boys. He can get away with it because of his high status and his previous accomplishments.

That is a major problem for anyone on the autism spectrum and I am kinda suspect he’s an extremely high functioning specimen. Musk has an extremely loyal fanbase, some of whom are also on the autism spectrum and understand. People with less raw talent have to adjust. A person who is not in such a secure position has to try to “pass” or they run into endless social obstacles.

I suppose the American word for ‘tatemae” would be “front.” (Taken a bit further, one may build a “closet” to hide ones ‘hon’ne” in.) To some extent, everybody has to put up fronts to get by in life, multiple fronts for different groups we interface with. American tradition has it that it is duplicitous and immoral to do so yet the penalty for being your true self may be great. Complete honesty is not often the best policy

In Japan, there may be more things that have to be hidden. Or perhaps it is just different things.