OK, back to real posts. This opinion piece from Toyo Keizai (E. Asian Economy) Magazine comes a bit late, but it’s a very thought-out leftist stance that I have yet to see in the English language. Here you go:
by Yamaguchi Jiro (Professor, Hokkaido Univ.) ← Wow, it looks like he’s got a WordPress blog! Cool! And here‘s the Japanese original of this article:
The politics of 2005 have already begun. This year there are few major elections, save for the Tokyo Assembly, and it is predicted that there will be little change in Japan’s political situation. Quite the contrary, with the 60th anniversary of the end of WW2, we should perhaps make 2005 the year in which we recap how far Japan has come since the war and further the debate on Japan’s future path.
Looking back at the 50th anniversary of the war’s end 10 years ago, we must acknowledge a huge difference in the international environment and domestic opinion. 10 years ago, Murayama Tomiichi, then chairmnan of the Japan Socialist Party, had the Prime Minister’s seat, and public opinion displayed reflection over the past half-century along with a sense of atonement with the victims of the War. Furthermore, Japan bent over backward to achieve resolution on various pending issues, such as aid for “comfort women” and reconciliation ceremonies with the various countries in Asia via PM Murayama’s 50th Anniversary talks.
However, 10 years later, the Japanese public overflows with the exact opposite sentiment, as shown in their distrust of surrounding countries and their dissatisfaction with being made the villain of modern history. The PM is visiting Yasukuni Shrine, and plenty of people support him. And as Japanese-American military cooperation deepens, we have gone so far as to send SDF troops all the way to the Middle East. The postwar framework of the SDF and security has been dismantled, and Article 9 of the Constitution has already lost its significance as a norm. And in the case of the Japanese hostages in Iraq, the opinion that those who oppose the government’s policies deserve to die reached all the way to parts of the mass media.
Reflecting this change both at home and abroad, voices calling for revision of both the Constitution and the Basic Education Law are rising, especially among the main body of the LDP. 10 years ago, there was an attempt at fulfilling Japan’s responsibility for its past based on postwar values such as peace and respect for the individual. However, now the logic for the nation is placed in the front, and we have begun emphasizing the free action of our institutions of violence and the subjugation of the individual.
If we look back 10 years ago, we must once again realize that Japan’s weakness and fragility has not changed from during the war to the postwar period.
First of all, there is the weakness of will seen in an individual’s unwillingness to stop the group from running wild. Beginning with uncontrollable Japanese military in the War, and all the way through to the power struggle (利権あさり ← any suggestions for a translation?) in Social Insurance and Seibu Dentetsu Train Co. stock suspicion, the root cause is the same. Japan’s leaders place obedient and close associates at the top levels of power, and they push through programs that go against common sense. It works during the time when they can hide their failures or illegal deeds, but once they are revealed the whole organization is set up for its downfall. Even if there are individuals who see the problem for what it is, they do not have the courage to give the necessary warning to save the group. By hiding it, a once proud and majestic organization finds its fatal flaw in the exposure to even the slightest scandal.
The second weakness that Japan must deal with is an intellectual weakness where people, unable to look directly at an unpalatable reality, instead convince themselves they’ve solved problems with placebo solutions and psychological distractions (精神論）. Ignoring failure and making the wound bigger was the specialty of Japan’s army since the Nomonhan incident. Slowness in dealing with the bad debt crisis and the aging population is a problem of the same composition. This reflects the fact that there are few intellectual individuals in Japan’s political and economic realms who can refuse to allow us to keep our heads in the sand (My translation of それでも地球は回っている）.
Those who call for revision to the Constitution and the Basic Education Law criticize the fact that the individual has become too powerful in our postwar democracy, endangering the welfare of everyone else. However, in reality, even 60 years after the end of the war, individuals with courage and knowledge have not sufficiently developed. As is evident in former Yomiuri Giants owner Watanabe Tsuneo‘s famous words “You’re just a player!”(たかが選手）, the good sense to respect the individuality of others does not exist among Japan’s leaders. Instead, the cowardice of yesmen and the disrespectful attitude of elite leaders like Watanabe and (Seibu Tetsudo owner)Tsutsumi Yoshiaki create a vicious cycle. It’s not that postwar democracy has harmed Japanese society, it’s because it has not been fully realized that individuals that can correct organizational and societal mistakes have not come forward. The result of this is a Japan whose political economy remains in the grip of stagnation.
We need the ability to correct ourselves (必要なのは自己修正能力）
From the individual and organizational levels to the societal level, what Japan needs today is the ability to correct itself. This homework, assigned to Japan after the end of WW2, must be handed in now. In order for Japanese people to have the ability to correct themselves, first of all we must have a sense of our history. The ability to correct oneself will not spring forth in a society that is drunk on itself and considers it masochistic to back at its own history with a critical eye and see mistakes for what they are.
For example, the Yasukuni scandal will never be resolved without a clear distinction between revealing the leaders who were responsible for the war and remembering the war’s victims. There is no point in attacking the dead. However, identifying the war’s leaders and verifying mistaken policies is a key element of the ability to correct oneself. To simply praise the dead will only end up continuing the intellectual bankruptcy and absence of individuality that caused the war in the first place.
The second key condition for the ability to correct oneself is democracy. When the direction a group or society is going in is mistaken, the existence of dissent will be what saves it. Democracy as a system includes dissenting opinions in an attempt to prevent a major catastrophe for society. The wherewithal to encourage minority parties to try and gain control of government is not only necessary for that party but for society as a whole. To guarantee the right to express dissent is therefore not just necessary for the dissenters but for everyone. To suppress the ego of the individual and emphasize conformity to power and the nation, as is the current topic of discussion surrounding the Constitution and Education reforms, is mistaken in that sense.
Constitutional revision may be the hot topic in the Diet this year, since no major political events are expected. However, it looks like politicians are using the Constitution as if it were a toy, fantasizing that all the world’s incosistencies can be resolved simply by changing it. The people in charge of Parilamentary politics are dancing with Death. I believe it is necessary to debate postwar democracy and the Constitution, especially on the 60th anniversary of the end of the war. However, if it does not proceed while looking correctly at Postwar Japan’s faults and a holistic view of history, this may also be the year when Japanese politicians’ ability was tested.