Red Sun Rising

Japan is poised to amend its constitution for the first time since the Second World War.

It's a mixed bag of proposals, some of which are really nasty.
As Bloomberg reports, the LDP has pointed out that “several of the current constitutional provisions are based on the Western European theory of natural human rights; such provisions therefore [need] to be changed.” What has the LDP got against the “Western European theory of natural human rights”? you might ask. Well, dozens of LDP legislators and ministers — including Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe — are members of a radical nationalist organization called Nippon Kaigi, which believes (according to one of its members, Hakubun Shimomura, who until recently was Japan’s education minister) that Japan should abandon a “masochistic view of history” wherein it accepts that it committed crimes during the Second World War. In fact, in Nippon Kaigi’s view, Japan was the wronged party in the war....

Kaigi believes that “Japan should be applauded for liberating much of East Asia” during WW2, that the “Tokyo War Crimes tribunals were illegitimate,” and that the rape of Nanking was either “exaggerated or fabricated.” It denies the forced prostitution of Chinese and Korean “comfort women” by the Imperial Japanese Army, believes Japan should have an army again — something outlawed by Japan’s current constitution — and believes that it should return to worshipping [sic] the emperor.
In general I think they're right that a 'masochistic' view of history is unhealthy for a nation. I've always had the sense, completely without evidence, that such masochism has something to do with the falling rates of fertility in Japan and Europe. I don't mean to suggest that it's the only cause, only that it has an effect on fertility. The theory runs something like this: just as you can't really be fully healthy if you hate your parents, you can't really be fully healthy if you hate the country that gave birth to you and sustained you into adulthood. Those who are less healthy will feel less interest in reproduction, out of an unspoken sense that they shouldn't pass on sickness and pain. By contrasts, countries with a robust patriotism -- as people who enjoy a strong and loving family bond -- will feel that they are flourishing, and that sensibly relates to a desire to have more children.

There's a neoplatonic root to the theory. Plotinus, explaining why the One produces the rest of the world, says something similar: "all things when they come to perfection produce." Since the One is perfect, it is eternally productive. Now, you may doubt the metaphysical claims of neoplatonism, but I think the insight is perhaps even more applicable to human beings (Plotinus was, after all, a human being). The sense of having reached a kind of perfection leads naturally to that place in which you are open to creating new life, just as a bird strives in the right time of the year to make nests and sing songs of attraction. The more one is afflicted with dense feelings of guilt and shame, the less likely it is that one ever comes to feel that sense that everything is right.

My theory could be quite wrong, of course: it's purely philosophical, and without any solid evidence to support it. However, believing it as I do, I can't help but think that it must be healthy for Japan to reject what it considers 'masochism,' and embrace a prouder view of its nation and traditions.

There is also no reason that Japan should not have an army, being neighbors with China and North Korea. For a long time the alliance with the United States was a plausible defense, but the years of Barack Obama have proven to the whole world that America is no longer reliable. Even once we have a new President, our standing has been greatly weakened by the consequences of Obama's foreign policy. A stronger defense makes good sense.

So those are the good parts of Japan's new self-assertiveness. The nasty parts... are all the rest of it, really. Worshiping the emperor? Abandoning the doctrine of natural human rights? Taking the easy road of revisionist history? These are not good signs.


douglas said...

I've felt for a long time that the West has misunderstood Japans embrace of the trappings and appearance of Western Culture as a true cultural shift, when in fact true cultural shift simply cannot happen that fast. Their lack of 'mea culpa' after the war was always a red flag, but no one seemed to feel like we should worry about it. They accepted defeat and punishments, but not as a culture, and actively denied many of their war crimes, as a people. The Germans at least made an honest effort to beat their chests, possibly to the point of overdoing it, at least in terms of going so far as to come away with the lesson that war was the problem, not the promotion of ideas of natural supremacy and the blaming and dehumanizing of segments of the population to assuage a sense of national despair and impotency.

Tom said...

I think there was a true cultural shift, but it has often masked some deep continuities. That shift wasn't as sudden as it seems, either. The Japanese flirted with real democracy in the 1910s and 1920s (the Taisho era), and the ideas took hold in some segments of society, only to be forced underground by a number of political assassinations and the militarization of society that came with war.

I don't think they lacked a true mea culpa; the Japanese government has apologized numerous times and the atrocities are in their school books. The idea that they haven't, however, has a deep hold on many, and is constantly pushed by the Chinese, by both nationalistic and Marxist Koreans, and by Marxist Japanese, of which, alas, there is no lack.

I have met Japanese people who denied that the atrocities were as bad as claimed, or who claimed that they were the actions of rogue commanders rather than state policy. On the other hand, I have no doubt that the Chinese government and scholars have exaggerated the crimes for political reasons. I am not denying them: There were true and massive atrocities. I just don't trust the Chinese communists to provide a true account of them.

On the other hand, they do have a deep belief that the the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were atrocities as well.

Anyway. The discussion about amending Article IX (the renunciation of war and a military) of the constitution is as old as the constitution itself. The Self-Defense Forces have been very controversial as well; the constitution clearly says Japan will not maintain military forces, but in a twist of Japanese Supreme Court legerdemain, the SDF is allowed as long as it doesn't have offensive capabilities. For example, I've read that aircraft carriers are unconstitutional because they are primarily for projecting power rather than defending territory. That's also why Japanese forces are called Ground/Air/Maritime Self-Defense Forces, not an army, air force, or navy.

The rest of the changes the article talks about are new to me. I've been out of touch for a few years. That said, Japanese news in English is usually written with a strong leftist bias. I would want to read the proposals in Japanese before I trusted this account too much. (Equally depressing: Pretty much all the news the Japanese get about us has a strong leftist bias.)

By the way, one of the first steps Abe took toward changing Article IX, allegedly, was using the MSDF to provide resupply to the US Navy during OEF. That was extremely controversial and many Japanese claimed it was unconstitutional. Then he sent the GSDF to OIF, engineers and medics, I think. They had to be guarded by the Dutch, IIRC.

Tom said...

Sorry, Junichiro Koizumi was PM back in 2003 and he was the one who made the decisions on sending the MSDF and GSDF to support OEF & OIF. Same party, though.

Just to confuse everyone, this right wing, conservative, nationalist party being accused of re-militarizing Japan is called the Liberal Democratic Party.

Also, thinking about what I wrote earlier, while the other constitutional amendment proposals are new to me as amendments, I do remember some groups in the past arguing for a new constitutional convention to completely replace the current constitution. The argument is fairly simple: The common claim is that MacArthur's staff essentially wrote their current constitution and forced it on them at gunpoint, and the people who want to replace it want to have a constitution based in Japanese values.

I sympathize with their sentiment, but I don't trust the people arguing for this to (dang my white devil colonialism!) maintain the people's natural rights. Looking at the run-up to WWII, it's pretty clear that control of the press and suppression of free speech was one key factor in the Japanese army's rise to power. There were many others, of course, but it seems to have been a pre-requisite.

Ymar Sakar said...

At least japan might have a good chance to survive WWIII, when the US falls to internal civil war 2. But this has been going on since 2008, in Japan, as I've noted online, if not here.

It's good to have reliable intel sources in the middle of the human masses that think AP/NYTImes and the Leftist websites are their Oracle of Truth.

Ymar Sakar said...

Provides a context view of some recent Japanese history in relation to their culture.

The common claim is that MacArthur's staff essentially wrote their current constitution and forced it on them at gunpoint, and the people who want to replace it want to have a constitution based in Japanese values.

That, is of course, only part of the argument from the Japanese language pov. The rest of the argument is that currently Japan is under a vassal relationship to the US, what they sometimes call Uncle Sam. Uncle Sam is the patriarchy of the clan and alliance, and the Japanese are like kids who aren't allowed to do anything by themselves. In fact, American patriots often argue about foreign aid and helping NATO, in the same sense that they don't want to deal with the little kids. Little kids being France and Germany and any other nation that relies on the US to do the security most of the time.

This pisses nationalists and patriots off in Japan, especially since in Japanese culture, the weaker party owes the stronger party allegiance, like a vassal would to their liege, and the vassal doesn't get much freedom or options. Thus this contradicts the American guaranteed "freedom". Especially since they began to doubt American promises of "security" from about 2008. Bush II made a big show of it in Afghanistan and Iraq but... well, we know who kicked his mission off the "course".

If it was merely MacArthur they had an issue with, they would have rewritten that Constitution some time ago, because MacArthur turned sovereignty over to the Japanese a long time ago. His occupation and plenipotentiary power in the GHQ, I believe, was shorter than the occupation of Iraq. The Japanese have refused to do so, because of their current relationship with the US. Because their current relationship with the US is changing and some of their leaders picked that up, now promotes the actual necessary rewriting of the Japanese constitution against war and military power. Because they have only tolerated in and accepted it, because of their supreme reliance on American power, their belief in American exceptional justice and honor.

As for Grim's theory, it is missing a few things, such as socio-economic factors. Such as the nuclear family or support from extended family. Humans, even the sub average ones, aren't as stupid as they may look. They can understand the risk benefit ratios for having children. Without a nuclear family, without an extended family, it doesn't matter what gov promises, to them the risks are too high, and the rewards are non existent. The ability for a clan to promulgate and reproduce, starts from year 1 of their children's lives. They can't wait until the children rot into adults, and then try to make them into productive families.

Tom said...

The rest of the argument is that currently Japan is under a vassal relationship to the US ...

Yep. You're absolutely right that they see it that way, and the US has often treated Japan that way as well. One caveat I would throw in is that many Japanese have resisted amending the constitution because they are truly pacifists, although ... Well, I've asked a number of Japanese pacifists whether they thought Japan would be right to defend itself if China invaded the Japanese main islands. Their answer has usually been shock and something like "That would never happen!" I can't get them to either say, "Yes, if Honshu itself were invaded, we should fight," nor "No, even if Honshu itself were invaded, we should never fight." It's as if the thought of war itself is so abhorrent that they just can't think about it.

douglas said...

Tom, that's why the enemy is so supportive of the anti-war movements here and in the West generally. They see the vulnerabilities that can cause.

There's also a pretty massive counter effort to the Chinese propaganda (which itself seems silly given the certainty that real, massive atrocities occurred under the Imperial Japanese) coming from the Japanese Nationalists and sympathizers (which you allude to above). I have seen that it's been mentioned in textbooks since the nineties, but that the references are as vague and detached as possible- in that Asian way of deflection for face saving purposes- as to be questionable as to their giving an honest perspective to Japanese students. Do you know any differently? I'd be interested to hear.

Disclaimer- I'm probably pretty biased- my mother's family was fleeing the Japanese and was endangered by them at times- fortunately, my Grandfather was connected to one of the Warlords affiliated with the Nationalists and so they were always able to stay ahead of the fray, even as it became the communists that they were fleeing. I don't know much of what my Grandfather did or who he was connected to, and I've been meaning to do research into it but have never gotten 'round to it. I suppose he may well have supported a man who was guilty of plenty of atrocities himself, as it was so common at the time.

Tom said...

Honestly, douglas, I don't know. I lived there for a number of years and the Japanese people I talked to about it seemed pretty well aware of what the Japanese army did at Nanjing, for example, but that's just anecdotal evidence.

Back in the early '00s there was a big textbook controversy related to this. Japanese schools can use any textbook approved by the Ministry of Education, and the MoE approved I think two history textbooks that presented heavily watered down versions of the Japanese atrocities. Many Japanese people were upset by this and saw it as whitewashing the history, and I got the impression that the history textbooks approved prior to this did go into some detail on the atrocities. That said, I never actually checked the textbooks out myself. I wish I had. Have you actually seen / read the textbooks?

I'd be very interested in your grandfather's story. Sounds like he was an interesting man.

Ymar Sakar said...

NRO and Leftist media reporting, plus those who believe in that junk, are almost as ridiculous as Europeans and Japanese believing things about America from CNN. The issue is not so much the bias, as the lack of education and comprehension amongst the subject viewers. Ideally, humans would figure out a way to access the primary source themselves, but modern day life loves its conveniences and sloth. I mention this, because I went to the NRo link and saw that they almost have no idea what they are talking about. Just like CNN/Hollywood, when it tries to portray American politics and life to Europe and everybody else outside the 50 state borders...

One caveat I would throw in is that many Japanese have resisted amending the constitution because they are truly pacifists, although

It's seen in the way they write dialogue as well, for foreign policy and political themes. They don't mention pacifists or what not as an actual policy, Japan tends to be hard on people who use copyright terms, even things like "McDonalds". They spell it a different way. So they tend not to mention parties directly, instead they'll say like a "certain country" is a military powerhouse and in charge of Japanese security. That "certain country" would be criticized, but not named. In the US, people would directly label Democrats and Republicans for the axe.

The "pacifists" so to speak are portrayed as being completely reliant on American security and guarantees. They are considered "in debt" to the US, as a result. And the counter argument from the patriots or nationalists is that if you are in debt to someone stronger than you, then you won't have any right to complain no matter how they treat you. It's a cultural reference to giri, or the Japanese debt/loyalty bond. The Japanese have been known to kill themselves over "debts" or "loyalties". These days, they call that suicide or "taking responsibility".

I have seen that it's been mentioned in textbooks since the nineties, but that the references are as vague and detached as possible- in that Asian way of deflection for face saving purposes- as to be questionable as to their giving an honest perspective to Japanese students.

But the US Army is different, right, because they don't put "massacre" in front of Wounded Knee for West Point studies.

Humans aren't so different as people would like to categorize.

Chinese propaganda about the Japanese serves the same purpose as the KKK and Southern propaganda about Lincoln, abolitionists, white Republicans, black Republicans. It is also similar to the blacks on the Democrat plantation of the modern 21st century USA, in which BLM claims that there are injustices that they need to assassinate and loot, because of.

Ymar Sakar said...

Many Japanese people were upset by this and saw it as whitewashing the history

Why then, do Confederate sympathetic Southerners continue to fly the flag, even a hundred years after civil war 1 in the US?

Are they white washing the history of Confederate racism, the KKK, and the justifications/causes of the First US Civil War?

Why does the North continue to back the propaganda that CW 1 ended slavery? Why does the Southern clans and states continue to claim that they were fighting for State's Rights, when the Secession documents of the South wanted to promote Federal Force in overriding the state rights of NY and other abolitionist states?