Only In Japan

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Golden week

This week's post is going to be very short... This being Golden Week, my post has to be submitted by Tuesday instead of the usual Friday, so please don't expect some War and Peace long story...

Talking about war and peace, there has been a lot of talk lately about the new rise of nationalism, negationism and militarism in Japan, with all the sinister implications this could have for world peace.
From my point of view, yes it is true that the far-right is on the rise, and to tell you the truth I don't lose sleep over it. Concretely, I think almost nothing will change.

The thing one should always keep in mind when thinking about Japanese society is that Japan has the world's oldest average population. So yes, there are plenty of old men, recently retired or nearing retirement age, who suddenly have a lot of time on their hands and a lot of nostalgia for olden times, when everything was simple and old men got more respect from society. It is understandable: they have worked their lives off to make Japan a strong and rich country, so now they feel they are due some respect, and they want people to be proud of the Japan they have helped build. I don't really know whether I should feel contempt or pity for those among these old men who turn to the far-right ...

Anyway, those far-right old men are a typical "noisy minority", i.e a relatively minor number of people but with enough coordination and political reach to disproportionately influence policy in their country. Their main objectives are threefold: whitewashing the horrors committed by the Japanese during WW2, restoring patriotism and confucean values, and rewriting the constitution to become a "regular" military nation again (the 1947 constitution, forced on Japan by the Americans, made Japan a pacifist nation largely dependant on America for its protection).

And yes, the far-right will probably manage some minor stuff like whitewashing the history textbooks children study at school, forcing the schools to give a more "patriotic" education to their students, censoring a few things here and there, regaining the right to a true army... But it will make no concrete difference. No-one can efficiently control information anymore, especially on topics like history and in countries where use of the Internet is so widespread. As to young people getting brainwashed by government propaganda, that sounds as preposterous to me as abstinence education having an impact on teenagers' sex life in America. After all, even in a seasoned dictatorship like China, young people are now cynical enough to realise when their government is trying to manipulate them, so in a free country like Japan I doubt "patriotic education" will make much of a ripple.

As to the rise of militarism, I think that's a pure joke. Japan has had one of the lowest fertility rates in the world for decades now; as a result, there are very few young people in Japan nowadays. Actually, there are not enough young people in the marketplace to replace all the seniors who are retiring in droves... And that country would be militarily dangerous? Errr, I think not. The hawkish old men who dream of a new Great Japanese Army just make me snigger. They live in a world that is about as real as that of my co-workers who have dates with their Sailormoon figures... And that says a lot.

So, my two cents? The world has enough real problems. Let's not get all hyped-up over mere fantasies. And enjoy Golden Week!


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