Back in the 1940s, why did Japan opt for disastrous policies that led it to launch an attack against the United States at Pearl Harbor? Looking back on those times, take steel production for example: For every ton of steel Japan turned out, the United States was producing 10 tons. So then why, in spite of how obvious it was to anyone who assessed the situation that it would lead to certain defeat, did Japan make the decision to go to war?
Writing in Nikkan Gendai (Sept 27), former diplomat, university instructor and author Ukeru Magosaki worries that the same short-sighted mentality applies to present-day Japan as well. And he supposes that just as Japanese people today look back at past blunders like the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese in the future will look back at 2014 and ask why their forebears made so many wrong choices.
The first of these is the restart of nuclear power plants. Earthquake-prone Japan is vulnerable to the possibility of a repeat of the same kind of disaster that occurred in Fukushima. The country is presently managing without. Why not continue?
Next, says Magosaki, is the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) trade agreement being pushed by the United States. According to its provisions, companies that cannot realize a profit have the right to take claims to court, effectively taking sovereignty away from the respective signatory countries.
Third is the policy of collective self-defense adopted by the government. The likely result of its application will reduce the people's purchasing power and living standard. Increases in the consumption tax also jam the brakes on future economic growth.
The weird political situation that came to exist in Japan before the Pacific War was the result of assassinations of numerous political and government figures. In 1913, Moritaro Abe, head of the Political Bureau of the Foreign Ministry, was assassinated by a fanatic youth. Likewise in 1929, Sadao Saburi, ambassador to the Nanjing government, was sent to mend fences with China. He was reported to have committed "suicide," although he was almost certainly assassinated.
Shortly before the assassination of Prime Minister Tsuyoshi Inukai as part of the uprising by a group of 11 young naval officers as part of a failed coup d'etat attempt that took place on May 15, 1932, Inukai had been heard to remark, "Somehow we have to find a way to curb acts of violence by members of the military."
Intimidation by the assassinations resulted in Japanese society's tolerance of violence by the military, with disastrous results.
What is scary, writes Magosaki, is that the present-day social atmosphere is coming to resemble the one existing prior to the Pacific War. People who advocate peaceful approaches are simplistically branded "traitors." When individuals such as the minister of defense make inflammatory statements, society does not demand they be reprimanded for doing so.
People with opinions at variance with the powers that be are divested from the mainstream media. Political figures who take a stance judged to be undesirable are ganged up on by the mass media and subjected to character assassination, with the aim of hounding them out of politics. One recent example would be Governor Hirohiko Izumida of Niigata Prefecture, a vocal opponent of restarting the nuclear power plants. On social media, Izumida posted this request: "If it appears that I were to have committed suicide, that will absolutely not be the case, so please conduct an investigation."
In such a way, Japan has been reverting to the days when political figures felt a sense of physical danger.
Democracy, at present, is producing the continuous creaks and rumbles that typically precede an imminent collapse. Nevertheless, many people continue to support an administration that's leading it toward just that result.© Japan Today