January 09, 2006

Junichiro Koizumi

I was watching a CSPAN press speech with Junichiro Koizumi. It was very enlightening. I only caught the end bit, however. From what I was able to see, Koizumi's focus, concerning domestic policy, was the children of Japan and a sense of self-worth in the Japanese people. He mentioned, "when there is a will, there is a way". And he spoke about the well being and willpower of Japanese citizens under his new economic policies. The will being was par for course, but he specifically said willpower first, putting the emphasis by placing that description first of all. And given Japan's emphasis on putting things first, (cultural importance of Ichi), that tells me some things. Gives me a feeling for the man's soul. Most Americans see Japan's election of Koizumi was a reaffirmation of Japanese-US alliance, but I think it is a bit more than that. Koizumi is a powerful leader, with traits and flaws as any human may possess. I learned about Japanese culture first, without touching the politics, so that was why I was extremely interested when I happened upon this segment by accident.

I mean, if Bush said "when there is a will, there is a way" instead of his "stay the course", one might be shocked at his vernacular versatility. Others, detractors in their main, might propose that Bush was acting like a real Nazi, with real Nietsche Nazi rhetoric. So in some ways, it is surprising to see that in the rhetorical style of someone like Koizumi. Or perhaps it isn't, Koizumi may indeed be just as much religious and a faithful follower of the Japanese tradition, as is Bush himself. A straight talker, although Koizumi is quite phlegmatic where Bush looks really agitated in press conferences. The religion may contain different names, Shintoism and Christianity, the values are not so dissimilar as many would think however. I picked this up from the questions the reportered asked about Shinzin zumi** Shrine. I remembered something about that incident, the Prime Minister visited the Imperial Shrine to pay his respects. The shrine, that all the ancestors of those who died in battle for Japan resided. China and NK, from the hints I picked up from the questions, closed off negotiations based upon this pretex Presumably implying that the PM was warlike for visiting a religious shrine as per the guarantees of the Japanese Constitution. Regardless, this shows to me that Koizumi is quite religious and believes in Shintoism. I was not familiar with Shintoism by far, but one of your links to Japanese suicide bombers and their personal letters, portrayed some of the very best of Japan. And gave me a very enlightening perspective on Shintoism, not the religious dogma or the traditions, but simply the pragmatic reality of such faith. Some of that is portrayed in Japanese anime, such as Bleach and Naruto, but still, the actual practical applications in the current Japan cannot be directly derived from depictions in Japanese anime.

I am not sure how much you are familiar with the more militant virtues of Japanese culture, but from what I've seen, the Japanese military virtues are almost indistinguishable from their civilian virtues. In America, it is rather spread out. Civilian virtues like the work ethic, honesty, compassion, producitivity, creativity, obedience to the law, and so on. Military virtues, discipline, pride, self-sacrifice, indomitable drive to succede, physical courage, moral courage, loyalty, duty, and so on. All that translates to different things and different kinds of people. I have a limited selection to choose from however, and I wish I had a more systematic resource on Japanese culture than what I currently have access to. Much of the information I want is actually First hand, a Primary Source in historical lingoistics. And Japanese ANime is the closest I can acquire. But from that source, I notice a few trends. The newest anime are quite popular with the younger generation, the 10 to 21 age group. They are the ones that are shown on Japanese TV, and are subtitled by English fan groups that can then be downloaded. To get to the point, many of the hero characters in these animes are the mirror picture of a United States Marine, Soldier, Airmen, and Sailor. How can this be? To give you a specific example. The main character in Bleach has these qualities.

Loyalty to those who have saved his life. Compassion and respect for the dead, as per Shintoism and its traditions. A sense of duty to family, comrades (even friendship in Japan is more about mutual support in battle than peaceful aid), and others. A sense that one is "trash" if they don't pay their respects to those who have gone before and the duties of all Japanese people, and a sense that one would have to be a saint to be able to take on the job of protecting everyone. The main character in Bleach is a death god, one of many, in which the job is to destroy monsters to protect innocent souls from being devoured. Given Japan's take on their afterlife, ghosts and their environment is almost exactly like the material plane. A sort of AD and D tradition in that. Physical courage against daunting odds. Japan is a culture centered around the Sword and the Chrysanthemum, and much of their pop culture cues seem to be taken from Martial Arts and tournaments. Dragon Ball Z does not base much of its plot on tournaments for no reason. Given that, there is a lot of understanding about what I call "the Power Gap". The difference between the powerful and the weak. In practical terms, it is the difference between the United States and Somalia. Haven and Manticore (David Weber). The murderer and the victim. So the New Anime, geared for young people, automatically shows this. The very real fact that no matter how powerful you may be, there are always someone more powerful. Just as there are brown belts, red belts, white belts, and black belts. And even for the black belts who think they are the shit, there are 9th degree black belts and 1st degree black belts. And there is a world of difference between them. So what happens when the main character, who is young, faces someone older and more powerful that is able to defeat him in the blink of an eye to leave him breathing his last? Why, the main character triumphs in the end, by one act alone. The act of sheer willpower. What a coincidence, eh? It is no wonder that such themes resonate in America, and why Steven Den Beste seems to want to watch any anime he can get his hands on. But it seems to me, that these themes were not present in the older anime. In the anime after the war period, and during the reign of the "pacifists" in Japan.

Is not a Marine someone with a sense of loyalty to country, family, and peace? Is not a Marine someone who must push past physical pain to achieve victory? Is not a Special Forces operator, a master of pain and dread, masters at taking it and masters at giving it to the enemy, and yet do they not also realize that their power for all its vaunted dread, is matched by the sheer insanity of the enemies they must defeat? Does not the military believe in the traditions of America and those who have gone before? Did you not hear a Marine say of the WWII generation that such as their courage was what kept America free and that the new and younger generation of Soldiers strive to do their duty just as well as have those who have gone before? Is this not a tenet of Shintoism, to do your duty to the nation and to respect the sacrifices of people who have fought and died to make this nation what it is? And yet, for all the similarities, what we see only in the military in America and in special individuals, Japan sees it everyday on television for their children and teenagers.

For our popular culture is centered around music and hollywood and fashion. It is decadent, weak, and mired in human decay. Yet Japanese culture in the New Japanese Anime, is not only vibrant in Japan (Naruto and DBZ phenomenon like Star Wars, with all the toys too) but it is actually exported to other countries as well. That is why I say that Japan's military virtues as hard to distinguish from their civilian virtues. Because Japan's standard for civilian virtues, is our standard for military virtues.

And now we get back to Koizumi and his visit to the Imperial Shrine. The Shrine of all those who have died in the service of the Sword, in defense of Japan. Reading the notes of the suicide bombers of Japan, I felt a great irony. Because they believed that they had to uphold the honor of Japan, in order to safeguard Japan and its citizens. Yet to continue on with their traditions of honor, that said surrender was dishonorable always and punishable by cruelty, would have resulted in the utter annihilation of the Japanese people and the nation itself. They were at an impasse, do they fight on in honor of their traditions, or do they surrender and lose all that was and will ever will be? Luckily, that choice was never made, for the Emperor must have seen that through surrender does not lie dishonor and destruction, but honor and salvation. Or perhaps he was willing to take that dishonor upon himself, in return for the salvation of his people. Just as a military officer might take a court martial offense on himself, when interrogating a terroist in order to obtain information leading to the salvation of his men. Just as much as the main character in Naruto who said, "those who disobey the rules have dishonored himself, but those who leave their friends to die are nothing but trash". Perhaps one of the truely great and honorable things that the Emperor Hirohito did in his life. I have sympathy for leaders who have lost and must now surrender to America. Robert E. Lee, Confederate President, Japanese Emperor. All former enemies. All current friends if they were still alive. It is because they were men who cared for their people, who wanted to do good, and were courageous enough to do the right thing, regardless of how history might have labeled them. This wisdom comes from reading books, written by David Weber. To see through the eyes of the enemy, and to recognize who are the honorable enemies and who are the dishonorable ones. Japan made a great mistake in classifying America as a dishonorable enemy, a mistake that had it been true, would have resulted in the annihilation of Japan. Japan thought that American soldiers that surrendered were slime, trash, those who were too cowardly to fight to the death. But that was untrue, the Marines on WACO island were quite ready to fight to the death. And they were winning too, until their "officers" surrendered. Same in Polynesia. The point is, if America had viewed surrender as dishonorable and a cowardly act, we would have not have allowed Japan to survive in its present form. Europeans know all about revenge and the destruction of a nation.

To the Japanese, it must look like a ninth degree Black Belt fighting a beginner. Why would the weaker fight to the death when he could surrender? What did he have to protect other than his pride, if his people might be saved by his surrender? And yet, giving up is not in the Japanese national character. Which is why the two policemen who "ran away" from a crazy guy with a bat, was embarassed (to put it lightly) when Koizumi himself censured them on national news.

The fact that Koizumi visited the Imperial Shrine regardless of political ramifications, is one thing. The fact that he said soon after that, that United States-Japanese relations should not only be strong, but that it could not be replaced in times of disenchantment, different regimes, or bitterness. Because as he said it, "there is no other nation that would see an attack on Japan as an attack on itself". Quite well said. There is no other nation who would honor such a pledge, or who would have the power to enforce it. For a weak person, the best thing to do is to find a stronger guy, and to cement an alliance that becomes a symbiosis. An imbalanced alliance based upon mistrust and hate, such as the one between the US and France, becomes unreliable, diseased, and a tool for the enemy. A balanced alliance, between brothers in arms and comrades in friendship, is a true alliance. And it is that singular fact combined with Koizumi's visit to the shrine, that resulted in the instant creation of the idea that perhaps Koizumi sees it as his duty to Japan, his father, his family, and all who have died to protect Japan, to do everything in his power (including seeking true allies) to protect Japan. Because as one nation which has been defeated knows above all else, there is always someone stronger than you. So it is best to get the strongest ally possible, the 800 pound silverback so to speak, on your side.

In America, seeking allies is not a matter of survival. It is a luxury, and a decadent one at that. Something politicians can mouth off about and get a feel good reaction from the polls, without using any real political capital. With hundreds of coalition partners, America still does the majority of the fighting, dieing, and killing. Our contribution to the alliance is great, and our benefit small. But that is the result of having great strength, you have greater responsibilities, and more people blame you for problems. A Japanese older brother in a family of 5 would understand that perfectly.

I think Koizumi understands that, in some degree. I think Koizumi is the kind of man that is has deep roots sunk into Japanese tradition and history. And I think that is the primary reason he was reelected. It certainly wasn't because Bush bedazzeled the Japanese population with his rhetoric. Bush can barely impress his own constituency, I don't think he has my understanding of Japan. Even though he has far more personal experiences in Japan. But there is a chance, since I don't believe I've seen a speech given just to a Japanese audience, of how Bush speaks. He might speak as he does to our military, in virtuous and courageous tones like that of Koizumi. And if he does that, then it would certainly resonate. So there is a chance, but a slim one.

Bush, with his deep roots in American history and traditions, was also reelected based upon those traits. He had a solidness that other candidates could not equal in their vacility and vacuousness.

This has been rather longer than I intended, but I think it says what I wanted to say to you about my thoughts concerning what I saw on CSPAN. I've welcome any comments you see fit to reply with.


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