Monday, May 21, 2007

Magic Nationalism - an introduction

I had been thinking of a weekly feature: a translation of an op-ed penned (brushed?) in the previous week by one of Japan's magic nationalists--just to introduce some of the-- shall we say off-kilter? --ideas they hold.

This morning's The Asahi Shimbun has provided gratis a first exemplar:

Debate on patriotism/ NOBUKATSU FUJIOKA: Holistic patriotic education still missing
Special to The Asahi Shimbun

May 21, 2007 - Is it necessary to provide Japanese children with education aimed at fostering patriotism? The answer is yes.

Let me illustrate my point by depicting a classroom scene. In Japanese schools, children are taught simple but structured Japanese history lessons for the first time in the sixth grade. The following scene describes the first lesson. The teacher asks a student: "Do you know how many of your ancestors were living four centuries ago, when Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of Tokugawa Shogunate, was in power?" The student appears confused because he does not understand the question.

Watching his reaction, the teacher gives out a work sheet to each student with a family tree, at the bottom of which appears the student's name. It shows two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents and so on. With each generation (about 30 years) the number of ancestors doubles. Thus, theoretically, four centuries ago, a single child can be traced back to about 10,000 ancestors.

But going further back into the past, the calculation hits a paradox. The total number of ancestors of a single child would exceed the total population of Japan at the time. This is because we mistakenly assume that we do not share the same ancestors. Actually, the farther back we go, the more our ancestors overlap.

Thus the child makes new discoveries. Contemporary Japanese are distant relatives who share the same ancestors. In any given period of Japanese history, the child discovers that those ancestors had constructed and paved new paths to walk upon. History is a constant relay of culture and tradition, and the child finds himself at the receiving end of this continuous process. His thoughts take him to his network of ancestors, and to the fact that he would never have existed, if there had been a single missing ancestor...

"Yes child, if you had failed to have biological parents, or if any of your ancestors had failed to have biological would not be here."

Deep...and yet at the same time, kind of self-evident.

Looking more closely at this "the total number of ancestors of a single child would exceed the total population of Japan" concept, if a child were to extend the exercise further back in time, the number of relatives would exceed the total population of Earth -- meaning that if Fujioka's line of reasoning makes even an iota of sense -- then the child must be related to ALL OF HUMANKIND.

Such a result would somewhat undermine the importance of patriotism argument.


I encourage everyone to read the whole thing. It helps to remember that Fujioka-san is a founder of the Tsukurukai and the intellectual godfather of its somewhat controversial New History Textbook.

No comments: