Monday, May 14, 2007

Smashing prejudices

On the front page of the Sankei Shimbun this morning Ishihara Shintarō (I'm still looking for a link) lays down his populists's bullhorn to take up the brush of the public intellectual he should be more often in order to cock an eyebrow at the denizens of the Diet and ask them an unnerving question:

"This current Constitution you all think needs revision...doesn't it have a certain legitimacy?"

He then goes on to challenge Diet member to explain how it is they came to think that they must undo the existing political order.

Ishihara is not just interested in putting a hole in the fuel tank of Prime Minister Abe's revisionism express, he gives a damn good reason why one should--any revision has to be justified as responding to particular external conditions threatening the kokka.

I may not see the world to be quite the apocalyptic mess (aside from the ongoing destruction of the biosphere) that Ishihara sees it--but damn do I think he is asking some good questions and making some reasonable demands. He asks that the constitution debate be carried out in the open by the people's elected representatives--and that said representatives make clear their comprehension, such as there may be, of the current Constitution's operation. He furthermore demands that an examination of the current Constitution's shortcomings be carried out not in the abstract (Who's your daddy?) but in the concrete. Specifically, he wants the examination of the potential revisions be carried within--warning, the next phrase will contain a term that can cause internal bleeding in staunch right wing commentators---the CONTEXT of the existing international order and ongoing historical change.

Ishihara Shintarō pulls an Edmund Burke!

Now mind you, Ishihara is not saying the Constitution should not be changed (for one thing, he pleads for a text written in "beautiful Japanese"-- a fabulous jab at both the inelegant translation of the Occupation's draft and Abe's pet phrase) but he demands that it be the result of careful consideration, not self-loathing.


[The crash you just heard was the sound of a preconceived notion smashing into pieces on the floor.]


Durf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Durf said...

I couldn't find the piece online either, but it looks like his 日本よ columns show up on his own site after a while. Watch this page.

(That last post did something screwy to the HTML; sorry for the repeat.)

Jun Okumura said...

Call me cynical, but if the debate is played out mostly in the Diet, then Mr. Ishihara can't have much of a role in it, can he?

MTC said...


I agree...but my main hope was to introduce the notion that Ishihara is not the troglodyte many commentators in the West make him out to be.

Now I have to go read what former PM Nakasone says in today's Yomiuri. From the title of the article, it looks as though Nakasone is joining Ishihara in warning Abe about a possibly mistaken assumption that everyone shares Abe's sense of shame over the present constitution.

Thanks for the comments!

MTC said...


As regards the Nakasone article, all I can say is:

"Danged perfect aspect! Why can't Japanese have a past tense like every other language?"

The title said, "The Constitution has become a thing beloging to the people." What Nakasone meant was that it became so yesterday with the passage of the referendum legislation.

("But to whom did it belong before?" "Enough with your impertinent questions!")

Oh, well...just another edition of "me and my jumping to conclusions."