Friday, February 22, 2008

Disgorging their GUTs...


...or should they be called GUTOEWWNs--"Grand Unified Theories of Everything Wrong With Nippon"?

Next week's The Economist tries to get it all down.

Poor Philippe Pons tried the same in Le Monde last week, in a much more compressed format.

Documenting the infuriating incapacity of the country to seize upon its advantages possibly defeats all language. An island of liberty floating in an illiberal sea, a state with an obedient yet forward-thinking populace, a pleasant environment, social stability at home and a low cost international security arrangement--how can the Japanese not succeed?

Some hints...some guesses...

When

a) Japan is an elective parliamentary democracy, and

b) 25% of Japan's parliamentarians represent people who no longer exist

you will have problems.

When

a) a generation is taught (work hard) + (sacrifice) + (show deference to authority) = a peaceful, successful life (honestly, it's guaranteed!) and

b) the members of this generation are now in charge of the country's boardrooms, schools & universities, government & quasi-government offices, and

c) they are the most numerous generation Japan will ever know

you will have problems.

For democracy to function properly, those occupying seats in the parliament must represent the people--because believe-it-or-not (and damn few of the supposed elites in Tokyo do) the people are not stupid (see the conclusion of the Economist article on this point).

For companies and the state to perform their functions effectively, executives and government leaders need to flush from their systems this crippling nostalgia for the late 1950s and 1960s--when everything was supposedly "getting better all the time." In truth, it was getting worse--the air, the water, the political corruption, the competition of ideologies...all decayed or were buried. Revival and salvation came in the 70s and 80s when those far from the levers of power learned to shame their betters into working on behalf of the common citizen.

Nostalgia, however, lingers on, even when all else is lost...


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Demolished home in Shinjuku 5-chōme with poster of Ishihara Yūjirō
Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo Metropolitan District
February 22, 2008

1 comment:

Willie said...

It sounds like you want a revolution. Join the club.

A few questions come to mind, though. For example, how did the economy compare in the 1950s/60s versus the 1970s/80s? Most people don't care at all about corruption and even pollution is not that important in the overall scheme of things. All the talk on TV about global warming makes me think it's just one big distraction from the fact that the elite of Japan expect the masses to face declining living standards.

Also, is the structure of parliament really that important? The world is full of strange arrangements in their legislatures, and we don't really, for example, blame the widely hated policies of the US on the way the Senate is designed.

Finally, is it nostalgia, or a lack of vision for another path? It's easy to see that Japan needs to get ready for the rise of China and the decline of the US, but what exactly should the power elite push for? I would say promoting the study of the Chinese language would be a simple start, but that's not much.