Today is a day of remembrance, a day when a goodly part of the nation will actually take a break from its usual frenetic Sundays to stand at attention for a minute of silence at 2:46 p.m. The emperor, bless his 78 year-old soul, will take part in memorial activities, despite having had a heart bypass operation 3 weeks ago. He at least believes this a day like no other. We should all think as he does.
In the spirit of the day, I shall restrain myself from my usual fury or glee at the latest shenanigans of the nation's political classes. My mind is consumed at present with a typhoon of contempt for all but a few of the elected and the meritocratic and nepotistic elites. However, I will hold the storm's fury back for this one day.
One point, however. Many publications and broadcasts (and one famous organization, inexplicably still headed by a defrocked imperial prince) have been carping about the lack of progress in the reconstruction of the ravaged and broken areas of the Tohoku (we should not forget that the earthquake and its aftershocks wreaked havoc far from the reach of the tsunami). The failure to begin rebuilding the lost communities, whether once again in the tsunami zones or on the shaved-off tops of nearby mountains, is ascribed to the current divided Diet or, in certain quarters, the inexperienced hands of the Democratic Party of Japan-led government.
No and no and No and NO!
The elites who are charged with guiding us, or at least using our tax money wisely, are not at a loss with what to do with the Tohoku. They are at a loss with what to do with Japan -- and have been so for 20 years now. Oh some of them have a plan, the Abe Shinzo-Shimomura Kokubun-Hiranuma Takeos and their ilk, to turn the populace into authority-fearing, emperor-loving, nation-building automatons...but sorry, been there, done that and no, it does not turn out very nicely, thank you very much (note to government of the PRC: imprison your colonels now, while you still can). The Liberal Democratic Party and the followers of Ozawa Ichiro made it their common cause in the midst of the disaster's rescue and stabilization phase to drive Prime Minister Kan Naoto from office. Now they are trying to do the same to Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko during what is still the recovery phase. If either of these opposition camps were to seize the wheel of the ship of state, however, neither would have the foggiest notion in what direction to sail the Nihon Maru.
The ship has been adrift for two decades. Every so often a steady hand has taken hold of the tiller -- Hashimoto Ryutaro, Koizumi Jun'ichiro -- but it was always to right wrongs ten years too late, when it hardly mattered anymore. The victory by the DPJ was the same -- its program of putting people's livelihoods first was not revolutionary -- it was archaic, practically an anachronism. By the time the LDP had power stripped from out of its cold, near-dead claws, the treasury was empty; the countryside depleted, dependent and despondent; the cities ugly, unkempt and angry.
So today, as the cameras sweep over the barren lots and skeletons of structures for this anniversary, before running off to cover some other epiphenomenon or catastrophe, tune out the blather about the present day political mess. The images are of Japan as it is, as it has been under the veneer of efficiency and equality and beyond Tokyo's glitz and youth and energy. The stillness and lethargy are not aberrant: they are symptomatic of a ruling class without time in their schedules for the people they are supposed to be leading.