Sunday, March 24, 2013

Politics and Poetry: Senryu For The Week Of March 23, 2013 - The Shrieking Begins

It is hard not to applaud, if only while shaking one's head, at the performance of the Abe Administration and the Liberal Democratic Party. Against all odds and all expectations they have steamrollered all opposition to their policy program. The equities, bond and currency markets have sung a tune that the an informed but uncritical lay person can hum, with the unsurprising result of public support for the Cabinet and the party rising ever higher in public opinion polls. (Link - J)

Every single thing Abe and his party have sought to make happen has happened. Unless there is some extraordinary reversal of fortune between now and election day, Abe's LDP will sweep the district and the proportional races, leaving out of courtesy – not necessity—a smattering of seats to their electoral allies, the New Komeito.

With the seeming inevitability of a landslide and the prospects of an Abe administration unleashed following a massive victory in the July elections, the tone of the comic verse published in my Saturday newspaper have taken a decidedly uncomic turn.

Kuni agete
Ato wa shiranu to

All over the country
No knowledge of that which is to come
The sake of cherry blossom viewing
It is cherry blossom viewing season (at an unseasonably early time, yet another brick in the wall of worry for those of us wishing a livable planet for our children) and indulging to excess on alcohol is a part of the festivities. However, the oblivion described is far from blissful. The lack of knowledge of the future refers not just to loss of fear of the future from drunkenness but also to the quick scattering of the cherry blossoms, who know no future because they have none. The "All over the country" furthermore does not refer just the geographical space but the people of Japan, who are drinking themselves into a stupor because they do not want to know the future.

Roso yori
Tsuru hitokoe de

Rather than the labor unions
From the voice of ultimate power (one call of the crane)
Comes conquest
It has been the time of the ritualized spring struggle (shunto) in between the labor unions and the managements of the major corporations. The remuneration rate rises won by the major unions become the standard for remuneration in all businesses.

As has been the case for longer than anyone wishes to contemplate, labor union requests for dramatically higher wages – i.e., a sharing of the profits the corporations have made through long term cost-cutting and the recent fall of the yen – have been turned down by corporate executives, even with the Abe government encouraging corporations to be more generous. (Link)

The crane voice of Tsusu hitokoe de is not the crane’s cry of classical poetry, which is associated with a love of one’s children and one’s homeland. Instead it is the voice of ultimate, unquestionable authority (in this cases, the CEOs of the corporations). With a single utterance, it ends all conversation.

zujo ni iwau
shuken no hi

overhead celebrate
the day of return of our sovereignty
The LDP in its December 2012 election manifesto promised to establish a national day of remembrance of Japan’s Occupation. On March 12, the Cabinet ratified the establishment of a public commoration, choosing April 28, the anniversary of the entry into effect of the San Francisco peace treaty, as the day. While shuken no hi will not be a national holiday, there will be a formal government ceremony with the emperor in attendance
The establishment of this day of national liberation has understandably infuriated Okinawans, for whom April 28 is a day of shame. (Link)

The author of the senryu mocks the pretentions of the Abe administration, pointing out that the same week the Cabinet established a day celebrating the end of the Occupation, U.S. Forces Japan began conducting training flights of the highly controversial V22A Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft over Japan’s main islands.

Koyaku to
sagi to wakaru mo
toki ososhi

Even if you can differentiate
campaign promises from fraud
it's too late
One cannot get more negative than insinuating the campaign promises of the ruling party are fraud (sagi).

The negative view of the author is nevertheless one very much of the minority. Cabinet approval is riding high at over 70%. When voters who support the Cabinet are asked why they are doing so, an overwhelming (possibly historic) majority say, "faith in the Cabinet's policies."

The popularity of the government's programs and the reality that the election has already happened prompt the bitter final line of toki ososhi -- translatable as "It's too late for that now" or "That ship has sailed."

The sense of hopelessness reached its apogee this week in the poem that the editors of my local paper published at the top of their weekly feature of poems sent in by readers.

Anna ni mo
hantai shita no ni
mo sansei

After opposing it
So much
You are now agreeing to it
In contrast to the topicality of most senryu, the lead poem is transcendent, without a clear link to a specific incident or government act. It might be a reference to the Democratic Party of Japan's voting in favor of the appointment of former Finance Ministry bureaucrat Kuroda Katsuhiko as Governor of the Bank of Japan five years after the DPJ provoked a major crisis in rejecting two Finance Ministry old boys for the post. Then again, the author may be referring to another betrayal of conscience.

Very possibly the author is making a sweeping accusation of all, cursing all for surrendering to the new regime, abandoning principles and beliefs without a fight.

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