Friday, September 4, 2009

A new Path for Japan

What follows are parts of an article published in the New York Times on August 26, 2009. Although it does not seem related to Zen or Martial Arts, it actually is, because it shows Japanese people, without whom we would have known nothing about these practices, confronted to a societal crisis, are now questioning the wisdom of having abandoned their traditional ways during the past 50 years, simply to become a powerful nation in a capitalistic world.

A few month ago I read a little book "The dignity of a nation" by Fujiwara Masahiko, which Shimabukuro Sensei had recommended. It treats of the same problem, and its author, a world renowned mathematician, recommends to revive the Samurai spirit to foster a rebirth of morality within the Japanese population.

Mr YUKIO HATOYAMA who wrote the New York Times article will become Prime Minister of Japan this month, after his party won 300 out of the 480 seats in the congress against the previous majority party in power since the end of World war II.

The full article is available on the New York Times Site.

A New Path for Japan

Published: August 26, 2009

TOKYO — In the post-Cold War period, Japan has been continually buffeted by the winds of market fundamentalism in a U.S.-led movement that is more usually called globalization. In the fundamentalist pursuit of capitalism people are treated not as an end but as a means. Consequently, human dignity is lost.

How can we put an end to unrestrained market fundamentalism and financial capitalism, that are void of morals or moderation, in order to protect the finances and livelihoods of our citizens? That is the issue we are now facing.

In these times, we must return to the idea of fraternity — as in the French slogan “liberté, égalité, fraternité” — as a force for moderating the danger inherent within freedom.

Fraternity as I mean it can be described as a principle that aims to adjust to the excesses of the current globalized brand of capitalism and accommodate the local economic practices that have been fostered through our traditions.

The recent economic crisis resulted from a way of thinking based on the idea that American-style free-market economics represents a universal and ideal economic order, and that all countries should modify the traditions and regulations governing their economies in line with global (or rather American) standards.


If we look back on the changes in Japanese society since the end of the Cold War, I believe it is no exaggeration to say that the global economy has damaged traditional economic activities and destroyed local communities.

In terms of market theory, people are simply personnel expenses. But in the real world people support the fabric of the local community and are the physical embodiment of its lifestyle, traditions and culture. An individual gains respect as a person by acquiring a job and a role within the local community and being able to maintain his family’s livelihood.
Under the principle of fraternity, we would not implement policies that leave areas relating to human lives and safety — such as agriculture, the environment and medicine — to the mercy of globalism.


We must work on policies that regenerate the ties that bring people together, that take greater account of nature and the environment, that rebuild welfare and medical systems, that provide better education and child-rearing support, and that address wealth disparities.

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