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« Catholic Priests Against Free Speech | Main | An Apologist Falls on His Face »

May 04, 2006

Comments

Abiola

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Methinks what we have here with this Stephen Glain character is an instance of the same malady which drives certain people to see Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez as champions of freedom ... Any B.S. flies as long as it's against Amerikkka.

Randy McDonald

Chuckles:

"If Yasukuni is in fact a vestige of Japanese militarism"

It isn't Yasukuni as such. I certainly don't object to the Japanese memorialization of their war dead. Rather, it's the entirely intentional--and gratuitous--inclusion of people executed for war crimes and sundry crimes against humanity by the temple's elite that gets me. It's particularly shocking that the prime minister continues to visit.

If SS memorialists want to weep over Hitler's death in a remote shrine in the Austrian Alps, they're idiots but I won't stop them. If they were ever joined by the German federal chancellor, I'd be quite concerned. This is the sort of symbolism that offends many people, and rightly so.

There's a simple solution to this: Build another shrine, one that isn't run by apologists for Japanese colonialism. It isn't as if this hasn't been raised in Japan already; and, as Abiola points out, it isn't as if apologists for imperialism and militarism are particularly common in early 21st century Japan. Right?

Chuckles

[...Rather, it's the entirely intentional--and gratuitous--inclusion of people executed for war crimes and sundry crimes against humanity by the temple's elite that gets me...]

How can this be the case when Fujimaro Tsukuba himself resisted the enshrinement of war criminals at Yasukuni? Isnt he a part of the "temple elite" also?

http://mdn.mainichi-msn.co.jp/national/news/20060429p2a00m0na036000c.html

How can this be the case when some of the most stringent calls for Japanese prime ministers to desist come from within the ranks of Japan's elite - many of them conservative? Is this a sign of a re-militarized Japan?

Whether or not the inclusion of certain persons is intentional or gratuitous is beside the point, as far as I can see. The point is that empirical observations show that Japan is in fact acting within International Norms, by paying homage to an institution that might indirectly reference war crimes and crimes against humanity - but for an entirely different and incessantly stated purpose.

Visits to Yasukuni are not equivalent to paying homage to criminals. Koizumi has not stated that he is going to pay homage to criminals. He has disavowed Japanese imperialism sundry times. My question is: Why dont critics apply an even standard across board? Japan is simply acting normatively. This is not a justification for Yasukuni vists; it is an empirical observation - and onus probandi is upon those who wish him to desist to show why Japan is disallowed from engaging in behavior that every one else is engaging in.

[...If they were ever joined by the German federal chancellor, I'd be quite concerned...]

Fine: But Yasukuni is not a memorial to Tojo and co and neither does Koizumi visit in order to weep over Tojo and co. In any case, the critics of Japan already fail this moral principle in many instances: Columbus day, Western Imperialism, etc. All heartily celebrated in the West. Why a different standard for Japan?

[...There's a simple solution to this: Build another shrine...]

This has been proposed; but I actually disagree with this. It amounts to nothing more than a scapegoating of Japan.

The bottom line is that visits to Yasukuni do not correspond to abnormal behavior in an International context. The only yelpers happen to be in East Asia and the reason they are yelping is very obvious. Let the critics show that Japan is acting abnormally, let them show that Japan is doing something that isnt being done by other countries - and maybe they will have a case.

You see, it is one thing for a National Leader to pay visits to an institution such as Yasukuni with a dirty past, but a reformed present - and another thing entirely for such a person to visit an institution with a dirty past and an unreformed present (read: Bob Jones University, read: CCC). Yasukuni does not advocate war, racism, imperialism or evil.

Asking Koizumi to desist from visiting Yasukuni is equivalent to asking Western leaders to desist from visiting the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has supported wars, murders, abuse of women, sundry rapes, diverse pillagings, slavery, deceptions, genocide, inquisitions, anti-semitism, and today, spear heads the needless death of many through is obdurate stance on contraceptions and birth control. When Western moralizers start calling on National Leaders to stop visiting Church and Vatican on account of their glorification of Imperialism and War Crimes (a record against which Yasukuni simply pales) then I will take them seriously. The Western Church glorifies murder and rape through its celebration of diverse saints and leaders. Where is the call to cease and desist in this case? Is Yasukuni somehow inferior to comparable Western institutions?

Randy McDonald

"But Yasukuni is not a memorial to Tojo and co and neither does Koizumi visit in order to weep over Tojo and co. In any case, the critics of Japan already fail this moral principle in many instances: Columbus day, Western Imperialism, etc. All heartily celebrated in the West. Why a different standard for Japan?"

Your case rests on the assumption that, in fact, I do celebrate these things. I don't.

"But Yasukuni is not a memorial to Tojo and co and neither does Koizumi visit in order to weep over Tojo and co."

Wait a minute. Below in your comment, you said that the Catholic Church is reducible to the worst things done in its name, and that visits to shrines constitute support of past atrocities. Shouldn't the same hold for Yasukuni? Or rather, since we're talking at the level of religions, about Shintoism in general?

Even if I grant you the false equivalency between the single shrine of Yasukuni and the entire Roman Catholic Church, your analogy would work only if the Pope did, in fact, visit shrines which paid homage to--among other people--people who were found guilty by international tribunals of ordering the rape and murder of Native American children, within his lifetime, as part of a systematic and explicit campaign of imperialist mass murder, even as the survivors of the Papal campaigns protested loudly and were joined by other people around the world.

Many bad things can be said about Ratzinger, and should be said about Ratzinger. This is not one of them.

"The only yelpers happen to be in East Asia"

Toronto's in East Asia?

Anyhow. I'll leave you to your beliefs. There's no need to defend the indefensible, whether out of national pride or misplaced sympathy. Thankfully, again as Abiola noted, the Japanese are much more humane and reasonable about that. The made-in-Japan solution of a new shrine to play a role similar to that of Yasukuni but without including the convicted war criminals is bound to happen, one hopes.

Chuckles

[...Your case rests on the assumption that, in fact, I do celebrate these things. I don't...]

In fact not. That sentence begins with "When the critics of Japan". It wouldnt have been pluralized had I been resting solely on assumptions of what you do.

[...you said that the Catholic Church is reducible to the worst things done in its name...]

No. I said that in spite of the fact that the Church has been a sponsor of atrocities, we *do* in fact, celebrate in its estate - without widespread criticism and insinuations about racism, antisemitism, etc. The same should hold for Yasukuni. In other words, since we dont judge the Church by its association with villians - and neither do we judge National leaders to be associated with villians when they go to Church - why not hold the same for Yasukuni?

[...Even if I grant you the false equivalency between the single shrine of Yasukuni and the entire Roman Catholic Church...]

There is no false equivalency here: It is not about Yasukuni vs. The Catholic Church; it is about patronage. It doesnt matter what the institution is, or how big it is. If X patronizes a multifledged institution with association to villians - he should be judged the same as Y who patronizes a singular institution with association to villians. It is not about the institution; but what can ostensibly be associated with the institution under the given standards.

[...your analogy would work only if the Pope did, in fact, visit shrines which paid homage to...]

Wrong. My analogy works if any National Leader visits any institutions that pays homage to any kind of depravity of the same scale that the criminals at Yasukuni perpetrated.

[...people who were found guilty by international tribunals of ordering the rape and murder of Native American children...]

This is a copout. The famous legality = morality fallacy. International tribunals have nothing to do with the moral nature of the visits to Yasukuni. Talk less of the heinous destruction of Native Americans.

[...within his lifetime...]

Irrelevant. You have to show why this ought not to be the case.

[...Many bad things can be said about Ratzinger, and should be said about Ratzinger...]

I dont know who brought Ratzinger into this.

The bottom line is that:

a.) Global norms do not frown upon National leaders who patronize institutions that are associated with mass murder and rape.
b.) Yasukuni is an institution in such a category.
c.) Why then should Koizumi desist?

I find your arguments unconvincing. You seem to suggest that Yasukuni as an institution is a specific shrine designed to pay homage to war criminals, This is false. You claim false equivalence - and wrongly so; otherwise, all visitors to the Vatican that are National Leaders ought to be commanded to cease and desist. You claim indefensibility - yet do not see the weirdness of talking about "specific shrines paying homage to people found guilty by international tribunals" etc - in the case of the Catholic Church.

Whether the new shrine happens or not is irrelevant. A double standard is at work here - and the only ones with misplaced sentiments are those who refuse to apply to Japan the same standard that they apply to other States on the global scene. Where is the cease and desist hue and cry with respect to Arlington?

[...Toronto's in East Asia...]

Eh? It was a reference to South Korea and China. I think it was preceded by a reference to the International arena.

You see, this is why I cant take arguments like yours seriously - all of a sudden, the Church is excused because it is "the entire Roman Catholic Church" and Yasukuni is a "single Shrine" - since when did size become a cover for iniquity? The "entire Church" has been complicit in depravity - the "entire Church" celebrates those complicit in such depravity - and this places it squarely in the same camp as Yasukuni: As an institution that does homage to people who committed great crimes. (Not that Yasukuni even does this). Speaking of International Tribunals in this context is a bit off the mark.

tokyorosa

I am tokyorosa, the "subtle" poster mentioned above.

Just to clarify:

I have heard Japanese say that Japan is not an Asian country. (From a Japanese woman who works in the petrochemical industry and travels to China for business.) I have heard Japanese say that they dislike Chinese and that Europeans dislike Chinese. (From a Japanese man, an engineer who studied in Germany.) I have heard that Koizumi should visit Yasukuni (from a man retired from managing nuclear power plants in Japan) and that he should not visit Yasukuni (from a Japanese woman who lived in Scotland to study art). I have heard that the only reason China is set to become a military superpower in the future is because of all the aid they've received from Japan (from a Japanese endocrinologist).

I teach English to businessmen and businesswomen, doctors and lawyers, medical researchers, engineers, translators even, in central Tokyo and I have heard the most interesting opinions from the most educated people this society has to offer.

Of course I am biased. Everyone is. (I admit my bias in my post, by the way.) As an American who is descended from Spanish and Native Indian ancestors, I have spoken out against Columbus Day. And I have studied (and lived) the colonization process, prejudice, racism, sexism, and classism.

I know what I see, and I trust my own eyes. There are racists in Japan--just as there are in America.

Abiola

Of course there are racists in Japan; there are racists everywhere in the world, of which Japan is a part. The question, though, isn't whether there are racists in Japan or not, but whether these individuals are representative of mainstream opinion in the country, and everything I gather from not only the many, many Japanese people I have encountered as well as what I read in the country's newspapers, weekly magazines and even on Japanese-language blogs tells me that this simply is not the case: most Japanese people not only know full well that they are Asian but have no problem saying so, and the polls bear out that they tend to have a much more favorable opinion of their neighbors than said neighbors do of them. As for their supposedly "militarist" inclinations, today's Japanese are without a doubt the *least* militaristic people of any major Asian nation, and to insist otherwise because their Prime Minister visits Yasukuni in commemoration of the sacrifices made by 2 million Japanese citizens in a war most people alive today personally had nothing to do with, would be as ridiculous as maintaining that the Swedes and Norwegians are bloodthirsty rapists because they celebrate their Viking ancestors, or that the French must be eager to conquer Europe due to Napoleon's presence in Les Invalides.

To make a long story short, it's unfortunate that you've encountered some individuals with unpleasant views in your line of work, but I very much doubt that these people are representative of even those who pass through your classroom, let ordinary Japanese opinion, and I think this would be a lot more obvious to you if you could actually understand the language in which 99.9% of discourse in Japan occurs. What would also be obvious to you is that Koizumi has made clear on many occasions why he makes the visits you give such an ominous caste to, and nothing in his governing record - from making apologies in person for Japan's past aggression in China and Korea, to easing visa restrictions on Koreans, to actually *cutting* Japan's defense spending over the last few years - see the following:

http://www.crisscross.com/jp/news/370949

indicates that he's anything but sincere.

From where I stand the facts are crystal clear: if you're looking for unrepentant militarism and hard-core racism in Asia, you're better off turning to the "pure blood" obsessed Korean peninsula or Communist China, in both of which bellicose, vengeful ultranationalist rhetoric is par for the course, and in neither of which would you have had a chance of landing an English-teaching job if those recruiting you had an intimation that you were anything other than 100% white.

tokyorosa

Actually, you're making a lot of assumptions about my position and my place in this society that I call home. Attacking me is different from attacking my opinions--or my writing--so I take no offense at your critique of me personally.

I teach those in the upper-economic bracket, so I hear what those in power have to say. I don't care so much about polls as I care about what comes out of the mouths and minds of people I come into contact with every day. Those people express a wide-variety of opinions. Some of them surprise me. Some do not. I think the ease with which many of my students express a dislike for Chinese and Koreans says something. What that something is is not for me to say.

If the polls suggest that the Japanese are perhaps the least militaristic people around because their constitution does not allow them a military. Because this is true, they probably try to keep the fact that they do have a military force rather quiet. Or perhaps it's because only those Japanese who vote (30% of the eligible population) take part in those polls.

As an American who steadfastly believes in the separation of religion and government, of course I disagree with any public official whose behavior condones any religious practice. George Bush should stay the hell out of any church so long as he is in office. And Koizumi should stay away from shrines and temples. That Bush and Koizumi choose to visit religious sites, knowing full well that this is in violation of constitutional law, is problematic. I don't find Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni ominous, I find them problematic. There is a difference.

Historically, however, whether in Japan or America, the issues at the interface of religion and government are complicated. When nationalism is added to the mix, things get even murkier.

One of the points I made in my blog posting about Yasukuni was that those men and women who died for Japan (and who are now deified) were ordinary men and women. But in the classrooms that overlook the most exclusive neighborhoods in Tokyo, I work among those who wield no small power in this place, those whom Koizomi courts when he visits Yasukuni. These are not ordinary men and women. They are not representative of Japanese society at large. But they are representative of those who decide the future of Japan, who cut the deals and make the policy, who decide the direction of research money, who curate the exhibits in museums. These are not ordinary Japanese. But neither is Koizumi. It's not a poll that matters, it's those in power who will decide anyway.

Kudos to you, Abiola L., for the lively discourse on your blog. I don't read you, of course, but as I was quoted here and my blog posted here without my knowledge or permission, I felt somewhat obligated to speak out.

Abiola

"Some do not. I think the ease with which many of my students express a dislike for Chinese and Koreans says something."

The question is whether that is representative of Japanese opinion or not, and the answer is quite clearly "NO"; what we DO know, on the other hand, is that hatred of Japan is nearly universal at ALL levels of society in both Korea and China, but nowhere else in Asia or the rest of the world, and we know this from objective assessments, rather than mere subjective opinions. In any case, as far as elite opinion goes, I know more than a few influential Japanese people myself, and their opinions don't match what you claim: anecdotal evidence doesn't count for much in such a situation.

"If the polls suggest that the Japanese are perhaps the least militaristic people around because their constitution does not allow them a military. Because this is true, they probably try to keep the fact that they do have a military force rather quiet."

Er, no, their government has the power to change the constitution if the Japanese people so prefer, and the polls are very clear in saying that this is NOT what they want. To claim that it's probably because they want to keep the existence of the SDF "rather quiet" is simply casting about for justifications for believing the worst: Japan is a sovereign country, and they don't need to make excuses to anybody for changing their own laws.

"Or perhaps it's because only those Japanese who vote (30% of the eligible population) take part in those polls."

1 - Voter participation in Japan is actually MUCH higher than it is in the US where voter apathy doesn't stop 50% of the population from turning out, so I don't know where you're pulling this statistic from.

http://www.jsps.go.jp/english/e-plaza/e-sdialogue/03_data/Dr_Richey.pdf

Saying something so at variance with reality undermines your credibility, and suggests that you really aren't all that informed about the subject you're discussing.

2 - Polling doesn't require that everybody's opinion be asked to be accurate, and even 1,000 respondents can suffice to give an accurate picture of public opinion for a whole country. This particular poll was much, much larger than necessary, and there's nothing in the sampling method to indicate that it's flawed.

"George Bush should stay the hell out of any church so long as he is in office. And Koizumi should stay away from shrines and temples. That Bush and Koizumi choose to visit religious sites, knowing full well that this is in violation of constitutional law, is problematic."

This interpretation of the American anti-establishment clause is one no constitutional scholar would take seriously. Election to office doesn't strip a politician of his private right to practice religion, and there's absolutely nothing "unconstitutional" about Bush or Koizumi going to shrines, churches or whatever, and I say this as an atheist.

"But in the classrooms that overlook the most exclusive neighborhoods in Tokyo, I work among those who wield no small power in this place, those whom Koizomi courts when he visits Yasukuni. These are not ordinary men and women. They are not representative of Japanese society at large. But they are representative of those who decide the future of Japan, who cut the deals and make the policy, who decide the direction of research money, who curate the exhibits in museums. These are not ordinary Japanese. But neither is Koizumi. It's not a poll that matters, it's those in power who will decide anyway."

1 - As I've said, you aren't the only one who rubs shoulders with elite Japanese people, and the fact is that I am able to do so in their own language and on more equal terms than that of an employee being paid to teach - I'm quite certain I'd win any boasting contest with you on this score - yet what you say is completely different from what I've seen and heard.

2 - Last I heard, Japan is a liberal democracy, with a free press and *very* high voter participation rates. If things were truly as you claim, Article 9 would have been thrown out in the 1950s or under Nakasone in the 1980s at the latest, yet here it still is, for the simple reason that public opinion counts for something in a democracy, especially when it's as one-sided on an issue as with this one. To say that some "elite" or other can turn Japan into a war-mongering nation, regardless of what ordinary Japanese people think, is a travesty of reality.

Your views of Japanese society are highly distorted and bear little resemblance to the reality which is easily perceptible by anyone who actually speaks Japanese, even amongst the most "elite" technocrats and the wealthiest individuals. If you were better informed about Japanese public opinion, you'd realize that the reason Koizumi visits Yasukuni is because he made a promise to do so to the "Japan War Bereaved Association" (日本遺族会), which happens to command a very large number of non-"elite" members who lost relatives in the war. No "elite" group put him up to it, but more than a million ordinary Japanese people who don't see why they should vote for a leader who won't acknowledge the fatal sacrifices made by their fathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles and the like - a sentiment which hardly makes them warmongers or nationalist extremists.

"I don't read you, of course, but as I was quoted here and my blog posted here without my knowledge or permission, I felt somewhat obligated to speak out."

You certainly don't have to read me on a regular basis to express your opinion, but I must in turn remind you that putting your opinions on the internet makes you completely fair game for linking and quoting, in comformance with "fair use" provisions of copyright law. In other words, legally speaking, nobody needs either to inform you or to ask you for permission to refer to what you write, nor is there in fact any sort of cultural norm in the blogging world intimating any such obligation. I myself am quoted and linked to all the time without being told, and I don't mind in the least (indeed, I'm pleased when it happens): the point of writing for the public is to get read, after all.

Andrew

"This particular poll was much, much larger than necessary, and there's nothing in the sampling method to indicate that it's flawed."

Well as I pointed out, it's hardly a random sampling method - they got passersby on streets, selecting for people who would be out and about in (I'm assuming) busy parts of town, and selecting for people who don't mind being bothered by pollsters, and who don't mind revealing their political beliefs in public... Now I don't think this would turn a minority into a 77% majority, but still... I mean they could at least have used secret ballot boxes or something...

Abiola

"it's hardly a random sampling method - they got passersby on streets, selecting for people who would be out and about in (I'm assuming) busy parts of town, and selecting for people who don't mind being bothered by pollsters, and who don't mind revealing their political beliefs in public"

None of these things in themselves suggest that there's any systematic biasing of beliefs, and you also seem to assume the pollers would be too stupid to correct for any such biases if they suspected they existed. One could just as easily assume that people who aren't afraid to give their views and who are out and about in the day are disproportionately gainfully-employed, assertive, right-leaning types inclined to want a militarily assertive foreign policy.

"I mean they could at least have used secret ballot boxes or something."

Phone polls, which I doubt you have a problem with, are conducted with even less anonymity than asking strangers to give their opinions without giving their names, so I can't take this objection at all seriously.

tokyorosa

My dearest Abiola Lapite:

Thank you for being the guardian at the interface between the Japanese and the rest of the world! May I be the first of many to say that we all appreciate your efforts--and your unabashedly and admittedly unbiased opinion.

I will always see you as the bastion of truth and purity, as the true and only representative for all Japan and for those who call Japan home

My opinion--and all and every differing opinion--have been rendered obsolete.

I am thoroughly and utterly shamed and bow before your superior knowledge. I will never write another word that in any way contradicts you! I have seen the way and the light and I accept and submit to your will.

Your devoted disciple,
tokyorosa

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