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A Japanese Jacques Delors? - click opera
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Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 12:00 am
A Japanese Jacques Delors?

1. Two minutes and forty seconds into this video interview, architect Ryue Nishizawa gives his view on politics in Japan.



"Now there is no politics in Japan," Nishizawa says. "There is no politician in Japan, I think. Everything became, really, subculture. The politician people, they don't look like politicians."

2. Perhaps the problem is that the politicians in Japan look too like politicians-in-Japan; grey, boring, ineffectual, and sometimes dozy and drunk.



3. But all that seems about to change. If polls and projections are to be believed, today's Lower House elections will see as many as 300 of the 480 seats go to the opposition party, bringing this man, Yukio Hatoyama, to power as Japan's new prime minister.

4. Of course, that still might not make a huge difference. Some say it's not politicians but bureaucrats who have ruled Japan for the last six decades; cabinet meetings are seen as a rubber-stamping ceremony for agendas decided by permanent secretaries, the mandarin-like bureaucrats. Now, the DPJ claims they'll stop that, but the LDP counters that the DPJ is supported by the bureaucrats' labour unions, and is therefore unlikely to diminish their power (see this Al Jazeera discussion).

5. The two main things the DPJ have going for them are the deep unpopularity of Aso's LDP government and a pledge to give people cash payments for having children. They also plan to make high schools and highways free, and guarantee minimum pensions. They aren't too clear on where the money will come from. The main thing Aso has going for him is that there have been slight green shoots in the economy recently; it grew at an annualized rate of 3.7% in the three months ended June 30, the first growth in five quarters.

6. My household is currently divided; Hisae is a staunch Aso supporter. She says -- echoing my "intentional fallacy" thought of the other day -- that the more the DPJ wants to change basic structural things, the more they're likely to fuck up. Other friends here -- as well as idol group SMAP -- turn out to be LDP supporters.

7. So why am I at odds with the Japanese around me about this election? What makes me welcome today's likely DPJ win? Firstly, I felt strongly that Japan shouldn't be refuelling the US fleet in the Indian Ocean. That puts me on the DPJ side. Secondly, I really like a lot of the things Hatoyama says in this editorial, originally printed in Japanese magazine Voice and re-run in The New York Times on Thursday.

8. Let's quote a few things Hatoyama says there: "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." But "the global economy has damaged traditional economic activities and destroyed local communities...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." "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."

9. Most important, though, is Hatoyama's awareness that Japan must orient itself to its neighbours in Asia now more than to the US: "The East Asian region, which is showing increasing vitality, must be recognized as Japan’s basic sphere of being."

10. And most exciting for me is Hatoyama's vision of these Asian nations developing an EU-like single currency bloc, leading to political integration. He admits it will take more than 10 years, because "unlike Europe, the countries of this region differ in size, development stage and political system, so economic integration cannot be achieved over the short term. However, we should nonetheless aspire to move toward regional currency integration as a natural extension of the rapid economic growth begun by Japan, followed by South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and then achieved by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China. We must spare no effort to build the permanent security frameworks essential to underpinning currency integration." This vision makes Hatoyama a kind of Japanese Jacques Delors.



11. At this stage, however -- like the designers of this weird Flash animation featured on the DPJ's website -- we may all be projecting our own particular hopes onto Hatoyama and his party. A recent podcast on Neojaponisme, for instance, saw two Americans (Marxy and Tobias Harris of Observing Japan) compare the DPJ to the American Democratic party and say it represents Japan's "best hope for becoming a liberal democracy". When you strain to make out what they're saying in the noisy restaurant they've seen fit to record their thoughts in, it turns out that this involves freeing up the labour market, stopping "distributing pork", fostering "reform" and "individual human rights" and "genuine equality of opportunity", and "creating Japanese who don't look to the state when things go wrong". Neither seems terribly confident that the DPJ will deliver this, though. Harris was later appalled by Hatoyama's Voice article.

12. Despite my excitement about the appearance of "a Japanese Jacques Delors", and the emergence of an actual political choice for the first time in decades in Japan, my general feeling is that almost nothing will change in Japan. Partly because Nishizawa is right; there really is no politics in Japan. And partly because, whatever they stand for, both potential PMs are scions of ancient political families, dynasties who make the Kennedys and the Bushes look like amateurs; Hatoyama's grandfather was the LDP's first premier, unseating Aso's grandfather, Shigeru Yoshida. Whichever stuffed shirt wins today, the real action will continue to be elsewhere.

46CommentReplyShare

imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Aug. 29th, 2009 10:44 pm (UTC)

Oh, Hatoyama has the same birthday as me!


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count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 03:51 am (UTC)

we are antipodal signs, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC)
Reality check from WC1

So does Sarah Palin, ohhhhh dearrrr.

Sorry to run off-topic but thought you should know this: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/8229429.stm


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Aug. 29th, 2009 11:07 pm (UTC)

It's worth saying that Hatoyama prefers, rather than Jacques Delors, to compare himself to "Count Coudenhove-Kalergi, the father of the European Union". Hatoyama's grandfather actually translated this aristocrat's book "The Totalitarian State Against Man" into Japanese. "All great historical ideas," states the Count (Count Richard Nikolaus von Coudenhove-Kalergi to his friends), "started as a utopian dream and ended with reality."

Follow the link and you'll find that the "father of the European Union... aristocratic in his origins and elitist in his ideas" actually had a Japanese mother of samurai descent, which means that if Hatoyama succeeds in his aim to create an Asian EU, things will in some sense just be coming full circle.


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endoftheseason
endoftheseason
Sat, Aug. 29th, 2009 11:34 pm (UTC)
Non-Japan

Momus, perhaps you should get yourself on a train and go here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vauban,_Freiburg

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x5b6rl_freiburg_webcam

It may just be the perfect place to live, except perhaps for the fact that all the food is apparently organic, which, as has been established by science, is nonsensical. Also, I'd imagine the hipsterism quotient might not be the highest--but, then, you must remember that, more and more, that is a good thing.

Okay, you may go back to talking about Japan now.


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 02:43 am (UTC)
Re: Non-Japan

I think perhaps Momus should get on a plane and spend a decent length of time here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan

I don't think a year or so really cuts it...

We might then get something a bit more informed than the 'first-year Japanese Studies' kind of essay that typifies momus' recent writing on the country.

And who would have thought that momus would have surrounded himself with those Japanese with LDP allegiances? Happy to say it's mostly 共産党 round my way...


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mcgazz
mcgazz
McGazz
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 10:13 am (UTC)
Re: Non-Japan

> all the food is apparently organic, which, as has been established by science, is nonsensical.

What do you mean by "nonsensical"? Is organic food not actually organic? Or is it not as good for the environment as its proponents say?


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 12:57 am (UTC)
Hisae the conservative?

Who knew? Can she say why she's a "staunch" supporter of Aso? Interesting logic: don't change things, because they might get worse.

This is an historic election, it's true. And all the japanese I know (mostly chuzai-in) do want to see the LDP reich end. That said, I'm afraid Jiminto and Minshuto are about as different Repubs and Dems in the states.


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 01:57 am (UTC)

I'm all for it, myself. But like they say on Marxy's podcast, the party may need to change their name, or something. Talk about old and stuffy! Communists!


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 04:38 pm (UTC)

they're chinese then!


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 02:53 am (UTC)

Momus,

I am your biggest fan. I have a request for your next album. Will you please do 4 or 5 Aerosmith covers?

Thanks!
Tanya


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 06:00 am (UTC)

hisae is a staunch supporter of Aso ?

for the record, why ? Is it the slave labour supported coal mining riches that appeals ?
perhaps the blue-blood, former olympic rifle shooting champion appeal ?
or maybe the constant stream of wisdom (only rich people should marry, old people are talentless) ? Could it be that she too is an unironic fan of the eurotrash-shagging, eagle-eye cartoon sniper Golgo 13 ?

Or just a desire for arrogant morons who genuinely despise ordinary japanese people to continue running the country ?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 06:47 am (UTC)

Hisae thinks Hatoyama is a crank, something like a cult leader, possibly insane, certainly untried and unrealistic. She was even more of a fan of the LDP finance minister who resigned than she is of Aso, by the way, and thought his achievement at G7 was impressive (apart from that one press conference).

Out of the views represented in the BBC report Japan Election: Voters' Views, Hisae's views overlap most with those of Kikuchi Daijiro, a 20 year-old college student from Oita, who says:

"This election is not just about choosing a party but choosing a leader fit to be Japan's prime minister. The best words to describe what the public in Japan thinks about the party leaders are 'dissatisfaction' for Taro Aso from the LDP and 'misgivings' for Yukio Hatoyama from the DPJ. It is believed that the DPJ will come to power. I strongly feel that people will vote for DPJ out of necessity because there's been too much negative press for Taro Aso. I will vote for LDP mainly because Taro Aso played a great role during the G20 to tackle the worldwide recession. The DPJ manifesto is full of haphazard thoughts and I don't see any charisma from Yukio Hatoyama during their debates. If Yukio Hatoyama becomes Japan's prime minister, I would like him to be more consistent and carry out his words. The best thing about this election is that people show much more interest in politics than during the previous elections. And having an interest in politics is the first step to building a good country."


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 06:52 am (UTC)

(Interesting that Kikuchi is surrounded there by American character goods; many Japanese are a lot more pro-American than I am, and therefore back the LDP, the more pro-American of the two parties. They're also rather more arms-length about other Asian countries than Hatoyama seems to be.)


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 07:06 am (UTC)

It's also worth remembering that not only are Hatoyama and Aso scions of the same type of political families, but many members of the DPJ started off as LDP politicians. The current DPJ is an uneasy mixture of socialists and the more conservative side of the LDP, which leads some to conclude they'll be flip-floppy and ineffectual. But what socialists and those trad LDPers have in common is a dedication to big government projects, nationalisation, subsidy, protectionism, nationalism, and so on.

What Hisae and I -- despite backing different parties at this election -- have in common is a strong dislike of the Koizumite tendency: the failed project of Japanese neo-liberalism, privatisation, incentivisation, market "reform", and so on. "Thatcherism 20 years late" is not what Japan needed, and the 2005 election, with its "parachuted celebrity assassins" and its obsession with privatising the post office, was a disgusting spectacle.


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 07:07 am (UTC)

re hatoyama, thats not a particularly surprising opinion. As my friend says, the DPJ's greatest talent is shooting themselves very accurately in the foot..

but to continue voting for the LDP because of "aso's great performance during the G20" is either insane or insanely ill-informed.

mizuho fukushima is actually the person i'd most want running japan, but that is just not going to happen..


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 07:17 am (UTC)
arms-length

you say "arms-length," others say self-conscious and stubborn about making amends with said neighbors. funny, sounds a lot like another nation still unwilling to reckon with much of its past and keeps it swept under a rug.


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lazy_leoboiko
lazy_leoboiko
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 05:27 pm (UTC)

Interesting that now people are openly (as opposed to subconsciously) listing “charisma” as a requisite to choose a political leader. That charisma is now so important everywhere seems to me to be a fundamental failure with our media-based democracies.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 03:03 am (UTC)

or fundamental proof of its success. to be fair, throughout history charisma has played a part in the ascension of leaders everyone; ages and ages before the advent of television, etc.


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand

(Anonymous)
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 07:26 am (UTC)
<b>HISAE IS A TORY?</b>

I'm amazed. You hang out with a conservative bunch, Momus.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 07:49 am (UTC)
Re: <b>HISAE IS A TORY?</b>

Like I say, we all project our own political frames -- inappropriately -- onto the Japanese political context. American Dems see the emergence of the American Democratic Party, I see a possibility for the emergence of an Asian EU, and you blether about the Tories, which presumably makes the DPJ... New Labour?


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 07:54 am (UTC)
Re: <b>HISAE IS A TORY?</b>



"An elephant is very like Gordon Brown."

"No, an elephant is rather like Barack Obama."


ReplyThread Parent
subalpine
subalpine
subalpine
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 08:18 am (UTC)
Re: <b>HISAE IS A TORY?</b>

now maybe what they really meant was HISAE IS A 鳥?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 08:50 am (UTC)
The Book of Jokes, Chapter 18

After we'd escaped, just before we went to commit the crimes that we'd been falsely accused of, the Murderer, the Molester and I spent a few hours birdwatching at Inner Forest.

Inner Forest was the wood next to the glass house. I knew that it contained a family of Greater Crested Grebes. I knew this because in prison I had subscribed to a birdwatching newsletter which reported that hatchlings had been spotted riding on their mother's back as she scrabbled across the gravel pit in the forest clearing. This was a notable event indeed; Greater Crested Grebes hadn't been seen at Inner Forest in over a century.

A pathological Grebe-killing individual had executed the last known local community of the fowl in 1889. What's worse, he had done it whilst they were in their breeding plumage. He had used his bare hands. The few remaining individuals, traumatized by the ordeal of watching the event, had taken wing.

We were pushing our way through tough, spiky pine branches as I told the men this. The Murderer and the Molester shook their heads.

"How could a human being hurt a flock of innocent birds like that?" demanded the Molester.

"Because humans are scum, that's why," said the Murderer. "They should all be hacked to the ground with a blunt machete and left to rot, swarming with flies. Filthy scum."

"I dunno," said the Molester, "birds can be disappointing too."

"Why?" asked the Murderer.

"Corruption," said the Molester. "They line their nests, if you know what I mean."

"No, I don't know what you mean. Of course they line their nests. That's natural."

"They line them with feathers, straw, paper clips, scraps of blanket, pom poms, jewelry, insulation wire, pornography, shoe laces in all colours, Scotch tape, kid gloves, banknotes..."

"What are you trying to say."

"They're common criminals, birds, no better than you or me. That's all I'm saying. They should all be locked up."

"Well, they are locked up," said the Murderer. "Half the birds you see are in cages."

"That's what I mean," said the Molester, as if the Murderer had proved his point.


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 09:59 am (UTC)
Re: <b>HISAE IS A TORY?</b>

Whatever the DPJ turn out to be, it's a bit hard to argue that the LDP is not the conservative option, literally. I mean, they've only been in power for the last 50 years. Also, Hisae's argument seems to be classic conservative - that Hatoyama is untried, untested, etc. That's an argument for never ever changing the people in power.


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krskrft
krskrft
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 01:23 pm (UTC)
Re: <b>HISAE IS A TORY?</b>

Or it's an argument for caution. As I understand it, the DPJ are making a lot of promises, but haven't really done a good job of outlining how they'll be able to keep those promises (especially the ones that cost money). And Aso at least seems to have been credited with acting in such a way that the recession didn't hit the Japanese economy as bad as it could have.

Throwing the LDP aside simply because they are "the conservative option" is just as shallow as the "untried and untested" argument.

Also, I'd imagine that Hisae's argument is probably suffering, at least somewhat, from having been summarized.


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krskrft
krskrft
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 01:18 pm (UTC)
Re: <b>HISAE IS A TORY?</b>

That's a good point. It's always interesting to see how foreign election coverage plays out in different places around the world. I think that, in this instance, liberal foreigners are most likely to say, "Okay, LDP and DPJ ... which is more liberal?" And then they'll "get behind" whichever one that is, without regard to any of the particulars of Japanese politics or culture.

Personally, from what I've read about the two parties, it's really hard for me to thoroughly endorse one or the other. Basically you have one party saying "Hey, we know you're pissed, but these guys are going to screw everything up" and another party saying "Look, these guys screwed everything up, but we'll make it all better." On the one hand, it's hard to deny that the LDP, holding massive majorities over the most recent large swathes of time, is responsible for the public's dissatisfaction. But on the other hand, one can't be certain that the DPJ are anything more than "new blood" for the system. New blood isn't always better blood, and as you've pointed out, a lot of the DPJ members are recycled from the LDP.

As an outsider, it's probably better not to assert a strong position.


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 09:27 am (UTC)

Erggh! that's so sinister! Post more, better yet, push away from the internet and bug your publisher to release it!!!!


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 09:38 am (UTC)

Hey, I bugged a few and whaddyaknow, these guys are putting it out in two weeks!


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 12:49 pm (UTC)

DPJ win 300 seats! Hatoyama has done it! Asia to become Asabia any day now, overrun by muslims from Arabia! Capitalism scrapped, Pegasus-liberalism installed! Mandarin bureaucrats flee Tokyo down newly-free expressways!



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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 01:22 pm (UTC)


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 01:24 pm (UTC)

The DPJ are planning to bring the post office back into public ownership, I hear! YES!


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 02:20 pm (UTC)

Hisae's official reaction: "You will all cry in a few years."


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 03:06 am (UTC)

an official response: "Perhaps, but not FOR 50 yrs, as has been the case thus far."


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 02:58 pm (UTC)
Hatoyama circa 1974, by the looks of that collar



Edited at 2009-08-30 02:58 pm (UTC)


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 03:14 pm (UTC)

Should America wish to get a better press in Japan, all it needs to do is change its name to The United States of Hawaii.


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 04:37 pm (UTC)

A strong, course man, a soft-spoken but intelligent female ... sounds like the ideal Victorian couple to me. Japan and the US are famous for being "married to each other" so to speak (of course that's really becoming US-China now, but the long established has a way of sticking out in our minds). I was expecting a completely different reaction from you regarding that above image, considering the LDP is the pro-American of the two parties. Or maybe you're just completely sick of this topic and expressed your own personal tastes re: America.


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 04:46 pm (UTC)

Listen, it's been a "shotgun marriage" to put it mildly. It's high time for Japan to consider telling the U.S. NO sometimes (re bases, monetary extortion, etc) and move on. The war has been over for 60 years now! Move on and stop depending on America so much for muscle and influence.


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lazy_leoboiko
lazy_leoboiko
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC)

Meanwhile, America as a woman:

“American Coffee” brand can

(from altjapan)


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 06:41 pm (UTC)

Ironically America has gathered half the world's refugees to her bosom, while Japan would probably sink them! Personally I see Japan as a nerdy control freak (male) and America as a chubby sad woman alone with cats, mocked by children.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 04:20 pm (UTC)

I'm disappointed, of course, that my own Orgasm Party made such a poor showing in these elections; despite making a strong stand, we lost our deposit.


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milky_eyes
milky_eyes
milky_eyes
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 07:37 pm (UTC)
?

I was a bit wary of this post...
Keep distant the hell of accusation
http://imomus.livejournal.com/2009/08/21/
(I dont agree or disagree but, am seeing it as extremely technical and... not sure where all the thinking goes.... what it actaully does... I'm not accustomed to this type of highly theoretical thought process so thats part of my reserve. I know.... also, it sounded a bit, too idealized....)


***THE QUESTION***
How do you see these two elements intersecting? The "japanese way" so to speak and... the actual political fame-works both current and long term? I see them clearly shining a bright light on the areas that break down in this 'land of harmony'...

try to make sense of this all.

any thoughts?



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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Aug. 30th, 2009 11:27 pm (UTC)
Re: ?

Sorry it took a while, out at a party!

Basically the "land of harmony" thing is why I start today's piece with the Nishizawa quote about there being no politics in Japan, or no politicians. Except for today, of course, though even today people basically voted for a man from an old LDP family leading a bunch of LDP rebels forced out by Koizumi; not such a vast switch.

At the party, I jokingly tried to "politicize" the room by saying that one rug was for DPJ supporters and that LDP supporters couldn't sit on it. The only people sitting on the rug were Westerners; the Japanese people -- LDP supporters -- stayed off it.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 03:16 am (UTC)
Re: ?

the whole LDP popularity with the Japanese people I feel is much like how the Republican party in the US has succeeded in brainwashing many of its followers, particularly throughout the middle of the nation; brainwashed in the sense that lower and middle class people somehow continue to give their support to a party that doesn't actually have their best interests at heart.

in the case of the Japanese govt and population, can you imagine the effort it would take to break out of a 50 year disfunctional relationship? No wonder many are resisting; the fear of an unknown future would freak many out, surely.

Same thing's still happening with Obama and middle (white) America--they're having a meltdown over it.


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