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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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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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(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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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand

(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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(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?


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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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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand

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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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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Re: ? - (Anonymous) Expand