Sunday, March 9, 2008

The pride of the conservatives

If Nakagawa Shoichi, leading conservative, has a virtue, it is his refreshing candor. Back when he was serving as head of the LDP's Policy Affairs Research Council under Mr. Abe, I suggested that Mr. Nakagawa was Mr. Abe's id, saying things that would be improper for the prime minister to say himself.

Appearing on Fuji Television's Hodo 2001 program on Sunday, Mr. Nakagawa said in reference to the hounding of Japanese whaling ships by a ship operated by the non-profit group Sea Shepherd in the Antarctic Ocean, "They have wounded Japanese. If the Coast Guard were to arrive, they should not just fire warning shots, they should 'use force.'" Asked whether he was suggesting that the Sea Shepherd should be sunk, he replied, "Of course."

I think this provides a glimpse into the mindset of the conservative ideologues. Mr. Nakagawa suggests that a violent response is merited because "Japanese were hurt." I wonder, however, if what was hurt was not Japanese citizens but Japanese pride. I get the sense that Mr. Nakagawa is brimming with anger that these foreign activists were able to get away with these actions, which have been condemned by the IWC. And so Japan needs a new defense posture and more assertive foreign policy: Japan must never allow itself to be powerless in the face of foreign aggression, whether in the form of North Korea's abductions of Japanese citizens or Sea Shepherd's harrying of Japanese whalers. The harm to Japanese citizens is, I think, secondary; what matters is the harm to Japan's pride. The result is a burning anger directed both at foreign transgressors and at the institutions and individuals within Japan responsible (MOFA, etc.) for failing to uphold the nation's pride.

As MTC noted recently, pride — hokori (誇り) — is a favorite word of the Japanese right. It is impossible to understand the foreign and defense policies advocated by the right without appreciating this concept. Beyond the superstructural justifications for a more assertive Japan (the arc of freedom and democracy, etc.), the conservatives are desperate to be proud again, to meet every perceived offense with resolution. Postwar Japan to them has been one abdication after the other, and hence the postwar "regime" must be left behind.

And hence the Coast Guard should open fire on anti-whaling activists.

4 comments:

Janne Morén said...

And yet they seem strangely unconcerned about the continuing occupation of Japanese areas by US military and subservient foreign policy role of Japan under the shadow of US. You'd think that for people who sees national pride as important that it would rankle more than anything else.

Perhaps it is just the institutional and ideological version of the bully mindset: be fawning towards those perceived as stronger and vent the resulting frustration on anybody seen as weaker.

MTC said...

Herr Morén -

"And yet they seem strangely unconcerned about the continuing occupation of Japanese areas by US military and subservient foreign policy role of Japan under the shadow of the US."

Not when they are writing for the Japanese monthlies and bi-weeklies or when they are in their cups, they aren't.

There is a reason why one finds a gunka section in every karaoke lounge's repertoire.

Japan Observer said...

Or when Congress pokes at them with a stick...

Janne Morén said...

I stand corrected; for better or worse, I don't know.