October 21, 2013

Contrary Japan


Daniel Greenfield recently echoed thoughts similar to mine about Japan as a harbinger of things to come: "The future doesn't belong to Japan. It may not, at this rate, belong to anyone. Japan hurled itself into the future, but didn't find anything there."

As I observed earlier this year, "The year 2012 again had Japan boldly going where no man has gone before. Literally, as it turns out. Where it's going, there's nobody there. Because they died."

Greenfield make other contrary points that are pretty spot-on, such as: "Japan isn't really a technocratic wonderland." Well, it is, but in small, highly-concentrated pockets. Compared to the average American, the average Japanese lives a lower-tech life with a lower standard of living.

Except for the toilets. And the trains.

Greenfield observes that "the strain of a feudal society rapidly transitioning to the modern world is still there." I'm not sure about the "strain," though. Those feudal elements are mostly embraced without a second thought, and have only been exacerbated by recent demographic shifts.

A survey conducted on NHK's Cool Japan program, for example, found that the overwhelming majority of teens favored preserving the hierarchical language reflected by senpai-kouhai (senior-junior) relationships, that start in elementary school and continue for the rest of their lives.

That conservatism helped freeze Japan in time, that time being the cusp of the 90s when Japan was at its peak, and crippled its corporations and its culture, but also made the return of the right to power possible. It's far from certain that a conservative revolution can save Japan, but so far it has a better shot at it than we do.

According to Greenfield, one reason Japan survived the consequences of its social implosion was "because of its dislike for immigration." On top of that, "A society of the elderly may be slow to turn around, but it's less likely to drive off a cliff without understanding the consequences."

A country that still waxes nostalgic about the 250-year isolationist reign of the Tokugawa Bakufu is never going to embrace immigration as a solution for anything, nor should it. Or could it. What Michael Blowhard says about the French is equally true of the Japanese:

Hard though it is for an American to believe, the French wake up in the morning and look forward to a full day's-worth of Being French. They go through the day Being French with great relish. They re-charge at night so that they can spend the following day Being French.

The political term for this in Japanese is kokutai, or "national polity." During that Meiji Restoration, kokutai defined "the eternal, and immutable aspects of [the Japanese] polity, derived from history, tradition, and custom, and focused on the Emperor."

In other words, a system, as Colin Jones puts it, "inherently designed to keep order by protecting the old." Even if the old way of doing things isn't any older than 1868.

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