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2015年4月 6日 (月)

(社説)安倍政権の激走 「いま」と「わたし」の大冒険

--The Asahi Shimbun, March 29
EDITORIAL: Atmosphere of society lets Abe honk his adventurism horn
(社説)安倍政権の激走 「いま」と「わたし」の大冒険

The essential features of an automobile are to run, to turn and to stop. A balance between the three factors is just as essential in politics.

“What is sought in this Diet session is not mere back-and-forth criticism,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said emphatically during this year’s policy speech while pointing to the opposition gallery. “What is needed is action.”

Certainly, the Abe administration has been driving along so startlingly wild that eyes are readily drawn to the power of its engine and the orientation of its steering wheel. But the eyes should probably be more focused on the brakes than on anything else.


The Constitution for reining in those in power; lessons of history; self-reflection and self-restraint by those in power; critical reviews of those in power by media and opposition parties. These gadgets have functioned as brakes on Japan’s politics during the seven decades since Japan’s defeat in World War II.

But the Abe administration and supporting members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party apparently believe that these brakes are the culprit for the slow run of this country.

“You face criticism when you set out on action,” Abe told students of the National Defense Academy during their graduation ceremony. “Irresponsible arguments that are only aimed at stirring up anxiety, such as ‘Japan could be embroiled in war,’ kept recurring in the past. But history of the past 70 years demonstrates how ludicrous those criticisms were.”

The prime minister also referred to the Self-Defense Forces as “our military” during a recent Diet debate.

Abe has used such phrases as “departure from the postwar regime” and “take back Japan.”
Do those words mean adventurism that implies that the brakes are just embarrassments and that the engine should be opened at full throttle?

“Now” is all that counts to those in the Abe administration. One might ask where they are heading, what makes them hurry so, and whether it is safe to do so.
But they would only respond: “Look at the way we are driving now. There was no administration before that dared to step so boldly on the gas pedal.” They will dismiss all criticism and say: “We are currently dead set on just heading forward for somewhere that is not here. Why do you want to meddle?”

That sort of curious logic is all the rage.


“Hakko ichiu,” a phrase that originally means “to bring the world under one roof,” was used during the Pacific War as a political slogan to justify Japan’s invasion of other nations.

But Junko Mihara, director of the LDP’s Women’s Affairs Division, took that phrase out of the historical context during a recent Diet session. She referred to it as an “ideology that Japan has cherished since its foundation.”

Things are interpreted so that they are convenient to “me” (Japan), and no consideration is paid to the presence of others. Such a narrow-sighted and rough world view keeps popping up.

During a live appearance on a commercial TV station’s news program last year, Abe said that he believed the broadcaster was airing street interviews “selectively,” a practice that he found “odd.”

When he was recently told in the Diet that saying such a thing could amount to applying pressure on news reporting, the prime minister dismissively said he had “freedom of speech,” creating a wag-the-dog situation.

“Freedom of speech,” which is a right of individuals not to be oppressed by those in power, is being brandished by the man in power.

The prime minister also said, “(Those who disagree with me) perhaps feared they could be refuted if they opened an argument with me.” He added: “Will they cringe at only that? Shame on them.”

Perhaps Abe lacks the fundamental awareness that he has the highest political power.

One probably couldn’t be blamed for flinching momentarily if a large car comes nearby and honks. That is exactly why power should be exercised in a restrained manner so as not to cause the public to flinch.

No prime minister should be influenced by the impulsive inner calls of “now” and “me.”

The shame should be directed at Abe, who has yet to learn the manners of a man in power, such as restraint and self-control, and keeps honking his horn as he drives around.


Yet, the Abe administration can continue on its wild run because the atmosphere of society is somehow backing that behavior.

A protracted economic slump; the rise of China; widening social disparity; the Great East Japan Earthquake; and the hostage-taking of two Japanese citizens by the Islamic State extremist group ... . Many factors have steadily built up frustration, a sense of crisis and anxiety about not knowing what is at the root of the anxiety.

“You could be defeated unless you worked as one under the nation to face challenges. So you should refrain from pouring cold water on the government and help the state achieve its best performance.”

Such sentiment is spreading.

And this is perhaps indirectly causing the advent of a society where top-down decisions are preferred to thorough discussions, and the convenience of the state and groups of people are put ahead of the rights and freedoms of individuals.

When might is master, justice is servant.

Elements that do not fit in collective unity are expelled under the labels of “anti-Japan” and “traitors.” An extremely infantile argument is being made that media criticism against Abe amounts to “hate speech” against him.

It has recently been said that the media are cringing.

However, it is not merely a situation of the media flinching at the high-handed manners of the Abe administration. The actual situation is that the media are being mired in a “liquefied society” where reasoning has receded.

This is our actual, albeit shameful, feeling about the matter.

We should not shut our ears and turn a blind eye to a society where cars without brakes are honking loudly. Something could and should be done now by every single member of society, to say nothing of the media.


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