« あたらしいタイプの旅行ガイド、ココマチでつながる人と人、人と街 | トップページ | 通常国会開幕 「戦後の岐路」問う論戦を »

2016年1月 5日 (火)

分断される世界 連帯の再生に向き合う年

-- The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 1
EDITORIAL: We must heal dangerous divisions in the world
(社説)分断される世界 連帯の再生に向き合う年

A new year has arrived, with the world remaining to be plagued by deep and dangerous divisions.

Our world today is full of divisions due to racial, religious, economic, generational and various other factors.

Globalization is supposed to create a world where national borders become increasingly permeable and irrelevant, but, ironically, the world as we see it is crisscrossed with dividing lines.

To heal these divisions, world leaders should be striving to build a society where people can live with a sense of security by promoting reconciliation and removing inequalities.

Regrettably, however, there are many political, religious and opinion leaders across the globe who try to promote their agendas by taking advantage of divisions in society. And such people often earn plaudits by doing so.

But there have also been some notable efforts to heal rifts and explore new forms of global consolidation. The 2015 United Nations climate change conference (COP21), held in Paris late last year, for instance, produced a landmark agreement on a new international framework for reducing planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions in the years after 2020. The breakthrough was made possible as countries united for a real solution to the challenge of stemming global warming, which transcends their parochial interests.

The world needs to start its efforts in the new year to tackle the formidable challenges it faces today by confronting, one by one, the crises of solidarity and empathy threatening its future.


The Islamic State (IS) is an extremist organization that tries to divide people by promoting its fanatic dogma.

The IS not only enslaves and kills people who refuse to obey it in areas it controls. The group is also working to create a deep rift between Muslims and the rest of the world by inciting hatred among Muslims toward other religions and cultures.

How are people and countries who have become targets of terror attacks by the IS responding to the threat?

In Europe, a wary attitude toward refugees from the Middle East and Muslim immigrants in the region has intensified sharply. In France and some other European countries, there is strong public support to xenophobic rightist parties.

In the United States, Donald Trump, the leading contender to become the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, has called for a “total and complete shutdown” of the country’s borders to Muslims and made some other outrageous proposals. He remains very popular.

People such as Trump call for measures that create divisions to fight the efforts to create divisions by people like Muslim extremists. Their approaches are strangely similar to those of their supposed enemies in that they are designed to divide the world.

Social rifts due to widening economic inequality are also becoming increasingly serious in many parts of the world.

According to a report released last year by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in 2013 income gaps were the largest in the past 30 years in most of its 34 member countries. Assets are even more concentrated in the hands of the wealthy few than income, according to the OECD.

In his best-selling book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” which has attracted global attention, French economist Thomas Piketty points out that inequality can lead to serious social divisions. In a society with extreme levels of wealth concentration, Piketty maintains, people’s discontent triggers a revolution unless it is suppressed with an iron fist.


Japan is not free from the various divisions plaguing the world, either.

Japan cannot be described as a country eager to accept refugees, who number in the tens of millions in the world. Japan’s refugee policy doesn’t reflect any keen awareness of the unfolding crisis of solidarity.

Japan is no exception, either, to the global trend toward greater economic inequality.

In fact, income equality in this nation has widened to a level even higher than the average among the OECD countries.

The ratio of poverty among children and the percentage of non-regular workers in the overall workforce in Japan are both on the rise.

Japan is now a mere shadow of the country of equality it used to be.

Despite growing inequities, the proposed integrated tax and social security reform to improve the situation has been making little headway. Social solidarity in this nation is only weakening.

The issue of the heavy concentration of U.S. military bases in Okinawa Prefecture is also causing a division in Japan. What many of the people in Okinawa are asking the mainland to do is to share the burden of hosting so many U.S. bases, which is simply too heavy for just one prefecture to keep bearing.

They are asking for help from their fellow countrymen.

But the mainland has been making rather cool responses to Okinawa’s request for support. Political leaders in Tokyo have cast the issue as a partisan battle over security policy.

This attitude gives no hint of true nationalism, which creates empathy for and solidarity with fellow countrymen.

The kind of narrow-minded nationalism that tilts toward exclusion instead of embrace, like populism, causes society to become divided rather than united.


What is needed for the world to overcome the trend toward becoming more and more divided?

The agreement reached in the COP21 conference seems to be a result of a globally shared pragmatic recognition of the reality that countries cannot find a true solution to this challenge as long as they focus on trying to avoid bearing their fair share of the burden for the time being.

Eisaku Ide, an economics professor at Keio University who has received the “Osaragi Jiro Prize for Commentary” for his book “Keizai no jidai no shuen” (End of the age of economy), stresses the importance of pragmatic thinking.

Ide, who studied social divisions from the economic viewpoint in the book, says in Japan a deep rift has emerged between high- and middle-income groups on the one hand and the low-income class on the other, rapidly eroding empathy among people for other members of society.

What is crucial for fixing this problem, Ide argues, is not any ideology or doctrine but the pragmatic recognition that people gain from mutual help by becoming beneficiaries and happy people themselves.

The effectiveness of promoting people’s understanding of the benefits of pursuing practical solutions rather than doctrines and ideologies offers an important insight into the efforts to revive solidarity and empathy in society.

Social divisions pose a serious threat to democracy. People stop respecting political decisions unless they feel that they have been involved in making the decisions.

This situation then causes society to be divided further into smaller groups in a vicious cycle.

We must confront our society’s illness of becoming more and more divided and make effective efforts to enhance policies and opinions that refuse to take advantage of such divisions.

We must do so before the problem becomes so serious as to ruin democracy.


« あたらしいタイプの旅行ガイド、ココマチでつながる人と人、人と街 | トップページ | 通常国会開幕 「戦後の岐路」問う論戦を »





« あたらしいタイプの旅行ガイド、ココマチでつながる人と人、人と街 | トップページ | 通常国会開幕 「戦後の岐路」問う論戦を »