The burst of the bubble in 1990 shook up Japan's confidence in the efficacy of its old ways. Western ideas and brands have flowed into the breach, profoundly altering the Japanese society.
The bad has come with the good. Freedom to compete has, for the first time since the 1930s, created winners and losers. More personal freedom has given young Japanese options of living as para (2) in a make-believe world of manga and anime comics, or raising $2000 designer chihuahuas instead of children. Consumerism has replaced citizenism. Standards have been lowered in areas ranging from public education to manners to television. Indeed, a day of watching Japanese television – full of Japanese hip-hop and imbecilic teen-age "stars" is a good window on the adolescent commercial juggernaut that's corroding modern society everywhere.
Enter Masahiko Fujiwara, a professor of mathematics at Japan's Ochanomizu University. In late 2005, Fujiwara published a book entitled The Dignity of the Nation (3). Within six months the book had sold two million copies, making it Japan's second best-selling title of 2006, after, tellingly, Harry Potter.
Fujiwara is a patriot who does not like what he sees in contemporary Japan. In his book, he criticizes the Western values of logic, democracy and individualism and decries their negative impact on Japan. He lists symptoms of the disease ravaging the world's developed countries: disintegration of the family, educational collapse, crime, terrorism, drug use, AIDS. He attributes this decay to the failure of Western logic and rationality that has set root also in Japan.
Fujiwara adduces, wrongly, that meritocracy and capitalism are among the causes of this sickness. This is a common opinion among Japanese "conservatives" that is debatable with respect to Japan but is grossly ignorant with respect to the West. Meritocracy was the great strength of the West in the 20th century, until it was abandoned in favor of the very hobbling pox that Japan, to Fujiwara's dismay, has been trying to wean itself from. Our fetish now is to insist on equal results, on equality among unequals, on social promotion instead of merit-based promotion. And Western capitalism has degenerated to printing and shuffling money and phantom money, and it has been perverted in other ways too – but even now it has a salutary foundation that Fujiwara misses entirely.
At this point, it behooves us to make a caveat. We started this thread with the observation that Japan has peculiar diseases of its own. Among them are parochialism, ignorance of the world at large, a cavalier approach to truth and rationality, a bizarre obsession with its own uniqueness, and more. Fujiwara's book could be mined for various related absurdities – but this is not our purpose here. Our aim is to sketch such features of the Japanese culture and society as may be adapted by the West as an antidote to its own critical illness. We will therefore sieve only Fujiwara's useful ideas, leaving the dross, however fascinating, at the bottom.
Fujiwara states that the logic by which Western society is structured has a great flaw. At the head of any logical chain of reasoning there is a hypothetical premise that is extra-logical. Fujiwara names these Western "starting points" on which the West's social arrangements are based: freedom, equality, democracy and, of late, globalization.
Freedom, Fujiwara writes, has degenerated into nothing more than unrestrained egotism. Equality is a fiction, a lie used to mask a reality of great inequality, or to wield as a club in the constant class, race and gender skirmishes roiling the West. Globalization is worldwide homogenization, and not to the highest common denominator. And democracy is based on an erroneous assumption: that people are capable of making mature and informed judgments.
Only a governing elite can curb democracy's tendency to run amok, says Fujiwara. Members of the elite must possess four characteristics: a broad cultural and historical erudition, an ability to see "the big picture," exceptional strength of character, and sufficient love of their people and country to sacrifice for them their lives in an hour of need. Japan, Fujiwara adds, used to but no longer has such an elite. One of his greatest delusions is that Great Britain, France, and the U.S. still do.
Yes, we have our Brahmin castes, but they are mostly traitors to their native lands and peoples, either implementing Eurabia in Europe or La Reconquista in the United States by underhanded means and against the will of the majorities. Even when our governing elites mean well, their cowardice and refusal to act on the real problems of their respective societies engenders government action illustrating Molière's line that nearly all men die of their remedies, and not of their illnesses.
In this matter I come to conclusions opposite from Dr. Fujiwara's. I have found in Japan still-extant qualities that used to be the bedrock of Europe until the 1940s and, in a modified and more muted form, of the United States as well. First and foremost is the notion of social class. And the notion that the quintessence of the upper class is decoupled from any considerations of wealth and is instead linked to descent from warriors and, much more important, to character traits that once were the idolized hallmark of warriors: honor, chivalry, loyalty, courage, honesty, good manners, modesty, self-restraint, contempt for materialism, love of justice, love of country and of its deity.
Values and virtues tend to trickle from the top down, rather then percolating from the bottom. And that has huge implications. Since the newly invigorated merchants in 17th century Edo (Tokyo) started emulating samurai customs, such as the tea ceremony, Japanese with higher aspirations have sought to adopt the values and comportment of the upper class. The ethos by which those are transmitted is, by now, so widely diffused that it's an essential part of Japanese schools' curriculum, for instance in a wise book, The Tsurezuregusa, written by Kenko, a Buddhist priest and poet at the Imperial Court, around 1330.
1330! How many books reflecting traditional Western virtues as perceived even a hundred years ago are still being taught in Western schools? Instead, the psychotic Western elite disseminates the contemporary values it has minted: erasure of history, custom, and the white peoples’ ethnic identity; prostration before hostile aliens without and within; tolerance über alles; equality at the expense of liberty; quantity rather than quality; flesh over spirit; indulgence over will; statism over self-reliance. All these are a contagion that destroys, rather than a restorative that invigorates.
As an antidote to the ills of rationalism, Fujiwara proposes more respect for what he calls "beautiful emotions and forms that the Japanese people possess." The first and foremost among them is "an acute sensitivity to nature." Since we have already addressed this topic at length in the first and second part, we will skip his relevant argument, except for two of its many aspects.
The traditional importance of nature in their culture has developed in the Japanese people a heightened awareness of the impermanence of this world and of the individual in it. From this, Fujiwara writes, rather than from the disputatious Western concept of equality, arose the Japanese samurai's compassion for the underprivileged, and pity for the losers.
Indeed, in the Japanese culture it's the losers – the noble losers – who are celebrated, not the winners. The chief national epic, the Chushingura, for instance, is the true story of the 47 samurai who went through years of trials and tribulations to avenge the death of their master, knowing that their own certain death would be their reward. Just this single historical episode from the early 18th century, repeated countless times, every year, in films, television series, kabuki performances, manga etc. is a powerful reinforcer of virtues like loyalty, courage, perseverance, love of justice and disdain for crass materialism And there are many other such stories that sustain this national ethos, however undermined by runaway consumerism it may be nowadays.
Fujiwara considers it Japan's "sacred mission" to teach humanity to love and revere nature. Love of nature acts as an emotional stabilizer that brings peace to a tormented heart. And, Fujiwara says, love of the world's beauty will turn people away from war and from exploitive practices that destroy the environment.
"Do you have five minutes for the environment"? asks the young man at the street corner as he shoves another socialist petition in my face while I stare, speechless, at the dollar-sized plugs in his distended earlobes. Right-thinking people in the West made a great mistake when they forgot that conservation is embedded in the word 'conservatism,' and abandoned nature to the ministrations of the left and its young, naïve and idealistic foot soldiers. Maybe some osmosis of traditional Japanese spirituality can rectify that.
Among other samurai values that Fujiwara praises is the sense of honor and shame, and contempt for base behavior. The very concept of base behavior has vanished in the West, because to perceive and loathe baseness we would also have to be taught to perceive and revere highness – and that's committing a high crime in the degenerate West of today, a crime of discrimination, discernment and "judgmentalism." We much prefer the distinction of legal / illegal – but that distinction is, per se, base, for it invokes the state’s guns, batons and watching eyes as the generator of virtue.
The greater the West's vaunted diversity, the greater the need to envelop the individual in a suffocating net of arbitrary, intrusive, and often grossly unjust laws. For to re-establish what was once understood as base or noble, one would have to re-establish in multiculti Eurabia the supremacy of the European Christian culture that used to generate the consensus necessary for such a discernment, with a parallel if slightly different model re-established in the Anglophone countries.
One day, in a busy section of Tokyo, carrying my supermarket grocery bag back to my bicycle propped on its stand on the sidewalk, I perceived a gaijin (foreigner) standing there and looking at me with tearing eyes. He said, "I was looking at your bike. It's a good bike. There are no locks on it. You just left it here, unlocked, went to do your shopping, came back and expected it would be here when you returned. And it was. It's extraordinary." A British tourist, he then told me of the hazards of cycling in Clockwork Orange Londonistan -- from the risk of being knifed by one of the denizens of post-British Britain, to the necessity of carrying 5 kg. of iron implements to chain and lock his bike everywhere.
People don't steal bikes, wallets and hanging laundry in Japan because it's base and dishonorable to do so. There is a relatively high incidence of embezzlement of public funds. It's illegal, but unlike stealing from an individual, it's not perceived to be base. I'll settle for aversion to baseness, instead of TV cameras at every corner, Kevlar suits on people, and chains and padlocks on anything that may be lifted.
Japan is the world's last remaining depository of quality as a cultural value, and single-focus attention to one’s work, when working, to generate this quality. The knowledge of how to treat a customer politely, or wrap his purchase, or build him a perfect door frame or garden path or washing machine is disappearing in Western countries, where it used to be common. A $10 T-shirt from a Japanese chain store is better in every way than a $10 T-shirt bought in a comparable store in Europe or in the United States. Good manners can no longer be found in the German waitress, the American pipe fitter or the Chinese software tycoon. But in Japan they are still omnipresent.
High quality, discernment of good materials and workmanship, discrimination – that word, again – might be the answer to the West's inundation by cheap quantity and the whole world's sinking under a heap of discarded and non-recyclable junk. And good manners and inbred consideration for fellow humans are preferable to the estimated 300,000 tort lawsuits filed annually in the United States alone and the tribal warfare waged in Northwest Europe's cities.
Japan is one of the world's greatest supporters of the United Nations and of other global institutions, partly because its people and leaders are too naïve and ignorant to understand some of the malign mechanics that animate such institutions. But even in their enthusiasm for multilateralism, the Japanese do not forget the proper order of things: love of family, love of hometown, love of country, and only then love of mankind.
White people, in contrast, have turned this on its head so that love of mankind comes first, love of hometown and country are quaint and rare relics, and love of family is increasingly disappearing too. While the pierced-and-tattooed future of the West is busy with the problems of the Africans, the Palestinians, and Inconvenient Gorefiction, Fujiwara says: "There is no such thing as a 'global citizen,' and teaching such a fiction does a hundred times more harm than good."
Like a bulimic stuffing herself with oleo-caloric foods in an unappeasable quest to fill a spiritual void within, the governing elite of Europe is filling its territory with darker, more primitive and mostly Islamic tribals, while coercing Europe's indigenous population to submit. This reverse order of emotional allegiance is among the reasons, some of them deeply neurotic, for this urge to embrace "the other" who does not embrace back.
In the United States, the agents of demographic teardown are different because the geography is different, and the motivation is different too, stemming primarily from greed and corruption. Greed among the left for more clients of the welfare state and therefore more voters for the left. And greed among the right for low labor costs of low labor, and high profit margins -- after me, the deluge. But the process of self-destruction by demography is essentially the same throughout the West.
In Japan, on the other hand, there is a wide consensus that the country’s most important natural resource, by far, is its people. And these people are Japanese. The ruling elite, therefore, no matter what other faults it has, is committed to preserve the Japanese character of the nation through severe constraints on immigration, no birthright citizenship, education whose primary goal is to teach "Japaneness," and a heightened primacy of the Japanese language.
This racial and cultural homogeneity does not prevent a multicultural enrichment of lives. To the contrary: houses being built for the Japanese to live in look as though they were designed by German architects and furnished by Italian designers; an improved Indian curry is the standard lunch of the office worker; and imported experts – the few, good ones -- perform tasks ranging from coaching the national soccer team to programming mainframe computers. What’s absent is the mindless, suicidal worship of "diversity" as a worthy societal goal, per se.
The West has spent uncountable trillions of dollars in the last five decades to pay for its madness of inviting, importing and coddling this "diversity." While running away from its history, heritage, and DNA pool, the West has encouraged its own ongoing colonization by 100 million rapidly-multiplying Third World people, whose negative socio-cultural contributions far outweigh their net economic contribution, the latter being negative anyway in Europe, its individual countries, and in the United States as well.
The net cost of converting Europe to Eurabia is perhaps impossible to calculate reliably, due to the EU’s propensity to persecute those who dig too close to where the skeletons lie. In the US, where such data is easier to come by, just the cost of net social transfer payments to the minimum estimated number of illegal immigrants, 11 million, is $90 billion per year. This does not nearly reflect the totality of the damage, as the number of illegals is estimated by most professional sources not at 11 but at 12 million, and some go as high as 20 million. Nor does the estimate include the net cost of legal immigrants, the majority of whom are low skilled, low-earning, and with large families that are voracious consumers of taxpayer-funded social services. Moreover, the cost of crimes committed by immigrants legal and illegal is not included either. Were these items assessed as well, the total annual cost might emerge at double or triple the $90 billion figure. To that, one must add the cost of the suppression of wages of Americans as result of the illegal immigrants’ competition, estimated at $200 billion annually.
But this is not just a fiscal issue. The West has spent the last 40 years in ceaseless anguish and preoccupation with the adverse effects of this ill-advised demographic experiment: social strife, great diminution of social capital, higher incidence of crime, Islamic terrorism, spreading of social norms repugnant by Western standards, the gutting of educational and professional standards to accommodate the different levels of ability of disparate populations, and more.
All of that hasn't turned the shaft of a single lathe even one more time, nor made the indigenous populations' lives better. All of Japan's cogs and wheels, in the meantime, have been turning for one shared purpose only: to make life more abundant, safer and harmonious for the Japanese themselves.
Japan has no need for separate black graduation ceremonies or government services in 32 languages. Goats are not being slaughtered in Tokyo’s back alleys, nor are Japan’s iconic celebrities prosecuted by the state for protesting such slaughter. There are no cities burning, no speech codes, no government tyranny to prevent some segments of the population from being offended. There are no 19th century diseases, no cliterectomies with kitchen knives, no Dark Ages tribal laws still applied to women or infidels. There are no noisy and physically dangerous ethnic lobbies skewing foreign policy, and no ethnic sectors of the population dependent entirely on taxpayer support.
In the last 35 years, in yet another blunder of multigenerational consequences, the West let itself be inundated by East Asian goods, with the price of idling its own indigenous population and destroying its own industrial base not factored in the equation. But the West would have benefited much more from importing and adapting some selected East Asian values instead.
Japan brought itself from the 18th to the 20 century in the 30 short years of the Meiji Restoration at the close of the 19th century. It did so again after its utter devastation in World War 2. This transformation has been so astonishing, that a teenage girl who may have been lurking among the ruins in 1945, eating tree bark and planning how to die an honorable death defending her land with her naginata halberd (4) against the anticipated invasion of the U.S. Marines, may now be a Gucci-swathed octogenarian with the world’s highest health and longevity expectancy, lunching in temples of European gastronomy in Tokyo before driving herself home in one of the world's most advanced automobiles, a hybrid that also parks itself. And at home, her refrigerator will have already taken its own stock and ordered the necessary groceries via the Internet, while the nanocarbon coating of her house will have repulsed the day’s accumulation of dust and grime without recourse to the toil of a single foreign laborer.
Japan accomplished all this twice under the banner of Wakon Yosai – Western Technology, Japanese Spirit. Europe too knew times of successful amalgamation of foreign ideas. It took its agricultural civilization from the Mesopotamians, its commerce from the Phoenicians, its religion from the Jews and its secular culture from the Greeks. It just might be that the West can lift itself from its present doldrums through another successful graft of a foreign idea. This time: Western Technology, Japanese Spirit.
(1) In the archives of the International Institute of Social History NEHA/IISG, Amsterdam.
(2) Para – contracted from 'parasite' -- is one of the many useful words the Japanese have adopted from European languages. It's a sociological category of people who live with their parents into their adulthood, shunning gainful employment.
(3) English title as per the English translation issued in June 2007 by IBC Publishers in Japan.
(4) naginata – a Japanese halberd, 2.5 meters long and traditionally the weapon of samurai women and monks.