Philosopher Tetsuya Takahashi is thankful for the unconditional freedom of thought, conscience, religion, expression, even academic freedom embodied in the Constitution — all elements crucial to his profession.
The University of Tokyo professor also has high regard for Article 9, which renounces war and prohibits the nation from maintaining a military, even though it does.
“The premises of a modern nation were that it have a military and resort to war when necessary. Thus this Constitution is revolutionary in that it completely changed the nature of the nation,” the 51-year-old Takahashi said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are pushing to change the Constitution — especially Article 9 — and pave the way for Japan to engage in collective defense, which they call the right to “collective self-defense.” The current interpretation of the Constitution bans such action.
Takahashi sees the proposed revision as a step leading Japan again toward militarism, just as happened in the early 20th century.
Clause 1 of Article 9 states the nation forever renounces the use of force as a means of settling international disputes. To accomplish this aim, Clause 2 says the country will not maintain a military or recognize the right of belligerency. This has kept the status of the Self-Defense Forces controversial.
The LDP’s draft of a new Constitution, launched in 2005, retains Clause 1 but deletes Clause 2. Instead, the draft creates a new clause that recognizes the SDF and allows the military to maintain peace and the nation’s independence, participate in international efforts and respond to emergencies under the law.
Takahashi, who believes Article 9 should not be touched, pointed out that the goal of the LDP’s draft is to officially grant Japan the right to use arms.
The very existence of the SDF, a major military power, is a violation of the Constitution, Takahashi said, arguing the government should use diplomacy to ease political tensions in East Asia and move toward cutting back the forces, instead of giving them official status.
“It is clear the current Constitution orders the government to make every effort to disarm,” although it would be unrealistic to do this right now, he said.
Takahashi is concerned that the groundwork for changing the public mind-set toward accepting militarism is already being laid.
“Japanese have taken for granted that they are free from wars, so those running the country would want people to be capable of accepting the fact that there would be victims among them as a consequence of their political decisions (to use arms),” Takahashi contended.
He said Prime Minister Abe took a step toward changing the public mind-set by revising the Fundamental Law of Education in December to instill a specifically defined sense of patriotism in the classroom.
The 1947 education law originally stated that the goal of education was to build a peaceful and democratic nation based on the Constitution. But the revision stipulates a new goal is to nurture patriotism among the people.
The preamble of the LDP’s Constitution draft also touches upon patriotism.
Takahashi also opposes the LDP’s plan to change Article 20, claiming this revision also can push militarism.
Article 20 stipulates that state and government organizations must not be involved in any religious activities. But the LDP draft gives room for authorities to perform religious activities within the boundaries of “social courtesy and customs.”
Takahashi said such religious activities amount to visits to shrines, including Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine.
Visits to Yasukuni by politicians, including former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, have sparked outrage both internationally and at home, largely because of the enshrinement there of Class-A war criminals.
Takahashi, who wrote the book “The Yasukuni Issue” in 2005, said the shrine presents more fundamental problems as well.
Since its establishment by the government in 1869, Yasukuni enshrined those who died in war, and this was considered an honor in the prewar period. Thus people were raised to be patriotic and follow the fallen soldiers who were glorified for serving the country and the Emperor, he said.
Article 20 was written with the intention of separating Yasukuni Shrine from the state, but the LDP revision would destroy that principle and legitimize Yasukuni visits by politicians as well as revive its function as a pillar in a militaristic society, he warned.
“The military, patriotism and Yasukuni Shrine are ‘the trinity,’ or the system that actualized militarism in this country in the 19th century,” he said.
Takahashi said he has nothing against amending the Constitution as long as the people find such revisions necessary.
But he believes Article 9 and other articles that can prevent the nation from reviving militarism should remain in place.
A referendum-procedure bill to change the Constitution cleared the Lower House in mid-April and is being discussed in the Upper House.
In such a critical phase, Takahashi said it was important for the public to study the Constitution, its characteristics and why a revision is being discussed.
Learning how the Constitution was born will inevitably lead to understanding the history of the war Japan waged in the last century, he added.
“People also need to recognize that the Constitution is for those in power to abide by in order to protect the people’s rights,” he said. “As the ones holding sovereignty, the people need to raise their awareness of this. Otherwise, the authorities will change the Constitution for their convenience and limit our rights.”
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