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No nation can afford to act like an island in Asia’s globalized age

by Noriko Hama

Special To The Japan Times

Japan is having trouble keeping up a cordial relationship with its next door neighbors. Long dormant territorial disputes have suddenly come to the fore. Who owns what from when and why? Who can claim legal ownership? Who is in actual control? Arcane issues have suddenly become hot topics of the moment between Japan and China as well as South Korea over tiny bits of land mass in the seas.

Psalm 85 from the Old Testament states: “Faithful Love and loyalty join together. Saving Justice and Peace embrace.” These beautiful words from the Bible are beautiful indeed, but in life on Earth they are very difficult to abide by.

In today’s circumstances, it is difficult to keep love and loyalty joined together. When people try to be loyal to their respective nations they find there is not much room for love between each other. When such things as territorial ownership become an issue, the claim to justice comes to stand very firmly in the way of peace.

Such has been the case for a very long time between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The more they each cry out for justice, the less chance there is for peace to reign between them. The more loyal they are to their separate causes, the less likelihood of love bringing the two together.

Far from joining together, love and loyalty have a habit of parting company in life on earth. Justice and peace clash rather than embrace. Those are the ways of man. They are very far from the ways of the kingdom of heaven, as God himself points out in the Bible. But then that is precisely why we need to be told what life is like up there in the heavens. Had we had the ability ourselves to join love and loyalty together and make justice and peace embrace by our own initiative, we would not need to read about it in the good book. God’s ways are his ways precisely because they are so far away from ours. Because they are so far away from ours, they shock us.

There is, however, one very easy way in which we can achieve godly perfection in this business of love and loyalty and justice and peace. All we need to do is to stop seeing each other. Everything becomes complicated and potentially hostile because people meet. If all the nations existing in this life on Earth decided to go into seclusion, none of this would be a problem.

Those who do not encounter each other will never find themselves caught between loyalty to the nation and love for their neighbors. Those who keep to themselves will never need to experience the conflict between their own justice and peaceful coexistence. Isolation clearly has its virtues in this instance.

This solution, however, is very defeatist and sad. It is also dangerous. For those who shut themselves up are always full of suspicion of the outside world. Suspicion begets fear. Fear begets hostility. Hostility begets violence. Thus we are back to square one, where peace is sabotaged by the claim to justice. The solution is not a solution after all.

Moreover, the global era in which we live is an era in which people are more than ever in contact with each other. Crossing borders is part of our globalized way of life. Do we have the capability as well as the resolution to bring love and justice together, and make peace and justice embrace in this world we inhabit? That is the question being asked of us from up there.

Noriko Hama is an economist and professor at Doshisha University Graduate School of Business.