For many years I didn’t hesitate to think of the Emperor as the head of state, despite disagreement from the Japanese I spoke with who said the Emperor was the “symbol of the state” — not the head of state. I tended to disregard them: first, because these were the same people who insisted that Japan didn’t have an army due to Article 9 of the Constitution and that its rather large Self-Defense Forces are not a military force at all; and, second, because I thought the words “symbol of the state” were just gobbledygook.
Maybe I was wrong not to respect their credibility, but the habit of thinking of the Emperor as the head of state made sense to me like elementary civics: constitutional monarchy equals head of state, power in the legislature.
But the March 15 front-page article “LDP calls for titling Emperor ‘head of state’ ” still made me feel uncomfortable, not with the idea of the Emperor as head of state so much as with the Liberal Democratic Party’s proclivity for active intervention in society with a terribly conservative agenda.
Of course, government intervenes all the time in the form of legislation and regulation not just to enable government, stability and civic welfare but also to address specific incidents that periodically arise.
In a democracy, legislation is supposed to be the fruit of a process of compromise that takes the opposition’s view into account. It is not the unilateral prerogative of the party in temporary power even if that party has a sufficient majority.
Why? Because power is not the possession of the governing party so much as the possession of the citizenry for whom the government acts. Furthermore, because debate is discouraged in this culture for its risk of enabling/exposing public contention — a great faux pas in Japan — I do not trust the committee process of Japanese politics.
The LDP’s agenda is symptomatic of the conservative disposition to tell us what to think rather than allow us the freedom to think what we want with impunity, and it’s annoying.
As a taxpayer in Japan, all public servants here are my employees, and I don’t fancy being annoyed by my employees.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.