In his April 17 Counterpoint article, “In this time of trials, a new nationalism would aid Japan’s recovery,” Roger Pulvers advocates an “informed nationalism.” I disagree, while appreciating his intention. He compares the challenges we face today to those of the Meiji Era (1868-1912). I think the current situation is quite different from those days.
Meiji Japan had a model to follow and strong leadership that set the national agenda and forcefully guided the people. Today we have neither. Our true challenge is to draw the picture of a postmodern society that has never before existed on Earth, instead of overtaking the West as Meiji Japan tried to do.
We have to find a way to live without aggravating environmental destruction and form a society that allows people with diverse interests and tendencies to live together without feeling forlorn. Absence of political leadership and the nature of today’s challenges force us to seek solutions locally. Thus we have to depart from modern preconceptions, including that having to do with nationalism, whether informed or prejudiced.
Those yearning for the revival of Japanese power through invigorated nationalism, for example, have jumped at the idea of participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would eliminate traditional rice farming and change the ways we work and consume. Many local festivals in Japan relate to rice-farming practices. Killing rice farming, which is destined to be small in scale in Japan, by flooding this country with imported rice will inevitably kill off many local festivals that bond together local communities and give many people identity and security of soul.
Arousing national pride would require strengthening economic or military power, thus crushing local cultures and exacerbating the erosion of community and the atomization of individuals.
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