Regarding Noriko Fujita’s Sept. 29 letter, “When cartoons don’t go our way“: Fujita seems to have absolutely no idea what satire is. This is not surprising in a country whose media habitually treat politicians with deference and where any kind of political satire is lacking. Consequently ordinary people feel loyal to their leaders and tend to rush to their defense if anyone dares lampoon them for their callous mismanagement of, say, a nuclear disaster.

The fact is that, in a mature democracy, people are not afraid to use humor to criticize those in power. Satire is supposed to be “insolent.” Japanese who take criticism of their leaders as a personal affront have no real understanding of their own interests. The real needs of ordinary people seldom coincide with those of politicians and business leaders. The 18th-century English author Samuel Johnson was right to call patriotism “the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

Unfortunately scoundrels like Tokyo Electric Power Co. find plenty of refuge. Mine is one of the millions of lives put at risk by Tepco’s clandestine penny-pinching approach to disaster management. Imagine if there were a forest fire and the government allowed the landowner not only to refuse access to the fire brigade but also to try to put out the fire himself with plastic cupfuls of water. The reason a largely docile population [like Japan’s] allows such an outrage is precisely because there is no tradition of satire or of questioning authority.

And for Fujita’s information, the world in truth probably has about the same amount of “general envy” for a “well-ordered society” based on rigid conformity and vicious bullying as it does for one based on the burqa and the beheading of apostates.

jim makin

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.

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