From the outset, 2015 has been marred with incidents of violence and terrorism, including the massacre at the satirical weekly in Paris and the murder of one of two Japanese taken hostage for ransom by the Islamic State group.
This year marks the 70th since the end of World War II, but the world appears headed in the direction of hatred and destruction, instead of peace.
In the first place, politics is based on assumption of the diversity and differences among people. The fundamental role of politics is to lead people with different beliefs and interests to coexist. Therefore, politics stands on the value of tolerance. However, it is not guaranteed that all the people respect diversity.
How people who champion tolerance should deal with intolerant people who violently attempt to force certain values on others is one of the thorniest challenges for a pluralistic democracy.
One way of dealing with such people would be to keep shouting the slogan of the supremacy of such values as tolerance and pluralism in nonviolent ways, as did the massive number of people on the streets of Paris. I was moved to see hundreds of thousands of people, along with government leaders from various countries, express their firm resolve to protect freedom of speech.
At the same time, the symbol of an “enemy” of freedom and tolerance can often degrade into a tool used by those in power to suppress their opponents. It was a deficiency inherent from the beginning in the phrase “war on terror” that emerged in the United States right after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
I worry that France, which opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq, might fall in the same trap after the terrorist attack on the satirical magazine.
In Japan, the issue has been complicated by the fact that two Japanese men became the target of terrorism by the Islamic State, and it is believed that one has been murdered.
Under the Abe administration, Japan is about to change the policy of restraint on the use of force that the nation has long imposed on itself in the postwar period. That Japanese people have fallen victim to terrorist acts would likely give the fight against terrorism a stronger legitimacy in this country, possibly fueling calls that Japan take part in the international military actions to sweep terrorists away.
In fact, the government has begun looking into the possibility of creating a base for the permanent stationing of Self-Defense Force units in Djibouti in northeastern Africa.
A naive belief in the slogan of the war on terror might lead one to the illusion of identifying force as justice. Unfortunately observation of the post-9/11 world tells us that the use of force in the name of justice to destroy the evil does not eliminate the evil but rather creates a more potent and more dangerous evil — just like a mutant virus.
We need to carefully consider whether the “proactive pacifism” advocated by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will not bring about a vicious circle of hatred and revenge.
The resolve to never forgive acts of terrorism and to protect freedom and tolerance should be directed at oneself and the society in which one lives.
I found an unforgivable hypocrisy in Abe’s denouncement of the Holocaust during his visit to Israel. If he is going to denounce discrimination against a certain ethnic group, how can he leave the discrimination against and persecution of ethnic Koreans in Japan effectively unaddressed?
If he pledges to protect freedom of speech, how can he make a groundless attack that Asahi Shimbun’s past reports on the “comfort women” issue damaged Japan’s national dignity?
Are we really committed to protecting a tolerant society that respects freedom? What we should do now is to reflect on our own behavior.
Jiro Yamaguchi is a professor of political science at Hosei University.
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