Jan 27, 2012

The Myth of "Democracy": "the State of Nature" and "the Social Contract"

Since the accidents at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plants, I've seriously doubted if Japan is really a democratic country. So I wrote the entry "Is Japan Really a Democratic Country?".

Now, I want to understand what "democracy" really is, so I'm trying to read classics about democracy, such as Thomas Hobbes' "Leviathan", John Locke's "Second Treatise of Government", Jean-Jacques Rousseau's "The Social Contract", and John Rawls' "A Theory of Justice".

I'd like to know why they started their discussion about democracy from "the State of Nature".

In the beginning of "Second Treatise of Government" John Locke said as follows.

To understand political power right, and derive it from its original, we must consider, what sate all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bonds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man.
(Section 4)

John Rawls' idea of justice, a modern political philosopher, is based on the concept "the veil of ignorance", which is also one of the variations of the concept of "the state of nature".

John Locke said that human beings in the state of nature were in "the state of perfect freedom". But "the state of nature" is hypothetical and actually there is no "the state of nature" on the earth.

Even the most uncivilized people have their society. Every society has its own rules, which usually aren't written law but are shared by the members of the society in the forms of customs or culture.

Everyone is born into their society with its rules, which exist before they are born. So they are obliged to the rules of the society and they aren't in "the state of perfect freedom".

John Locke thought that "the natural law" was universal. But the customs and the cultures are different between each society, so customs and cultures aren't "the natural law".

And then, they discussed about "social contract". I'd like to quote a phrase from "Second Treatise of Government" again.

Men being, as has been said, by nature, all free, equal, and independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent. The only way whereby any one divests himself of his natural liberty, and puts on the bonds of civil society, is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living on amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any, that are not of it.

When the United States of America was founded, the people agreed on a "social contract" in the form of the United States Constitution with their free will. And the people who get U.S citizenship make the Oath of Allegiance, including "allegiance to the United States Constitution". This is a form of "social contract".

But in Japan (and I guess, in many other countries), we are born as Japanese people without any agreement. People who are the children of Japanese become Japanese without any free will.

John Locke wrote as follows.

It is plain then, by the practice of governments themselves, as well as by the law of right reason, that a child is born a subject of no country or government. He is under his father's tuition and authority, till he comes to age of discretion; and then he is a freeman, at liberty what government he will put himself under, what body politic he will unite himself to: for if an Englishman's son, born in France, be at liberty, and may do so, it is evident there is no tie upon him by his father's being a subject of this kingdom; nor is he bound up by any compact of his ancestors.

If we can freely change our nationality, it can be said that we make our democratic country based on our free will. I don't know about the situation in Europe at that age, but it was free to change nationality, wasn't it?

Logically I can change my nationality, for example I can become naturalized as a Singaporean. But actually it's quite difficult.

I was born into Japanese society and culture and brought up as Japanese, so it's not easy to change nationality and live as a Singaporean. In fact there are few Japanese people who change their nationality and few foreign people who get Japanese nationality. Most people who get Japanese nationality come from former Japanese ex-colonies, such as Korea.

Most Japanese people don't think (even imagine) that they choose to be Japanese with their will. They are just Japanese. If they heard, "You contracted to be Japanese with your will, so you have responsibility as a Japanese citizen. If you don't like it, you could leave Japan", they must be quite surprised.

Most Japanese don't feel reality with the concept of "the state of nature" and "social contract". I doubt if they understand the concept of "democracy". I guess that they think of "democracy" just as "taking a vote". And when I see "Arab Spring", I wonder if they also really understand what "democracy" is.

"The state of nature" and "social contract" isn't real history, and in this sense, they are a kind of myth of "democracy". We, who don't share European traditions and myths, need a different undersstanding philosophy and myth of "democracy", which isn't based on the concept "the state of nature" and "social contract", don't we?

Jan 21, 2012

"断捨離 (dan sha ri)" Cutting Away, Throwing Away, and Getting Away

Now, the organizational skills for everyday life called "断捨離(dan sha ri)" are popular in Japan.

"断 (dan)" means "cutting away". "捨 (sha)" is "throwing away" and "離 (ri)" is "getting away".

Hideko Yamashita, the advocate of "断捨離 (dan sha ri)" said, "Cut away the stream of things that you don't need in your life. Throw away things that you don't need in your home. Get away from your obsession with possession. And then your life will be much easier."

I myself don't have a lot of obsession with anything, so I think that I don't need "断捨離 (dan sha ri)". But in fact my room overflows with books, and now my books are flooding all over my house.

My room was full of CDs. When I bought the iPod classic, I digitized all of my CDs and took all of them expect several CD that I really loved to a used CD shop. I did "断捨離 (dan sha ri)" with my CDs, and then I could sell them at good price. I rediscovered what music I loved and I've got rid of CDs as objects in the shape of a disk.

After I finish reading books, I divide them into two categories. One is the category of books that I'll read again, and the other is the category of books that I'll never read again. And I donate the latter category of books. But the number of my books does never stop increasing.

In Japan digitizing books is backward, because Japanese publishers are resisting it. I can read some out of copyright books on 青空文庫 (Aozora Bunko) and I installed the application for reading them into my iPhone, so I can do "断捨離 (dan sha ri)" with some of my old books. I'm really waiting for Amazon to start a Japanese kindle shop.

Jan 18, 2012

There Are No Mistakes on the Bandstand

In my journal "A Baby Starts Learning Language From When They Are In Their Mother's Womb" I wrote about TED, which offer lectures on a wide range of topics on the Internet. I'd like to write a new journal about another TED lectures.

In this lecture, Stefon Harris, who is a jazz vibraphone player, talked about "mistakes" in Jazz music and actually played some examples of "mistakes".

I didn't know the name of Stefon Harris before, but it was enough fun to listen to his music and his lecture was more interesting.

He said, "There are no mistakes on the bandstand". In fact there is the notes that the audience interprets as a mistake. He played such a mistake. But at the same time he said that every mistake was an opportunity for jazz music.

What is different between just a mistake and an opportunity? He explained that if other band members ignore it, the note would be just a mistake. But if the other players responded to it, the note would be a new music. And then they actually prove it with their playing the nice music.

I think that his words are deeply meaningful for us. Why is a mistake a mistake? Because people think that it is one. If people don't think that it is a mistake, it will not be a mistake.

When we live in our everyday lives, it isn't efficient for us to doubt if every mistake is really a mistake. But sometimes we should think radically and deeply if a mistake is a mistake or not.

Efficiency often conflicts with creativity. Stefon Harris is always trying to be creative when he plays jazz music, so he said, "There are no mistakes on the bandstand".

I'm likely to say, "It's a mistake!" But now, before I say that, I'll give it some though.

Jan 15, 2012

"Romeo and Juliet" and "Kiss of the Spider Woman"

Caution: This entry refers to the end of "Kiss of the Spider Woman".

Every love story has the plot of "Romeo and Juliet".

At first, a boy and a girl fell in love with each other. But someone or something disrupted their relationships. In a tragic love story, they died and their love turns to be eternal in heaven. In a comedic love story, they overcame obstacles but their love will not be eternal on the earth.

I love Manuel Puig's "Kiss of the Spider Woman", which is a typical tragic love story.

The main characters are Molina and Valentine. They were imprisoned the same cell, but they were completely opposite in every way.

Molina was a gay. He was arrested for sexual harassment to a boy.

He loved straight men, so his love was always impossible. Sometime he loved an intellectual straight man, who said to Molina that he understood what Molina felt. But he would never love Molina as Molina loved him.

Molina didn't like to meet gay people, because he wasn't interested in gay people but straight men. But he could only be a friend with a gay, because only gay people could share his feelings. So he didn't like to go to a gay bar, but he went to a gay bar.

Valentine was a macho revolutionary warrior.

He lived in the political world. Of course he wasn't interested in a gay at all.

The governor of the prison sent Molina to Valentine's cell as a spy. But Molina fell in love with him. At first Valentine rejected his love, but Molina was so dedicated to him that Valentine became to open his heart to Molina.

Molina wasn't interested in the revolution at all, but he loved Valentine so deeply that he swore loyalty to the revolution. When Molina was set free, Valentine gave him a letter to his revolutionary fellows.

Molina went to give the letter to Valentine's fellows, but he was followed by the police. Valentine's fellows found the police and they didn't trust Molina. And then they shot Molina.

What a tragic love story! Molina got nothing more than Valentine's love (although it was not sure that his love is real) and Molina's love to Valentine killed Molina himself.

This is the modern "Romeo and Juliet" story.

Jan 13, 2012

President Obama and Mitt Romney

From the standpoint of Japanese view I think that President Obama is so underestimated from American people.

In these three years he's dealing with huge negative legacies from Bush administration. The Iraq war, the Afghanistan war and the Lehman Shock weren't Obama's fault.

He accomplished withdrawing the U.S. army from Iraq and the Iraq government hasn't broken down yet (even if it's far from perfect.) The SEALS killed Osama Bin Laden, giving Obama the chance to withdraw the army without destroying the Iraqi government.

In his speech at Prague he received the Nobel Prize for saying as follows: (Do you remember this speech?)
So today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.
He's a enough good president especially for the rest of the world.

Now the American economy is in recession after Lehman Shock. Obama has been trying to push several economic policies but he hasn't succeeded yet. In Japan the financial crisis happened in the early 1990's and it took more than ten years to recover it. I think that nobody can repair the American economy in only three years.

The primary campaign of GOP has started. I forecast that Mitt Romney will be a candidate I think that nobody can repair the American economy in only three years. GOP, because there are no other candidates who have the potentiality of beating Obama. (Can you imagine that Newt Gingrich will be the president of the U.S.?)

But I hope that Obama will be reelected a president, as one of the people of the rest of the world. The American economy will turn around by this November and the American people will remember why Obama is a good president.

Jan 9, 2012

Life and Death Are Both Sides of a Coin

Today's topic is very controversial, so I'm afraid that readers will misunderstand what I mean. Anyway I'll try to do my best.

There are over nineteen thousands dead or missing from the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11.

A lot of people all over the world were really worried about the victims of this earthquake, and in fact they've encouraged and helped the victims in many ways.

I often watched on TV the victims expressing their appreciation and saying that they wanted to restore their own villages and towns even if it would take a lot of time.

But watching them talking about positive things broke my heart. I think that they really feel positive, but at the same time they must feel badly about their lives. I hope that there are the people who hear about their negative feelings.

Steve Jobs died on October 5. In his speech at Stanford University he said as bellow.
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true. Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
Just for a few years before he died, he did the best work in his life, because he got nearest to his death.

The positive and the negative, life and death are both sides of a coin. The dark side of the life has meanings for us.

We can get rich lessons even from death and misery. Of course it's important for everyone to overcome sadness, but it also important to live with sadness, misery and death.

I've suffered from depression. My depression has taught me a lot of precious lessons and I'm living with depression.

I want to encourage the victims of this earthquake. I hope that they'll over come the damage of it. At the same time they have to live with the earthquake and I hope that it'll make their lives richer.

Jan 3, 2012

The Great Firewall Is a Great Waste Like the Great Wall

The Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang (始皇帝) began to build the Great Wall in the third century B.C. in order to defend invasion of nomads living in Mongolian plain. It took about 1,800 years to build, and the Ming Dynasty completed the Great Wall as we see it now.

I've traveled to the Great Wall from Beijing by bus. After I climbed the Great Wall, I saw the big plain stretching beyond the Great Wall. I understand why the emperors of China built the Great Wall.

But it's ironic that the Great Wall couldn't stop the attacks of nomads. In Chinese history they conquered the mainland China many times. Genghis Khan, who was the most famous conqueror to China, didn't care about the Great Wall at all.

In this sense the Great Wall was a great waste. But it's one of the World Heritages of UNESCO and many tourists have visited there. Although it couldn't defend China, it's earning a lot of money for Chinese people.

I started a new blog written in Chinese. My main blog is on the BlogSpot by Google, but I heard that people in China couldn't see BlogSpot because the Chinese government blocks access to it by the Great Firewall. So I made a new blog on Shin Lang blog (新浪博棵).

Chinese government blocks access to Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia. I can't imagine the Internet without them. Is it the Internet? It may be just the Chinese net.

But like the nomads got over the Great Wall, Chinese people get over the Great Firewall. They call it "fan qiang (翻墙)", which means "over wall". A Chinese friend of mine told me that students must learn how to "fan qiang". I guess that they need to read (or copy and paste) Wikipedia, when students write reports.

Chinese government made the Great Firewall like the Great Wall, and people also get over the Great Firewall like the Great Wall. In this sense the Great wall and the Great Firewall are great wastes.

Anyway people all over the world connect through the Internet, even if there are great walls.

Jan 1, 2012

A Happy New Year

I sent New Year's cards to my relatives and friends through a "real" postal service. They may have arrived at each "real" mailbox, by now.

People, who send New Year's card, are reducing year by year in Japan. They send New Year's messages through the Internet. I don't know if I'll send "real" New Year's cards next year.

New Year's cards were a new trend about a hundred years ago in Japan. Before that, people called on each other around New Year. People had "real" meetings, and then they sent "real" postal cards to each other. Now we communicate through "virtual" media.

I found so many colorful cards (which weren't good taste) in supermarkets and bookstores in the U.S. I think that they really like to send cards to each other. I wonder if people, who send Christmas cards through a postal service, are reducing in the U.S.

This is a year of the Dragon, so the figure of a dragon is printed on my New Year's cards.

This is "門松Kado-Matsu" at the entrance of the office. "Kado" means "gate" and "Matsu" means "pine tree". We decorate the gate or entrance of our homes with Kado-Matsu over the New Year period.

My house doesn't have a gate.

Last year so many things happened in Japan. I really hope you will have a very good year from the heart.