28 April 2006

Rise of Nationalism

It's not just a US Republican phenomenon.

Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, which is neither liberal nor democratic, has been pushing an aggressively right-wing nationalistic agenda under the leadership of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. The latest is requiring the nation's teachers to teach a "patriotic" agenda, one that harks back to the militarism of the World War II era.

The entire world knows just how much of a mess Japan and its occupied territories had become back then. Remember the kamikaze, and the rape of Nanking? No normal civilized society is capable of such monstrosities, yet a dose of nationalism, and blind faith in the divinity of the Emperor, had turned Japan into a very barbaric society capable of all of it, and more.

This, along with the introduction of new revisionist history textbooks, is surely going to cause friction on the world scene, when today's students grow up into tomorrow's adults. The Chinese and the Koreans won't be happy (though South Korea, by having sold its soul out to Japan during its fascist era, no longer has much of a right to complain).

Contrast this with Japan's war ally Germany, which paid a heavy price for its nationalistic mistakes and atrocities, and even today is making sure that students will not forget the horrors of the Hitler era. Neo-Nazi skinheads are in the far right fringes of the German society; their Japanese counterparts are the mainstream, unfortunately.

For Americans, the stakes are high as well. Blind nationalism, and belief in the divinity of the national leader, is a trait found in today's W loyalists as well; they are well advised to check what happened to Japan the last time it happened. And I am considering W's close friendship with Koizumi to be ill-advised as well. And let's not forget that while Japanese automakers are creating badly needed American manufacturing jobs, they are creating them as sweatshop jobs - $12/hr pay, no benefits, no promise of ever going permanent, and no right to organize. And I still haven't forgotten about John Roberts helping Toyota overturn Americans with Disability Act.