Both the Japan Times [here and here] and the BBC have run articles on Japan’s Article 9 debacle which I have read with care and with caution. I cannot help feeling (along with many other right-thinking, peace-loving people) that something fishy’s going on.
I have always thought it the mark of a highly cultured and civilised people, the forsaking of war. I deeply admire it. It is courageous and humane. And I know this is complicated for some people, and I sometimes wonder if, for them, peace is conceived more as an absence than as something crafted and shaped, a reward for creative alternate strategies for resolving conflict? Echoing Spinoza’s remark in the 17th century, Thomas Gregor in A Natural History of Peace (1996) writes:
Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.
I have always enjoyed this disposition here and in spades.
These are the things I am thinking around on the topic at present:
- What kind of reasoning is it in a country battling declining birthrate to be spoiling for war? (Let’s call what appears to be a spade, a spade . . . we can re-interpret later if more evidence emerges to the contrary.)
- I am grateful in this respect to Noda Seiko who criticised the move to amend Article 9 as a failure of imagination. She is quoted as having said: “lawmakers and people should have the imagination to realize that engaging in collective self-defense means that Japanese will not only end up killing in overseas conflicts but also being killed.” It is so obvious to so many, but apparently not to all. I’m glad she said it.
- All interpretation involves the mind, values and interests of the interpretive community for which the text is interpreted. How will the Japanese people reveal themselves?
- If we allow that interpretations are always provisional and open to ongoing reformation how does a country make peace heroic? (James Hinton: The only way to abolish war is to make peace heroic.) There is no shortage of the glamorisation of war. This, for example, (what I could stomach of it) is extremely creepy.
- And, here we are, advertising how we are going to get women to ‘shine’ in Japan (they already do, but not as “Economic Resources” – charming terminology, I know) – a good thing. Is this so that we can spend more on war games, er, “Collective Self-Defense” (which, let’s admit, is a bit of an oxymoron.)
- Judith Butler said in this interview: “Peace is a resistance to the terrible satisfactions of war.” It’s really worth a read, as it reflects on some philosophical questions about peace, particularly on vulnerability (which, as I see it, is one of the motivating factors for this foray into constitutional interpretive exercises.)
One more thing – in case you hadn’t heard: Japan’s article 9 is a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.