A warning from ‘Brown Morning’
Japanese people love dogs. There are as many dogs as there are people in the country’s parks. Dog owners take care of their pets as if they are babies. Fancy dog strollers sell for over $500. Pet cafes with outdoor playgrounds are packed with dog lovers. These cafes offer a “family menu” of dishes that pet owners and dogs can share, such as steak and mashed potatoes.
But what if a terrible law was suddenly enforced in Japan and only brown dogs were allowed? French writer Franck Pavloff introduced this dystopic concept in his story “Brown Morning.”
The 1998 allegory was translated and published in Japan eight months ago. The author expressed concern because France’s far-right group, the National Front, had considerable success in the elections at the time. Brown represents ultraconservative tendencies. It was the color of the Nazi uniform.
Lately, Japanese people are paying attention to “Brown Morning” again. This could be related to the conservative swing in the country, as Japan continues to deny the military’s forcible mobilization of sex slaves, has approved the collective right to self-defense and attempts to revise its peace constitution. There are worries in and out of Japan over anti-Korean rallies and hate speech by far-right groups.
The government in “Brown Morning” announces the “Brown Law” to reduce the number of dogs and cats. Scientists say that brown dogs have less offspring and eat less. People are puzzled at first but soon get used to the changes.
More than 33,000 copies of the book have been sold since the Japanese edition was published. And a series of laws that could restrict civil liberty when Japan is under armed attacks has caused the book to become popular. According to the new Special State Secrecy Act enforced on Dec. 10, a person who leaks state secrets could be sentenced up to 10 years in prison. The Hokkaido Shimbun reported that 60,000 copies have been sold as of the end of December. The Japanese government keeps sensitive information confidential for as long as 60 years for national security purposes. Freedom of the press is not very powerful in the name of national interests.
The protagonist later wishes that people had protested when the Brown Law was first created. But he justifies his cowardice, as people prefer to live quietly. The warning in “Brown Morning” is still a storm in a teacup in Japan. However, in 2015, militarization and constitutional revisions are going to be in full force, and the storm may break out of the teacup and sweep through the nation as a super typhoon.
The author is the Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 13, Page 30
by LEE JEONG-HEON