Japan needs some deep soul searching

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Japan needs some deep soul searching

The Cabinet Office of Japan conducted a survey two years ago. Young people between the ages of 13 and 29 in seven countries were asked how they perceive the Japanese people. They chose from multiple statements. Thirty-five percent of Japanese respondents said the Japanese were pacifist. An average of 15 percent of the respondents in six other countries chose the same statement: 22 percent of Americans, 18 percent of British, and 7 percent of Swedes said the Japanese were peace-loving. Not surprisingly, Koreans had lowest opinion of the Japanese people with only 4 percent agreeing that the Japanese love peace.

Why do the Japanese rate their attitude for peace relatively high? In social psychology, self-monitoring refers to the control and modification of self-representation by monitoring how others perceive them. When asked a question, one may try to understand what is expected and give an answer that projects a better image. At the beginning of a new school year, students actively self-monitor. Those with high self-monitoring ability tend to adapt to the new environment quickly and make new friends easily. But changing attitude depending on the situation could undermine credibility. While those who lack self-monitoring skills may be seen to be slow to read the atmosphere, they also are praised for consistency and sincerity in the long run.

Prof. Kenji Suzuki of Meiji University’s School of Global Japanese Studies says members of a society with a strong inclination toward collectivism show high self-monitoring ability. Japanese people are trained from childhood to be harmonious in a group and behave so they don’t stand out and are not bullied. In a column for the Weekly Toyo Keizai, Professor Suzuki wrote that the Japanese tend to believe they are peace-loving “because of Article 9 and are criticized for being ‘delusional’ about peace.” He added that it may be a “fearful self-righteousness.”

On Feb. 25, the conservative-inclined Yomiuri Shimbun published an opinion poll it had conducted for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. In it, 81 percent of respondents said, “Post-war Japan has pursued the path of a peaceful country.” But only 5 percent said that they “know well” Japan’s role in the Pacific War.

While the Abe government approved the right to collective self-defense last year and started to revise security-related laws to allow overseas dispatch of Self Defense Forces this year, Japanese citizens still believe that Japan is a peace-loving nation. It is highly likely that they have been blinded by Abe’s frequent promotion of pacifism and image of peace.

Japan’s plan to become a military power is thorough and systematic. Abe is ready to change the pacifist constitution itself under the justification of protecting citizens and contributing to world peace. Those Japanese citizens who believe they are peace-loving need strict self-monitoring.

*The author is the Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo. JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 10, Page 30

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