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School and nationalistic feeling in Japan.

A battle is brewing in Japan between education authorities and liberal minded teachers over the place of national symbols in the Japanese school system, reports Aussie expat Cameron Weston, for Australian news website Crikey.com.au:

Most countries have no law in place that compels its citizens to stand, put their hands on their hearts or do anything else when the national symbols are displayed. Most people do it because they want to, and this is the way it should be. Patriotism is something felt, not imposed. Forcing such action impinges on the basic tenets of democracy and freedom, and democracies have laws that enshrine this principle.

But what if the symbols of your nation had a deeper historical meaning, if they spoke to a past that some were ashamed of, of policies and deeds which some considered criminal?

And what if you felt strongly enough about this that you refused to stand and sing the anthem or to gaze upon the flag of your nation? In a democracy, you would be allowed to do so.

You might still reasonably be called a patriot by some, a person of conscience by others, ignorant and a traitor by others still but it would all be a matter of opinion, and hopefully then of discussion and debate. In 1999, amid some controversy, the Japanese LDP government passed legislation making the rising sun flag (‘Hinomaru’) and the national anthem (‘Kimigayo’) official, legal symbols of this nation. In a country where voluntary adherence to tradition and fixed social rites underpin the very fabric of society and daily life, it is ironic that the government felt that these forces were insufficient to ensure the flag and anthem remained venerated national symbols – they deemed that a law needed to be passed….

However, in the last few months, as the new school year begins, the debate has been taken to a new level. Teachers across Tokyo have been issued with a directive from the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education, compelling them to stand and sing the national anthem and for them to in turn compel their students to do the same. No debate, no discussion; this is a direct order.

If the teacher refuses to do so, he will be open to public censure and criticism from his superiors, further warnings and potential expulsion. So far this year, over 200 teachers have refused to stand and many have received written warnings as a result. Miwako Sato, a music teacher who received one such warning when the law was first enacted in 1999 sums up the problem for many teachers perfectly, “Many people in other Asian countries do not want to look at the flag, the symbol of Japanese occupation of their lands, even 60 years after World War II, and I believe its coercive display at school ceremonies is against our Constitution,” she said.

Ah, the Japanese constitution. What I tend to get out of Mr. Weston’s article is a feeling that although Japan has lived under that constitution for over 50 years, it has never really embraced the spirit of the document (which is a bizzare mixture of the liberal and the statist).

But the fact that the more reactionary elements in authority in Japan feel the need to legislate nationalism, and to make it compulsary, gives me heart; I doubt they would have felt the need to do it if people were embracing the nationalistic message willingly.

And the resistance of teachers and the media is a good sign too. Anyway, read the whole thing.

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12 comments to School and nationalistic feeling in Japan.

  • Matt W

    As much as you may agree that those teachers have a right not to be compulsed into an action, you have to recognize that the entire reason for their particular stubborness is the same self-loathing that afflicts the Western left. Look at her reasoning, other people might not like the Japanese flag because its a symbol of “occupation” and i’m sure other wonderful anti-hegemonic transnational garbage is also spewed with the same rhetoric. So I wouldn’t be so congradulatory of their stance, it strongly seems to me that this article is an example of a broken clock being right twice a day.

  • “Most countries have no law in place that compels its citizens to stand, put their hands on their hearts or do anything else when the national symbols are displayed. Most people do it because they want to, and this is the way it should be. Patriotism is something felt, not imposed. Forcing such action impinges on the basic tenets of democracy and freedom, and democracies have laws that enshrine this principle.”

    I wonder if Mr. Weston is aware that Japan is not the only country facing this controversy. This is happening in the West, too. U.S. schools think they are justified in requiring us to pledge our allegiance — to the flag, even. I would much rather pledge my allegiance to the well-being of my country than to a piece of cloth.

    I wish the U.S. constitution would be as straightforward and concise as the Japanese. There would be less red tape involved in civil rights issues.

  • John Thacker

    This is, so far as I understand, taking place only in Tokyo. That’s what they get when they elect Ishihara, of course.

    The US situation is similar– it’s only a state or local decision. We never had such a thing in North Carolina where I’m from, certainly.

  • Shawn

    ” I would much rather pledge my allegiance to the well-being of my country than to a piece of cloth.”

    The “piece of cloth” is a symbol of the country. Your not pleging allegiance to the flag as such, but to what it represents.

  • The problem is that in the U.S., Congress added the phrase “under God” to the pledge. This advocates a single viewpoint, and is very narrow-minded. (So is taking an oath over the Bible in court — that does not deter someone who does not believe in God.) Therefore, it is not really anyone’s pledge as it stands now, and, the way it is being treated (being required to recite the pledge or face punishment) separates the flag from what it represents. To have millions of schoolchildren all reciting the same pledge to a single religious viewpoint isn’t exactly the freedom that the flag originally stood for.

  • Hawk

    Check out the socialist origins of the US Pledge of Allegiance. Learn how American children brought the NAZI salute while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

    Fiction? Go here

    http://www.rexcurry.net/

  • Shawn

    “The problem is that in the U.S., Congress added the phrase “under God” to the pledge. This advocates a single viewpoint, and is very narrow-minded.”

    Why is it narrow minded? In what way can acknowledging the dcominant faith of the majority of Americans and America’s religious heritage be considered “narrow minded”?

    And if any reference to God is wrong, then so is the Decleration of Independence and most of the founding documents, not to mention the writings of the founding fathers.

    ” To have millions of schoolchildren all reciting the same pledge to a single religious viewpoint isn’t exactly the freedom that the flag originally stood for.”

    It is if that freedom is understood in the way early Americans understood it, and the way the majority of Americans have always understood it, as opposed to the apolgists for multiculturalism and mass immigration.

    ” Learn how American children brought the NAZI salute while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance”

    Actually its the ROMAN salute, as in the Roman Empire. A little education goes a long way.

    “Fiction?”

    Yup.

  • Shawn

    The U.S. pledge remains a voluntary act. Regardless of its origins or content, the vast majority of Americans have freely chosen to adopt it and use it. It has not been, and is not, imposed by the State. American citizens are not forced to recite it. It is, like most American patriotism, an example of the natural heartfelt patriotism of the people.

    Attacks upon the pledge or devotion to the flag therefore are not attacks upon the state, but upon the traditions of the people.

  • Whether the original salute is Nazi or Roman, it did happen, apparently. And it did not change in the wake of the Nazi regime. (It went up to 1942.)

    References to God are fine, as long as it is purely heritage. The “under God” line was added after the pledge was written.

    Actually, American cititzens are being forced to recite the pledge, and I’m surprised that it goes on without a lawsuit in my community. In my high school experience, we were forced to pledge to the flag or face suspension.

  • I wasn’t attacking the American flag per se, but how it is being treated. I think it is also interesting, that, how we are supposedly free to pay our respect to the flag as we choose, flag-burning nearly became a Constitutional amendment, and there is a set of official rules on respecting the flag.

  • Tom Bridgeland

    I live in Japan, have for 14 years. The constitution is taken seriously. Very seriously, in spite of its dubious origins. Judges often use constitutional arguments to strike down laws they don’t like, or to protect citizens from intrusive government actions.

    This business of teachers not standing and saluting the flag or singing the anthem goes way back, I don’t know how far. It was an issue when I got here in 1990. Last year a school principle hung himself because of the national controversy over the decision by some of his teachers and students to sit and refuse to sing Kimigayo. My wife refuses to sing it, and grumbles when my daughters sing it at school festivals. This is happening all over the nation, not just in Tokyo.

    Much of the resistance comes from the communist political party, and the communist members of the teachers’ union.

  • Public comments about the pledge court case show that few people know that the pledge was written in 1892 by a self-proclaimed National Socialist in the U.S., to promote socialism in the most socialistic institution -government schools.

    Few people know that the original salute to the flag was like the Nazi salute and that “Nazi” means “National Socialist German Workers’ Party.” (Eye-popping photos are only at http://members.ij.net/rex/pledge1.html ) An easy mnemonic device to remember that Nazis were socialists and that “Nazi” means “National Socialist German Workers’ Party” is that the horrid swastika resembles overlapping “S” shapes for “socialism,” and that the Nazis often used stylized “S” symbolism. (See http://members.ij.net/rex/swastikanews.html )

    The pledge of allegiance was authored by the self-proclaimed socialist Francis Bellamy. Bellamy was the first cousin of the socialist Edward Bellamy. Edward Bellamy’s futuristic novel, “Looking Backward,” was published in 1888, and described life in the year 2000. It described a totalitarian society where all private transactions are outlawed, where the government places all men in an “industrial army” and where the monolithic government school system is operated specifically as part of the “industrial army” system. Of course, all of the preceding was portrayed as a dandy utopia just as it was portrayed by so many apologists for the industrial armies of socialist hell-holes worldwide.

    The book spawned a socialist movement in the U.S. known as “Nationalism,” with the Nationalist magazine, and “Nationalist Clubs” whose members wanted the federal government to nationalize most of the American economy. Francis Bellamy was a member of this movement and a vice president of its socialist auxiliary group.

    Francis Bellamy had often lectured on the so-called “virtues of socialism and the evils of capitalism.” In 1891, he was forced to resign from his church because of his socialist activities and sermons. He then joined the staff of the magazine “Youth’s Companion” and wrote the pledge of allegiance, first published therein.

    In the original articles about the Pledge of Allegiance, Francis Bellamy promotes government schools and snipes at the many better alternatives, and urges that education should come only from government. It is consistent with the government school monopoly in the book “Looking Backward” and the “industrial army” promoted by the Bellamys.

    Bellamy lived during the time when schools were becoming socialized heavily in the United States. When the U.S. Constitution was written, children received private educations (schools are not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution).

    Edward Bellamy’s book was translated into 20 foreign languages. It was popular among the elite in pre-revolutionary Russia, and was even read by Lenin’s wife. John Dewey and the historian Charles Beard intended to praise the book when they stated that it was matched in influence only by Das Kapital.

    Francis Bellamy lived from 1855 to1931. Edward Bellamy lived from 1850-1898. Edward Bellamy was spared witnessing the horrors that his socialism caused to the rest of humanity. Francis Bellamy lived in the U.S. during the first 14 years of mass atrocities under the industrial army of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Francis Bellamy might not have known about the horrors of his socialist ideas in the U.S.S.R. at that time. Francis Bellamy lived long enough to see a similar salute and philosophy espoused by the industrial army of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. If Edward Bellamy’s fictional character had awakened in the year 2000 he would have learned that since 1887 Bellamy’s philosophy had set and was holding all the worst records for shortages, poverty, misery, starvation, atrocities and mass slaughter.

    The socialist Wholecaust occurred under the industrial armies of the socialist trio of atrocities (see http://members.ij.net/rex/socialists.jpg): the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, 62 million deaths, 1917-’87; the People’s Republic of China, 35 million, 1949-’87; and the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, 21 million, 1933-’45 (numbers from Professor R. J. Rummel’s article in the Encyclopedia of Genocide (1999)).

    After the National Socialist German Workers’ Party tried to impose socialism on the world, many U.S. citizens were disturbed by the Pledge’s similar salute and that it was written by a socialist in “Nationalist” groups in the U.S. Although the salute changed, the pledge remained the same.

    There is something more disturbing than all of the above: Most children are never told any of the preceding history in government schools, even though
    there is often a totalitarian-style robotic recital of the pledge as a collective by children in government schools en masse on cue from the government every single day.

    It is a wonder why anyone recites the Pledge of Allegiance. It is probably because of rampant ignorance about the Pledge’s origin and history.

    No one would trust the government to tell you the truth if it ran the newspapers. Why would anyone expect the government to tell children the truth in government schools? As Libertarians say: The separation of school and state is as important as the separation of church and state. And that is the real solution to the pledge debate and all other school issues: remove government from education.

    to learn more visit http://members.ij.net/rex/pledge1.html