Yutari is the best school of the three I teach at in Hokkaido – Japan’s mountainous northernmost province. These farm kids are more down to earth, more friendly and less concerned about our cultural differences. The faculty is largely socialist and no-doubt contributes to the open-mindedness of the students.
Namae-sensei, who teaches social studies, is currently reading a book about the Kennedy assassination which points the finger at the CIA, New Orleans mobsters and the defense contractor Lockheed. He never wears a tie and rarely smiles. He is thrilled to hear that I am a leftist and is eager to discuss various conspiracies.
He tells me that Japan is controlled by the zaibatsu- private family-owned corporate empires which presided over the industrialization of Japan for centuries prior to WWII and which were left intact along with their Emperor figurehead with American blessings after the US occupation.
The US was increasingly paranoid about a global Communist takeover and although the extremely popular Communist Party in Japan initially welcomed the US forces, the Americans instead helped the Emperor and his gangs obliterate the Japanese left, while leaving the fascists in power. The same six zaibatsu syndicates- Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Sumitomo, Sanwa, Fuyo and Daichikangin- still control the Japanese economy. Namae-sensei shows me how these six financial groups, each headed by a bank, control every Japanese corporation of any import.
The teachers at Yutari are headed for a vacation on Guam tomorrow, so today is cleaning day in town. The school janitor, a short quiet man who often steers his soft curious gaze in my direction, is chief town cleanliness inspector. Everyone in Yutari must clean their house and yard to meet his rigid standards or risk getting a grade of “C”- the lowest possible. Should this happen, one would surely feel the collective wrath of the townspeople.
The talk at school today is of two bachelors who work at the Post Office. They got a “C” last year and are still hearing about it. Their only hope is that someone else will earn their dubious achievement during this year’s inspection. It is a strange mixture of fascist mind-control and Nihon-gin comedy hour.
I knew Yutari would be my favorite school the minute I first walked into the office. No one stirred or faked a smile. The kojo-sensei seemed almost annoyed at my presence. Namae-sensei later explained that the old man had lived through the war and, like many of his generation, resented the colonial invasion of the English language into Japan’s classrooms. I sense much the same attitude among the staff and feel much more at home in this outpost of progressive rebellion.
Today I return to Honbetsu, land of impervious grins and condescension. After getting the third degree about not attending the grand school festival and for blowing off Mori-sensei’s 20,000/yen each pay-per-view wedding, I earn a handshake from the principal for finally wearing a tie today.
The gallery mumbles xenophobically in a side-winding sort of way. They are all going to Rumoi for some meeting soon. The room buzzes with minute details of this sure to be earth shattering event. It’s one big happy family. This school is a constant mind fuck for nail’s that stick up. But my spirit of dissension cannot be broken with a few chuckles from a passive aggressive flock of sheep.
The immaturity and insecurity of most Japanese people is truly remarkable. Many “Japanologists” explain away the phony politeness and non-confrontational approach of the Japanese by stating that Japan is a crowded island nation with no room for the kind of frank nose-to-nose discussion which would surely turn the country into a cauldron of violence. Japanese, the story goes, hide their true feelings for the good of the nation. This argument doesn’t hold water for those who have ever visited India or China- two much more crowded places where straight talk is rampant.
I propose that this unhealthy repression of feelings leads to the very insecurities and immaturity I witness, and to the collective passive aggressive meanness towards the weak and the misfits here. The roots of this escapism lie in the Emperor system and its bedfellow state monopoly capitalism.
By indoctrinating people as to the omnipotence of the Emperor and of the need to make sacrifices in his name, the Japanese become in many ways the most exploited people on the planet- working long hours, never questioning their supervisors, singing company songs and drinking only with company cohorts after hours. Any resistance to this fascism is instantly branded anti-Japanese behavior. The perpetrator is considered mentally disturbed. Rather than challenge this state terror regime, most Japanese have learned to suppress their feelings, much as I have had to do.
Occasional acts of more overt violence by right-wing Japanese nationalists- which usually go uninvestigated by the cops and are done in tandem with the Yakuzza- such as the attempted assassination of Nagasaki’s mayor in 1986 when he dared to criticize the Emperor for his role in Japan’s WWII atrocities throughout Asia, serve to reinforce loyalty to the power structure and silence with regard to one’s personal feelings.
Ironically, beneath this imperialist capitalist umbrella, teamwork is then encouraged among workers. This willingness to work as a team, when combined with a collective submission to authority, makes Japan a prime feeding ground for the zaibatsu- now officially known as keiretsu. No wonder Japan is the world’s premier financial power. Its citizens are slaves to corporations. They have a much lower standard of living than Americans and very little life outside their work. Homophobia is rampant and those who refuse to play ball are immediately subject to self-policing insecurities of the conditioned masses who- with the help of Shintoism- serve up hearts and minds to the zaibatsu.
Suicide- an epidemic in this country- is one way out of this police state nightmare.
It is logical that Japan- the world’s wealthiest nation- is also home to the most subtle and insidious forms of worker indoctrination in the history of mankind. A study of Japanese history reveals a convergence of Shintoism and feudal exploitation. Both preached submissiveness to the daimyo- feudal land barons who enslaved the rest of the Japanese people as unpaid workers on their vast estates. The largest of the daimyos eventually launched wars of aggression against the smaller ones, consolidating their power and becoming known as shogunates.
The families that ruled as shoguns included the Iwasaki family that controls Mitsubishi and the Dan, Mitsui and Sumitomo families. They later incorporated as zaibatsu, both promoting and profiting from WWI and WWII, sometimes in partnership with US corporations.
General Macarthur had triumphantly announced the breakup of these shogunates to the cheers of millions of increasingly radicalized Japanese workers. But Macarthur’s bosses decided that these robber barons were preferable to a socialist Japan, which a successful general strike launched by Japanese workers in 1948 threatened to bring about. Macarthur personally intervened to send the workers back to zaibatsu factories, which were revved up just in time to profit from the coming wars in Korea and Vietnam- wars which solidified Japan’s industrial base.
After a generation of radicalism had failed, the Japanese people settled back into the same mental incarceration which has sadly filled most of their history. Market forces demand uniformity, sameness and rigidity to maximize both production and consumption. Workers learn to castigate those who do not fit this mold on behalf of the factory owners.
Many Americans and Europeans who come to Japan to work do not allow themselves to take a critical look at the dark side of Japanese culture. To do so would endanger their healthy paychecks and would run against the deeply engrained notion of Japan as “meek victim” promoted by the powerful Japan Lobby- which spends more money in the halls of the US Congress every year than any other entity.
Many Westerners cope with the Japanese uniqueness phenomenon- institutionalized as a field of study known as Nihon-ginron at Kobe University- by bringing their own racism to Japan. They are condescending towards the Japanese and don’t bother to learn about Japanese history or culture on any level deeper than the occasional tea ceremony or flower arranging.
My rantings about Japan could just as easily describe American and European imperial cultures. We share in common a history of colonialism and racism. My criticisms of Japan occur because this is my here and now. My rage is at the unjust system and not at a race of people who have been exploited by the system. I am equally appalled by the racism of Americans who work here, but am again cognizant that they too are products of a culture of empire.
Leftist scholars often argue that current global political decentralization via the breakup of larger nation states and the formulation of smaller ones ultimately disempowers local governments in their dealings with multinational corporations- who represent free-roaming capital. The more tiny little state jurisdictions there are, the argument goes, the more competition there will be among these states for the capital investment necessary for development. The capitalists seem to agree as they now lick their lips over the breakup of the Soviet Union and the splintering of states in Eastern Europe.
But what if these smaller states were filled with enlightened citizens, who were to decide that outside capital may not be necessary for their well-being, may even be detrimental to their development? What if these states focused on self-sufficiency instead of export-led development, industrial growth and consumerism?
Would the Russian anarchists, who advocated speeding the process of decentralization and shunned state control, have been more successful at creating a utopian society than the victorious Bolsheviks- who with funding from international capitalists advocated tight state controls and centralization?
Anarchy takes a less cynical view of human nature than even socialism, which in the end believes individual freedoms must be governed. This assumes that our own best interest is at odds with the best interests of society. While socialism may indeed be a necessary step on the road to anarchy, due to the centuries of greed bred into people by feudalism and monopoly capitalism, we must eventually trust human nature enough to rid ourselves of all state control, all laws and all power structures.
Smaller decentralized states could more easily de-link from global capitalism by trading with one another when necessary. Technology for processing and industrialization would be unnecessary in an agrarian-based, self-sufficient society where each family has land to provide for their basic needs.
We must gather the collective will to reject the kind of progress which pollutes the earth, exploits the labor of the many for the good of the few, and fills our minds and bodies with impurities. We must redefine progress and “get back to the garden”, removing the capitalist cancer from the planet.
Dean Henderson is the author of five books: Big Oil & Their Bankers in the Persian Gulf: Four Horsemen, Eight Families & Their Global Intelligence, Narcotics & Terror Network, The Grateful Unrich: Revolution in 50 Countries,Das Kartell der Federal Reserve, Stickin’ it to the Matrix & The Federal Reserve Cartel. You can subscribe free to his weekly Left Hook column @www.hendersonlefthook.wordpress.com