Friday, August 14, 2009

Thought Control

The Japanese National Anthem

"Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth."
Albert Einstein

Japan's long-running debate over the enforced singing of the Kimigayo national anthem at school ceremonies has taken yet another turn as a Japanese court recently rejected a lawsuit filed by a group of 135 public school teachers.

The educators rightly insist that being forced to sing the national anthem infringes upon their human rights and violates constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of thought and conscience.

Bizarrely the Yokohama District Court has ruled that requiring staff and students to stand and sing the national anthem counts as a ritual and does not enforce a specific kind of thought.

But if there's no intent or meaning behind the ritual, why implement it in the first place?

The Japanese authorities' thinking on this issue has been typically muddled.

Since 2006 the Kanagawa educational board has required school principals to report the names of teachers who refuse to sing Kimigayo despite the fact that a prefectural panel has deemed the board's action inappropriate.

Not only that, the Tokyo District Court ruled in September 2006 that teachers are not obliged to sing Kimigayo. However, only five months later Japan's Supreme Court ruled that when a Tokyo school principal ordered a music teacher to accompanying the singing of the anthem on piano, the act was constitutional.

And just one year ago Japan's education ministry published a revised education curriculum for elementary and junior high schools. It calls for promoting patriotism and requiring children between the first and sixth grades to sing the national anthem.

The new guidelines - to be implemented in elementary schools in 2011 and in junior high schools in 2012 - state: "Moral education shall be aimed at nurturing respect for (Japan's) tradition and culture . . . and at cultivating morality."

This hypocrisy from a governmental system rife with corruption and which regularly tramples over human rights. Examples include the use of forced confessions by police officers, misuse of the laws on capital crime and turning a blind eye to rape and female sex trafficking.

It's worth recalling the convulsive period of Japanese history which began in 1930 and culminated in the nation's calamitous defeat in World War II.

In an effort to impose thought control on the Japanese people, ultra-nationalists embarked upon a successful culture war in which the manipulation of musical taste played a major role. Dance halls were closed, western pop was actively discouraged and militaristic music blared across the nation's airwaves.

Since teachers played a crucial role in establishing Japan's war mobilization in the 1930s - martial drills were practiced in all Japanese schools - it's clear that the resistance of educators to reactionary nonsense will continue to be a major obstacle to the re-emergence of Japanese nationalism.

Japan has a much-admired pacifist constitution and is a largely peaceful society, but its citizens have an unhealthy respect for authority which tends toward blind obedience.

Though the nation seems to have taken on board the harsh lessons of recent history, who's to say that future economic hardship and political turmoil might not cause nationalism to rear its ugly head once more?

Therefore it's essential that peace and human rights continue to be actively promoted in the nation's classrooms and the arts used as a tool for enlightenment rather than reactionary manipulation. As long as this is done, the use of music and education to further the goals of nationalist maniacs will remain a nightmare rather than a reality.


Cushion Meg said...

I really welcome your posting about the matter! I’m glad you have the opinion about that. I’ve been alert to a series of those actions by Japanese authorities. What is “patriotism”? Distorted patriotism is dreadful and harmful. We don’t need “patriotism”, we should have humanitarianism.

Anonymous said...

It's not even a good tune !!

spaewaif said...

However,I have to say that I suspect that those very same people who passionately argue that Kimigayo shouldn't be sung at school ceremonies do sing it and/or are not as critical of it in sports events,whether they be national or international,like the Olympics.
Notice how many youngsters do sing Kimigayo when the Japanese national football team plays a game...

Shiffi Le Soy said...

Hi Spaewaif.

I'm not an expert on this topic, but of course all nations sing their national anthems at sporting events so the Japanese aren't alone in that respect.

What worries me is the extent to which Japanese people generally seem easily controlled in their views, and it starts in school.

Incidentally I do agree with Chomsky that professional sports are another form of anaesthetizing mind control, but that won't prevent me cheering form y team when they next play! So maybe I'm as much a vicitm of mind control as most!

spaewaif said...

You are absolutely right about school control but Japan is not alone.
At least,they don't have to sing the anthem when their classes start at school!
As far as I know,that is common practice in the USA.
I was shocked the other day to see Obama welcoming somebody in a room,possibly the White House?,and there were *SIX* American flags all around!!!!
Do Americans need to be constantly reminded of an identity at all places and times?
Back to Kimigayo,what I would like to know is the extent of that negative.
Do the schools with -for instance- baseball teams agree to sing it when they play,say,during the summer tournament,and then complain when it has to be sung at school ceremonies?
How do they see/feel the difference?

Shiffi Le Soy said...

Yeh, "God Bless America" and all that.

When I was at school in UK) I can't remember us ever having to sing the anthem. I fact I couldn't tell you most of the words to "God Save the Queen" (unless you mean the Sex Pistols version!!)

God save the queen
They made you a moron
potential h bomb
Dont be told what you want dont be told what you need

Now THAT'S an anthem!!

spaewaif said...


I am watching the election results on the telly and Amagasaki's Tanaka decided to use crackers instead of the almost compulsory series of banzais most politicians go through to finish their congratulatory speeches...
That is quite unusual but very right considering the meaning of banzai...

Shiffi Le Soy said...

I just looked it up cause i thpught it meant 'live for ten thousand years' which it does. But I see it also denotes a last ditch suicide attack. Is that what you meant?

spaewaif said...

Yes,but originally,as in China,it was always related to the emperor.
It has changed with time.
You could speak in similar terms,for example,about Spanish "Adiós",goodbye,literally, "To God"...
But it is interesting that Tanaka doesn't use it.
I don't think there are many politicians like him.

Rap Music said...

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ヒミツ said...

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