個人と国家と憲法と 歴史の後戻りはさせない

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 3
EDITORIAL: Values embodied in Constitution made Japan what it is today
(社説)個人と国家と憲法と 歴史の後戻りはさせない

A booklet published on May 3, 1947, provided a commentary on the “freedom” guaranteed by the Constitution.
One passage read: “What is freedom? In a nutshell, it means to live according to one’s conscience.”
Another passage went on to say: “We are allowed to have any thought. We have the freedom to hold any kind of meeting and create any kind of organization.”
The booklet, titled “Atarashii Kenpo Akarui Seikatsu” (new constitution, sunny life), was published on the day Japan’s postwar Constitution came into effect by “Kenpo Fukyukai” (society for the popularization of the Constitution), a parliamentary body headed by Hitoshi Ashida, a lawmaker who became prime minister in 1948. Some 20 million of the booklets were distributed to households across the nation.
 これは、いまの憲法が施行された69年前のきょう、憲法普及会(芦田均会長)が全国の家庭向けに2千万部発行した小冊子「新しい憲法 明るい生活」が説明する「自由」だ。

“For a long time, even our basic freedoms have been restricted. We had been desperately wishing for greater freedom. Now, our wish has been realized,” said the booklet, which was awash with phrases and expressions that reflected the joy of being freed from the oppression of the wartime militarist government.

The preamble to the Constitution declares that the authority of government is derived from the people and its powers are exercised by the representatives of the people, while its benefits are enjoyed by the people. These principles of popular sovereignty and representative democracy are “universal principles” that have been established through popular uprisings in modern times, such as the French Revolution.

Japan's postwar social system has been defined by the Constitution that took effect nearly seven decades ago.

Unfortunately, the government has shown signs of wanting to put certain limits on the freedom of individuals and impose specific values on the citizens of this country.


That trend emerged 10 years ago.

The Fundamental Law of Education, which also took effect in 1947 and was touted as the “constitution of education,” was revised for the first time from start to finish.

When he came to power in 2006 with a pledge to “unshackle Japan from the postwar regime,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made revision of the education law a policy priority for his first tenure.

The revised Fundamental Law of Education stipulates, along with respect for individuals and other countries, a set of moral standards as “goals of education.” These standards are aimed at helping students develop a commitment to “love their nation and native land” and “contribute to the development of society with public-mindedness.”

The provisions of the law with regard to the relationship between the government’s education policy and schools and teachers were also rewritten to place greater emphasis on “public” than on “individuals.” Critics said the principal objective of the law changed from defining the role of the government in education to instructing the people about education.

Back then, Abe told the Diet that revising the law would not lead to tighter state control on education.

But since he returned to power in 2012 after spending the intervening period as an opposition lawmaker, Abe has rolled out a series of education policy measures based on the “spirit of the revised Fundamental Law of Education,” which he has eagerly promoted.

The most symbolic initiative of his new education policy concerns the rules for school textbook screenings and authorization by the government.

The new rules allow the government to disqualify textbooks that have “serious flaws” from the viewpoint of the “goals of education” set out by the revised law.

They also give the government the authority to demand that descriptions in textbooks match the official position on issues raised.

This year, the rules have been applied to the screening of high school textbooks for the first time. As a result, descriptions about topics such as postwar reparations and the government’s decision to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, on which the nation has been divided, reflect the Abe administration’s claims and arguments concerning these issues.

The education minister has called on national universities to ensure that the national flag is hoisted and the national anthem is sung at ceremonies. This request, which raise questions about academic freedom and university autonomy, was prompted by Abe’s remarks at the Diet that these matters should be dealt with appropriately in line with the principles of the Fundamental Law of Education.


The ruling Liberal Democratic Party announced a new draft Constitution in 2012 that echoes the goals of the revised Fundamental Law of Education.

The draft is designed to allow the government to play an excessively assertive role. In contrast, the freedoms and rights of individuals are de-emphasized.

The draft’s preamble says the purpose of establishing a new Constitution is to “hand down good traditions and our nation to all posterity.”

This stands in sharp contrast to the preamble to the current Constitution, which refers to the people’s determination to secure liberty and renounce war.

The LDP’s draft Constitution also says “the Japanese people shall defend their nation and native land with pride and resolve and, while respecting basic human rights, shall also respect harmony and help form a nation through mutual help between family members and all members of society.”

At the same time, Article 12 of the document says the people’s freedoms and rights shall be exercised “always in ways that don’t go against the interests of the public or undermine public order.”

The ruling party wants to ensure that the Constitution not only reflects the principles of constitutionalism but also Japan’s “national character,” Yosuke Isozaki, a former special adviser to Abe, once said.

But specific values and ideals should not be imposed on citizens by the Constitution, no matter how many people think they have the moral high ground.

Teruyuki Hirota, a professor of educational sociology at Nihon University who is well versed in education issues in Japan, warns that such political intervention is inherently dangerous.

“A political desire to guide children toward a certain way of life through education could be directed at the entire nation through a constitutional amendment,” he says.


The question is whether individuals exist for the nation or the nation exists for individuals.
In his book “Atarashii Kuni-e” (toward a new nation), Abe addresses this issue.

“It is the nation that guarantees the freedom of individuals. If this function (of the nation) is stopped by another nation’s rule, it is obvious that the people’s fundamental rights will be restricted.”

It is the role of the state to protect its people from attacks by another state. But that doesn’t give the government the right to impose its ideals and vision for the nation and the way of life on the people with whom sovereign power resides as elements of Japan’s “national character.”

Allowing the government to do so would be tantamount to reversing the wheel of history in postwar Japan where the “universal principles” have been so firmly entrenched in its society.

by kiyoshimat | 2016-05-04 09:00 | 英字新聞

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