Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Belated Reply to Richard Lloyd Parry Concerning Democracy and the Imperial Succession

Something has been bugging me since this morning, so I'll take a little time to take care of the matter, then go back to the work I'm doing on a very tight deadline (partly because I do this sort of thing)…

I posted a comment here, on Richard Lloyd Parry's blog, but hadn't realized until this very morning that Mr. Parry had graciously acknowledged and congratulated me on my blog. I thank him for that, and I'll be sure to put Asian Exile on the list of Blogs by People I Haven't Met. However, he also criticized some of the points I made [, and made a wrongful assumption about me] (This is totally wrong; I mistook "savants" for "servants", but in keeping with a personal vow I made, I leave my error here, unedited)] . Since it is almost three months to the day since the post, I am obliged to offer this belated response here:

‘Biological snobbery’ is the assumption among certain parents that only those with children can fully understand the world, and that those without are in some way emotionally impaired. I catch a whiff of it in your opening comment.

Good point, Mr. Parry. My apologies. I should, instead, have realized that the total lack of the kind of "yes, but" jocosity or grace that I imagined would have accompanied any spirited discussion that involved the birth of a child should have been attributed to the fact that the child was "theirs", not "ours". I hasten to add that I see nothing wrong in this; I believe this ability to distinguish between various levels of "otherness" a survival mechanism that enables us to maintain our sanity. (I also recognize that this is the source of much human suffering as well. But I digress.)

I don’t know many people who would agree with your thoroughly sinister suggestion that “dedication” (whatever that means) compensates for lack of numbers, and that in “our version of democracy”, minority interest groups should be able to get what they want by shouting loudly and throwing their weight around.

I am totally mystified by this particular line of attack. For it is also Mr. Parry's "version of democracy", unless the United Kingdom has adopted the public referendum as a means to settle all political issues, or decided to emulate the Greek city states in a vote of all her free citizens. On any issue, there are bound to be the committed, the staunchly opposed, and a slew of people at all points in between. And of course the committed will "shout loudly" and "throw their weight around", all the way up to the all-night, brawling Diet sessions we used to have in the past. (I miss that dedication and theatrics; at an historical distance.) And I would not want it otherwise. A world in which the minority's wishes are always discarded? That is a throughly sinister world that Mr. Parry would be loath to inhabit.

There is a plausible argument to be made for plebiscites on major issues, and constitutional amendment is a good case in point. It is remotely possible (in fact I hope) that the imperial succession will be part of the constitutional discussions. But the situation I described is democracy as it exists, here and elsewhere that the institution flourishes. To call it sinister is to call democracy sinister.

As for the question of whether the 80 per cent wanted what they said they wanted, or only mistakenly THOUGHT they wanted it, again I experience a chill. How are we ever to settle this question? By taking people at their word? Or must we trust the answer to an elite of “dedicated” savants like yourself?

This is wrong is several ways; let me explain:

Anyone who will bother to reread the original thread will know that I said no such thing as that they were muddle-headed in any way (though some surely were, as happens on any issue). I do recollect that the poll numbers shifted with the circumstances. People, believe it or not, change their minds on an issue, particularly when, let's admit it, they don't have much of their immediate personal well being at stake. Am I implying that the imperial household has less of a hold on the Japanese psyche than, say, one particular version of Islam on the Shiite Muslims in Iraq? Yes. But that also means that our problem is more amenable to solution. When and how? {Not being a butler, valet, or coach footman, as you erroneously assume, I can give you the name of one person who will not be doing the deciding, even if your insinuation turns out to be correct.}(This is of course, so wrong. My apologies.) It will be decided through a process that involves strategy and tactics on the part of the people who care about the issue, and chance. And it will most likely culminate in the enactment of an Imperial Household Law. In the meantime people will make up their minds, then change them, then change them back again. And I assure you that "an elite of dedicated [servants] (Oddly, this sentence still works with "savants")" will have little control over the outcome of this one. Pretty messy, isn't it? But we have a name for it. And it's not "chilling".

[Note: I have nothing against butlers, valets, or footmen. But Mr. Parry violated what I believed to be a basic rule of journalism: namely., talk to the source, in this case me, on my situation, or my values. My apologies, Mr. Parry, but I couldn't resist it. I'm tempted to call this exchange "occupational snobbery, tit-and-tat", but I won't.] (Believe me, I sure won't. But I do believe it would be wrong for a mainstream journalist to deny that he belongs to the cadre of "dedicated savants" who undeniably influence the conventional wisdom of the day.)

"You phrase it wittily but still your version of the old, right wing retort, “If you think that way, why don’t you bog off to Russia/China/North Korea”, is as crude and nonsensical” as it ever was. If we’re talking about cliché, that one is hard to beat."

You got me there, Mr. Parry. Though you have to admit in this case that proletarian dictatorship is mighty close to a claim (if not reality) of absolute rule by the majority. But I do appreciate the fact that you acknowledged my wit. And now, back to work. I don't get paid for my writing, you know. Not yet.

And, Mr. Parry, you have a pretty interesting blog there yourself, you do. Congratulations.


Anonymous said...
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Jun Okumura said...

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