From Kamakazi to international respect.
From utter defeat to a peaceful and great economic power.
How did it happen? What was the mix?
There were many aspects apparently -- each adding its part to the over-all equation for recovery and march to world greatness.
Japan, the bomber of Pearl Harbor, was left out of the Marshall Plan that brought Europe back from total defeat so effectively. So the initial Japanese recovery was slow indeed. That changed dramatically with the Korean War in 1950. Japan OVERNIGHT became the staging ground, spring-board and, more importantly, a supplier of material. For example, Toyota, an obscure maker of vehicles on the verge of going out of business, suddenly had more orders for trucks than the company could fill, but fill them Toyota did. Other companies benefitted similarly.
That economic shot in the arm was soon accompanied by another. Being able to learn from its past mistakes, Japanese industry picked up on the advanced business methods pioneered by Douglas McGregor, Peter Drucker and W Edwards Deming. The latter in particular was influential in turning the issue of product quality around in Japan. Serious attention to the new foreign business methods turned laughing-stock quality into a world leader. Toyota and other Japanese today set the pace in quality products world-wide. An irony here is that American industry had the information first, but ignored it for up to a half century.
As a nation, Japan took advantage of their new-found industrial muscle to add value to imports. Japanese companies soon became profitable exporters. Japan today is a much-emulated and leading trading nation.
- The Japanese educational system fosters teamwork. Every student is a member of a home room in which all teaching is done; teachers take their specialties to various home rooms each day. Home rooms compete with other home rooms intellectually as well as in sports. Each sport continues the year around. Home room teachers work closely with parents and handle many problems beyond what American parents would expect or even appreciate. This feature develops a sense of extended family beyond one's own family. Personal honor finds positive reinforcement. In the rare cases where the teacher and parents cannot handle the situation, the police are called in. The police are there to help, not police. If that does not work the "incorrigible" becomes a matter for the institutions to handle as appropriate. Team work is strong in the Japanese society.
- Respect for teachers. The bar is high for teaching aspirants. The status of teachers in Japanese society is much like that of doctors in the US. Every Japanese student has intimate access to many such teachers during their formative years. Teachers cooperate and collaborate closely with parents, school administrators and other authorities as necessary.
- The educational system begins at age two and is uniform over all of Japan. Preschool has two tracks: welfare from age two to age five, and national, from age three to age six; a child, at parental request can participate in either, but not both at once. In this way, society benefits from having a large fraction of young mothers available for productive work or other contributions to society. The welfare system is equivalent to day care in the US. The national system begins the educational process. Many parents enroll children in the welfare sytem until they are eligible for the national system at which point they switch.
- Compulsory moral teaching is provided one hour per week through all 12 grades. Morality training is secular, not religion based. It is both practical and effective. Training in morality amounts to an external locus of control. It provides a safety factor against early radicalization. But that is only half the story.
- Teaching independent thinking, creativity and resourcefulness begins in high school. At this point, the Japanese student receives his or her first dose of internal locus of control. Although constrained regarding morality, the Japanese student is exposed to the creative side of life and encouraged to think for him- or herself. Ideally, external and internal controls operate in harmony throughout adulthood. By their 12th year, Japanese students typically have a strong sense of self, a sense of who they are and know what is right and what is wrong. Violence is the rare exception and mostly arises from psychological disturbance when it does occur.
- School uniforms produce feelings of equality and camaraderie.
- One important result of their education and experience in teamwork, is that the Japanese put the good of the nation, or of the group, ahead of one's self interest. This value lesson is in place well before young people are exposed to creative opportunities that begin to stretch their imaginations and approach their individual potentials.
Students progress through school essentially in lock step. High school is optional. To get into college requires passing an especially stiff entrance examination. Once in college, however, one is virtually guaranteed to graduate.
From our on-the-ground research, we have observed some positive features in the Authoritarian Personality. For example, one of the elements of peaceful existence in Japan is that of conformity. One might expect that from a homogeneous society. Before we get into that, some social features that seem to be important, follow:
- Personal honor. This is often expressed by suicide after criminal behavior. While we decry suicide, it is the result of a person violating his honor code, the code that makes him part of society. It is analogous to, but far different from, the Christians who condem sinners to Hell.
- Personal responsibility. This is related closely to personal honor. And failure to meet society's expectations can lead to suicide, also. Humiliating shame seems to be the driver in each case.
- Japanese do not hurt others, especially Japanese. This is only common sense, the herding instinct if you will.
- Society pressure to conform. The nominal root in fact is the Bushido, or Samarai, Code. Nevertheless, the herding instinct look like the ultimate root.
- A police system that works much like the home room teachers. Police never use force except in exceptional circumstances. That they so rarely have to speaks to the very peacefulness of Japanese society.
- Suicide is not taboo. Suicide is a socially acceptable means to atone for a high crime that has been committed. Living in dishonor is a fate worse than death for many Japanese.
- Democracy - Going through the motions at least. Democracy, Japanese style, is still highly hierarchical and centralized. It is slow to react to new social needs. By the same token it protects against impulsive mistakes so common to the American style of democracy.
It seems, at first glance, that this system with its emphasis on authority augments the authoritarian personality type that causes so much horror in the world. But, that does not seem to be the case. What the Japanese do is tame the tendency toward extremism that would develop in a rare few if there were no social restraints, and they do it early. In other words, potential radicals are redirected into more wholesome endeavors for the sake of society. Morality training is only part of it. Rather, it is the ambience of the educational system with its respect and homeroom system that instills a sense of personal honor in the typical high school graduate.
The Japanese public was stunned when a small sect (the Aum Shinrikyo sect) of religious fanatics launched a deadly Sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system with panic and six dead and 6,000 injured. Such an event could not happen in the average Japanese mind. It took some time for the truth to sink in, so foreign was it to the Japanese psyche. That event was not a failure of Japanese culture, rather it was and remains an indictment of religious fanaticism. Unlike al Qa'ida, the sect was put out of business in due course.
If all this seems too picture perfect, it is. The true history of WWII has yet to receive the catharsis that Germany experienced. Some people think the Rape of Nanking and similar events were such crimes against humanity that they need to be dealt with publicly. Psychological catharsis depends on facing up to the facts, grim as they may be. However, the potential for feeling shame may be just too great to ever allow that to happen. And it may now be too late for even an apology to have much effect; the nation is three generations beyond the events; the participants are beginning to die out fast; the present generation is surely blameless. In another sense, however, what nation would not feel adequately punished after Hiroshima and Nagasaki? In the final analysis, the danger to Japan is cultural: denial and omission in the history books. Denial in people is never a positive; so also for a nation. It is in these areas that conformity could be dangerous. If North Korean nukes drive Japan to respond in kind, how will society conformity affect things like the development, deployment, and potential use of nuclear weaponry? Could Japanese society become like that of Nazi Germany in the early 20th Century? We wonder.
The miracle of Japan, particularly after the Korean War is self evident. For example Toyota found new life as a supplier of vehicles for the US Army in South Korea. It also was able to learn the new and modern ways to manufacture efficiently and to build on the quality systems of their US mentors. Toyota today is undoubtedly the overall auto industry leader.
There are other sides to the Japanese story. One has to do with entrepreneurship. An emerging capitalistic democracy would be expected to quickly move forward rapidly. It did in the post Korean-War years. New business start-ups were too often suppressed by the remnants of the pre-war Keiretsu. The system above, as laudable as it is for reasons of peace, has left Japan is less innovative than it could otherwise be. China is poised to displace Japan as the economic leader in Asia with a similar postion to the world likely to follow.
It is all well and good to teach creativity in high school. But on the ground level, unless feelings of independence in individual students are instilled more universally, the entrepreneurial spirit and the entrepreneurship of the nation suffers. On the political level. Appropriate laws could encourage new start-up ventures more than is now the case.
RELIGION AND MORALITY
There is little or no direct connection here. Japanese public morality arises from the individual and permeates family, society and nation. There is no state religion; all religions are acceptable private expressions. Many families pay homage to more than one. Confucianism is one of several options. Reverence for the elderly is a Confucian expression. Respect for leaders, love of young people, and tolerance toward others are other examples. By and large, the Japanese society has sidestepped the perils that attend monotheism. Remarkably, that has happened even though the Japanese culture reinforces the Authoritarian Personality. But then authoritarianim only becomes a problem when it is Extreme.
RELIGION AND GOVERNANCE
Beyond allowing free expression of religious beliefs, there is no connection in Japan. Religion is not used as a prop for gaining political power or as a lever for maintaining power once attained.
In stark contrast with most American TV fare, Japanese TV tends to cut violence while allowing nudity, even sexual expression. Video games tend not to be violent. They are usually story driven instead. To quote our source: "Most parents would not buy something like Grand Theft Auto for their children..."
The moral here seems simple:
Sexual expressions do not breed violence; |
violent expressions can.
This brings up a perspective: Internal Locus of Control. We believe developing a strong internal locus of control may well be the most effective means by which societies can evolve toward permanent peace. The Japanese society shows that a second element is also needed. Japan's peaceful behavior seems to be due as much to External Loci of Contol as to Internal Locus of Control. That can only work when the external influence is peaceful as it is in Japan. And that is the very point. A society must truly value peacefulness as a virtue. Japan teaches such morality through high school. An internal locus still seems necessary to turn around violent societies to make them peaceful for reasons discussed above.
By its early and continuous training in morality, Japan has shown how to balance the external and internal loci of control. The dichotomy between fierceness and herding instincts becomes negligible in Japanese society. Japan has many strategic examples to offer to the rest of the world. Two of these concrete strategies include:
- Capture the minds of young people early, as soon as recognition and thinking are evident. This seems necessary to prevent violence from becoming too ingrained too early. Let children know and feel, through the home-room and police systems, that parents, schools, and society care about them while they are growing up.
- In high school, provide plenty of opportunity for freedom of thought. Reward expressions of creativity while maintaining continued training in ethics and morality with increasing levels of sophistication.
Japan has other features that lend to peacefulness -- its homogeneous society, its high level of development, and its very minimal humiliation or alienation of its citizens. Japan behaves similarly toward its neighbors and is therefore not faced with international terrorism. This is not to say that Japan is not aggressive in business, it surely is; nor does it imply saintliness.
Subsequent research on this reveals that much of Asia employs educational methods similar to that of Japan. Taiwan is a peaceful nation and so is China and each has educational systems symilar to that of Japan. Neither has embarked on an arms race. Neither is reaching for empire. Their citizens enjoy high levels of personal safety and security. Freedom and democracy are working well in Taiwan and are gaining ground in China now that Communism is effectively dead.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
In terms of the forces that shape human behavior, it appears that the herding instinct can, under certain conditions gain an equal hand with fierceness. If so, this observation is most important. It can even be used as a template. Some possibilities are delved into elsewhere on this site. But societies concerned with peace would do well to study and emulate any success story around. Japan seems to be one of them and perhaps Taiwan and China as well. Of course there may be other, even better, ways. Only well designed research, free of the political interference so common today in America, will find and chart the ultimate avenues.
Be that as it may, Japan is one of the most peaceful of nations. Our correspondent has lived in Japan some five years now and reports that he feels totally safe everywhere and at anytime in Japan. He could not say that about his hometown, one of the more peaceful metro areas in the US.
What the Japanese and much of Asia have really achieved is a fine and remarkable balance in society between our fierceness and herding instincts; see: Outline of Violence. The same balance has been achieved between the external and interanl loci of control. Together, they effectively check the tendency for the authoritarian personality to spin out of control into extremism.
All the tools we can muster will be needed to achieve the monumental task of peace on earth. Asian societies have shown light on one path: balance the external and internal loci of control. Early realization of external loci of control arises from weekly schooling in morality. At the same time, the home-room ambience provides a sense of values for the individual to contribute to the greater good of the group. In these ways, Asians avoid or at least limit societal potential for extremist radicalization. Internal loci of control become a focus in high school which help individuals select the most logical pathways for human development.
| The Japanese accomplish their peacefulness by making allies of parents, teachers, law enforcement agencies, and the national government. The downside is a somewhat robotic society that may not make the very best of each individual. That ideal may not be attainable in our times, but it remains a noble aspiration that advanced countries have taken significant steps toward. |
These elements in Japanese and Asian societies seem so logical and universal, they should work in any society not encumbered with fractious dogmas.
For further reading see:
Tokyo: Oriental Example of A Safe City -- Some reasons why.
Cities Can Be Peaceful -- Tokyo Example.
Even a Child Can Do It -- Japanese version.
Even a Child Can Do It -- English version.
Posted by RoadToPeace on Tuesday, May 16, 2006.