Plunge Pontificates

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Extremist Nationalism Continues its Ugly Rise in Japan

And the right-wing nationalists in Japan continue to slowly gain more and more control.

Tokyo's education authorities have ordered head teachers to make sure students stand to attention and sing the national anthem. The move follows a rash of protests by students and teachers since Japan made standing for the anthem compulsory in 1999 in an attempt to encourage patriotism.
Patriotism or nationalism? While I am personally proud of being an American and will recite the Pledge or sing the National Anthem when the opportunity presents itself, I certainly can not condone forcing others to do so. As long as disrespect is not shown, what is being done here is nationalistic brainwashing.

Hundreds of teachers across Japan have been disciplined in the past six years for refusing to obey the law by remaining seated, wearing peace ribbons or feigning sickness to avoid school ceremonies. Many teachers in this still strongly pacifist country bitterly resent being forced to stand to attention for symbols they associate with Japan's militarist past.

More than 300 public schoolteachers in the capital are suing the Tokyo educational board to reverse the directive, which they say is unconstitutional.
"If Germany did this they would call it what it is: Nazism," said one of the teachers, Eishun Nagai.
How long will they be able to hold out though? Or will the right-wing nationalist extremists use this as a way to weed out those teachers they consider...undesirable? Are we looking at the beginnings of an entire shift in the education system in Japan?

Ministry of Education guidelines specify that teachers who ignore orders to stand and sing will be punished. Officials in Tokyo, which has taken the hardest line on the issue under the nationalist governor, Shintaro Ishihara, have been dispatched to school ceremonies to ensure the flag is displayed prominently and the anthem sung with sufficient gusto.

In one case, a music teacher, Sato Miwako, sued the government after she was suspended for refusing to play the anthem on her piano. The teacher, a committed Christian, called the 1999 directive "unbelievable" and said when she heard she had to play the song "it was as if my life was being crushed". In 2004, a retired teacher, Katsuhisa Fujita, was arrested after he ignored staff protests to stop hectoring parents to stay seated for the anthem during a graduation ceremony.

Tokyo alone has handed out warnings, suspensions, pay cuts and sackings to more than 300 education staff for anthem-related offences since 2003.
300 teachers disciplined or fired? This is scary, scary stuff, but not as scary as the next part.

The number of protesters has plummeted in the wake of the tougher measures; just 50 people were disciplined last year and the figure is expected to fall further this year.

Parents are also increasingly inclined to stand. Two pacifists, Yoshihisa and Midori Yoshida, were the only parents to stay seated during their son Yu's primary school graduation ceremony last month.

"None of the teachers and pupils, except us, refused to stand up," said Yoshihisa Midori. "But we are very satisfied and proud of my son."
It seems the nationalistic extremists are winning. What did the one teacher say again? "If Germany did this they would call it what it is: Nazism,"

What is so scary about this is we are talking about the children. We are forcing a mindset, literally brainwashing them before they have the chance to study and make the decision on their own. It's such a small thing though, but that is where it begins, with the small things. These small things keep adding up more and more. National anthem, whitewashed history, comic books... it adds, a little and a little there...