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Japan's Naive Nationalism

     

I never watch television, but I’ve heard tell that TV programs featuring Japan’s “uniqueness” are hugely popular among Japanese people. Television producers seem to be seeking to instill a sense of national belonging in the audience, most of whom pay little attention to the flip side of the coin.

     That said, to borrow and rewrite Haruki Murakami’s phrase, “hatred is not the opposite of love but an innate part of love.” Who can ascribe all forms of hatred to evil motives? Those who engage in hate speech in Japan don’t conceal their love for their homeland. Islamic extremists, who, as I see it, are a product of global capitalism, conduct terrorist attacks on many parts of the world in the name of Allah. To a disinterested observer, our moderate patriotism may seem to be narrow-minded nationalism. 

     Is there such a thing as pure love for a nation? Maybe, but it might be precarious. Just as a newborn baby becomes an adult and later dies with the passage of time, so patriotism sometimes degenerates into hatred. For instance, when we love our country, what would we think if our homeland were to be targeted by a terrorist group and many innocent civilians were to be victimized? Our love for our country might remain unwavering, but it would also be reinforced and amplified by hatred itself.

     Islamophobia has been rampant across Europe and the US since the November 13 simultaneous terrorist attacks on Paris. Many people adhere to this creed, exclusionism, precisely because they love their own countries.

     If people profess their affection for their country but are unaware of this continuity between love and hatred, we might want to take their opinions with a grain of salt. As a renowned pundit aptly pointed out, “those who demand that we love our country never show a good deal of affection for or tolerance toward their fellow citizens.” 

     Is Japan a unique country? Yes, but it is no less unique than any other country. Yet, Japan, in common with other industrialized nations, has a history in which the state inflamed people's nationalism and hatred toward its enemies.

   Uniqueness cannot be a reason for which we love our country, precisely because we need no reason in order to love something or someone. To me, those TV programs that emphasize Japan’s uniqueness seem nothing more than propaganda aimed at promoting sentimental nationalism.