The security bills were passed – but nobody can stop us now.
Ironically, 20 or 30 years from today, Shinzo Abe might be coined as the prime minister who changed the course of Japanese democracy in 2015. Last night (September 18) in front of the Japanese Diet building among the crowd of more than 10,000 while the security bills were bulldozed in the Upper House, I was thinking to myself.
This is because he and the ruling parties of LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) and Komeito almost singlehandedly mobilized and galvanized each of us who had traditionally been averse to express her/his political views in public, much less to protest with acid chants like “Abe wa yamero! (Abe quit!).” People who gathered around the Diet building in the last 2-3 months include all walks of life – young and old, women and men, those who knew the 60s and those who don’t know who Abe’s grandfather is.
This might be a turning point.
Without question, it is so appalling that these bills have now been passed, which make it possible to allow Japan’s “Self-Defense Force” to fight to protect its allies despite the fact that overwhelming majority of constitutional scholars deem them unconstitutional and that 60% of the Japanese public opposes them feeling that things were too rushed. We are quite flabbergasted and ashamed that this is happening in our home country where the Peace Constitution has been our pride in the post-war era, as it made the work of Japanese NGOs abroad welcomed because of its detachment from military interventions.
What Abe and the ruling parties may not have realized, however, is the fact that we the people have become strong. We knew that the majority rule would eventually prevail and we would lose this time – but we have grown to realize that it was not going to be the end. We came to know that we would have to continue. And now, we will. We have become strong because we now know that we are not alone when we express our views. Not only in front of the Diet building but across the nation, we stood up and we shouted with anger. Nobody can stop us now.
This week, I went to see “Tell the Prime Minister,” a documentary film by Eiji Oguma, a historian/sociologist, about the new protest movement in Japan after the nuclear plant meltdown of 2011. After the incident, people started to organize to stop the nuclear power, and rallied in Hibiya Park, walked in Koenji and gathered in front of the prime minister’s residence. The coalition building was spontaneous with multiple groups and different leaders from diverse backgrounds. The buildup, in my view, actually started in 2003 with the anti-Iraq war movement with demonstrations and rallies gradually becoming not so “scary” for people who were not eager to express views. Then the nuclear accident, then the state secrets bills of 2013. All along, the mass media ignored us. But this time, we were on the front page. It took more than 10 years, but we are strong now.
Another thing Abe and the ruling parties may not realize is the fact that we are so connected globally. Not only 100+ organizations from Japan but also more than 250 groups from abroad are now supporting this NGO No War Network. The chant, “this is what democracy looks like,” echoed around the Diet building in the last months, was actually used in Madison, Wisconsin in 2011. Why did we know it? Because it’s on YouTube. With the Japanese knack of adaptation, it is now phrased in Japanese as “Minshushugi-tte Nanda!? (What is Democracy!?)” with a response, “Nanda!?(What is it!?).
These last weeks, the response had evolved to “Koreda! (This is it!). Indeed, this is what democracy looks like. We now know it.
CSO Network Japan
September 19, 2015