Japan’s most famous author, Haruki Murakami, has issued a powerful call for calm in the face of an escalating row between China and Japan over a group of rocky islands in the East China Sea. (The islands are inhabited by no one but a small population of goats that Japanese nationalists left many years ago.)
Here’s what Murakami had to say about the nationalism that is driving the Chinese and Japanese governments into a dangerous and pointless conflict:
[Nationalism] is like cheap alcohol. It gets you drunk after only a few shots and makes you hysterical. It makes you speak loudly and act rudely … but after your drunken rampage you are left with nothing but an awful headache the next morning. We must be careful about politicians and polemicists who lavish us with this cheap alcohol and allow things to get out of control.
A new conflict?
The island row has unmasked a rightward shift in Japan’s politics which could have potentially alarming implications for regional security. On CNN, Patrick Cronan warns about the elevation of former prime minister Shinzo Abe to the leadership of the opposition Liberal Democratic party, currently ahead in opinion polls with elections due early next year:
If Abe can win the next election, he would probably … seek to restore Japan’s international right to self-defense, thereby departing from Japan’s constitutional renunciation of armed force in the wake of World War II.
Abe’s recent promise to 'build a strong and prosperous Japan' is a phrase redolent of the “rich nation, strong army” motto adopted by reformers in 19th century Japan … This turn rightward, however, would not likely sit well with Japan’s neighbours, especially China, and could embroil the world’s three richest countries in conflict."
As the war of words rages on, let's remember there's only one party that technically stands to be affected by any change in the islands' territory status: the goats. Unsurprisingly, they don't seem to be paying much attention – and their approach may be the wisest. Cooler heads urgently need to prevail if the region, and the world, is to avoid what could be a devastating conflict.
Share this post if you think that people around the world should listen to Murakami – and stop driving conflict through the cheap and dangerous rhetoric of nationalism.
Sources: Avaaz, Los Angeles Times, Guardian, CNN