Recommendation from Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara
Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Honorary Director,
St. Luke's International Hospital (Tokyo)
“I highly recommend this book. It shows us that the key to solving the wars on this planet and the global economic crisis is in the hands of each one of us."
Book reviewed in Kyoto Journal, Issue 72 (Spring 2009)
“The Power of an Ideal: Article 9 and the Imagination"
☆☆☆ Outgrowing the National Ego ☆☆☆
Beyond National Egoism: The Road to a Nation for International Peace and the Environment
Shohei Nomura, (Trans. by Nancy Kiyoko Go), Mamizu-Shuppan, Tokyo (2008), 197 pp.
Book review: Kimberly Hughes
Since its 2007 release in the original Japanese as Kuni no Riso to Kenpo ? "Kokusai Kankyo Heiwa Kokka" e no Michi (A Country's Ideal and the Constitution ? The Road to a Nation for International Peace and the Environment), Nomura Shohei's work has been the talk of peace communities throughout Japan.
Although its English title may appear somewhat bewildering to the uninitiated reader, Nomura sets out here to do precisely what that title seems to suggest: provide step-by-step guidelines urging Japan to reject the present trend toward U.S.-style militarization, whose egoism-fueled competition he charges with having contributed to a host of problems on both domestic and international levels. By redirecting its budgetary priorities toward easing poverty and famine ? and then going on to implement a menu of proactive peace policies such as protecting refugees and removing landmines ? Japan will, Nomura argues, earn unparalleled respect across the globe.
At the heart of Nomura's argument is the debate over the fate of Japan's war-renouncing Article 9, which teeters precariously amidst increasing calls for Japan to become a “normal country" by holding its own active military force. Turning this same logic against its critics, he observes:
Article 9 offers Japan the perfect, fateful opportunity to become a
so-called “extraordinary nation" respected by the world. Instead of
being a “normal nation" that affirms war, Article 9 offers the
opportunity to exercise leadership in the world to make inter-
national relations safe in a way that no country has ever done
before. This means Japan will face the world and raise Article
9 as a flag of hope, and exercise leadership in international
society to use non-violent, non-militaristic methods to prevent
wars and resolve conflicts, and bring peace to the Ecosphere
of this Planet Earth. Of all times, now, Japan should demonstrate
to the countries of the world, and the U.S. especially, exemplary
leadership as “an extraordinary nation" that renounces war.
An ambitious concept by any standard, Nomura's ideal is three-tiered, having implications at the level of the individual, the nation, and humanity as a whole. Likening the shift as equivalent to or even surpassing the Meiji Restoration in terms of the scale and depth of the change at stake, he further elucidates his vision as follows:
In the process of the major revolution, domestically, the
mass-production mass-consumption economic system
will complete its transition to a sustainable recycling-
oriented economic system. Also, instead of putting priority
on economics and chasing after material prosperity, a
materially and spiritually prosperous society that values
the connections between people and between nature and
humans will be built.
Nomura begins by urging readers to “keep an open mind and read this book without being bound by preconceptions, stereotypes or fixed ideas." He then points out that solutions to today's existing woes must be borne from radically new perspectives ? while also insisting that we must first work to reach an understanding of the problems' root causes before hoping to solve them. Offering the United States's hegemonic assumption of control over the global food supply as a particularly egregious example of national egoism taken to its worst logical conclusion, he points out that Japan would do well to end its own habit of blindly following American policy ? particularly due to the island nation's dangerous lack of food self-sufficiency, coupled with the less-than-likely possibility of its needs being taken into account by the U.S. should the global food crisis continue to escalate.
Nomura ventures at times into deep spiritual territory, exploring the collective consciousness that unites all living beings into one coherent whole while simultaneously serving as a “force for peace" ? thereby offering a key counterargument to the idea put forth by proponents of militarization that humans can and will resort to taking violent measures against one another if left to their own devices.
Some readers may question Nomura's attempt to address such a wide swath of social ills with one single recipe. They may also be put off by the naivete-tinged optimism found in such phrases as Nomura's observation that by following the ideals of the book, “in the unstable world around us, we will be able to feel that a great bright light has been lit." Such language is offset by the depth of the book's overall content, as well as the inclusion of powerfully moving quotations from Gandhi and other iconic leaders for peace. Indeed, since humanity may truly have nothing to lose given what is at stake, this sort of purity may be precisely what is now called for.
Hoping to seize this moment in history to begin a movement focused upon these ideals, Nomura has gone on to establish a bilingual website in conjunction with the book. Titled the “Kuninoriso Network" or “Network for the Ideal of the Nation," at http://kuninoriso.jp/, the resource invites readers to participate in this worthwhile ? indeed, perhaps even survival-level ? challenge of making his vision a reality.
Recommendation from Mr. Steven L. Leeper
Chairman, Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation
"In general, I feel that the author is on exactly my wavelength. I love everything he says and totally agree. I often felt he was writing straight out of my own mind."