Analysis: Hatoyama Speech to 173rd Session of the Diet: Part 2
In Monday’s speech to the Diet, Prime Minister Hatoyama again addressed the issue of yuai, or ‘fraternity’, which he returns to again and again. He spoke of a lady that he met in Aomori, who’s son had been unable to find work and ultimately lost his life. Hatoyama described how the woman held on to his hand, and had such a deep sadness in her eyes that it touched him greatly. This is a moving story, and there is no question that the lesson Hatoyama takes from it – that political decisions impact real lives – is an important one. But the main body of his speech is full of this kind of emotional, heart-string-pulling rhetoric – and very little else…
I do however agree with much of the rhetoric that Hatoyama employs here, including his call that:
“Before we talk about big government or small government, we must ensure that the perspectives of the disadvantaged in society and minorities are respected…”
This is an admirable goal, and a necessary role for government. But far too often, the result of such rhetoric is in fact the development of more government, without truly making sure that the policies and measures being implemented are in fact only or even mainly for ‘the disadvantaged and minorities’.
Hatoyama further speaks with some passion about a day in which people supported each other, and gained true happiness through work and mutual respect. He speaks of another trip to a chalk factory in which 70% of its employees are disabled, and the way in which the workers seem happy because they are ‘praised, appreciated and needed’. Again, this is a wonderful story, and I’m sure that there are many like it throughout Japan. And I sympathize and agree in large degree with the sentiment that ‘we are all here for the sake of each other’… a quote from Einstein that Hatoyama employs. These are fine sentiments, and I was impressed by the heart-felt way in which they were delivered. I have long liked Hatoyama as a person, and feel that he is a man of compassion and kindness.
All of the above is wonderful, and would make a great sermon at any church service. But the ‘Minister’ in ‘Prime Minister’ does not make him some kind of ‘Pastor in Chief’. It is great to set out a vision of a harmonious nation where everyone gets along and everyone takes care of each other. But in terms of concrete policies it is difficult to see what the government can do to make this happen, other than getting out of the way and allowing people to take care of each other, the way they used to.
While there are certainly important roles for government in protecting its citizenry and making sure that the disadvantaged are not taken advantage of, sometimes politicians can get caught up in feeling like they need to have the solutions for everything – an idea that is too often perpetuated by the media, and even the general public who love to suck on the government teet as much as they can…. But as Hatoyama himself acknowledges:
“The role of politics may not be very large at the level of people’s daily lives. In fact, the only role politics can play may be to remove those excessive regulations that hinder the launching of initiatives among citizens…
“…Neither can all problems be resolved merely through political or administrative efforts to increase the budget. Only by having each individual citizen foster and develop the ideal of self-support and co-existence can we revive the bonds within society and recover the relationships of trust among people”.
These are sentiments that I applaud loudly, and upon which all good government should be built. It is still unclear though, in spite of the great words, if the policies of the Hatoyama government will match these souring ideals. I guess we will have to see….
Part 3 on economic policy tomorrow….
More Stories on Hatoyama’s Speech:
- Japan Today: Hatoyama’s ‘fraternity’ policy lacks substance.
- Japan Times: Rhetorical Hatoyama opens Diet.
- Yomiuri: PM pledges new-style govt.
- Tobias Harris: Hatoyama restates his government’s mission.
- Asahi: Hatoyama vows to help the weak.
- BBC: Economy priority for Japan’s PM.
- AP & Kyodo: Hatoyama pledges to deepen ties with US.
- Analysis: Hatoyama Speech to 173rd Session of the Diet: Part 3
- Analysis: Hatoyama Speech to 173rd Session of the Diet: Part 1
- Analysis: Hatoyama Speech to 173rd Session of the Diet: Part 4
- Why Hatoyama Failed
- Hatoyama Adresses UN: Including Text and Video Links