It is natural at the start of a new century that there should
be large measures of both hope and anxiety. Compared with the intellectual
currents in vogue at the start of the twentieth century, what is starkly lacking
today is the sense of optimism that was present then. Naturally, there are great
expectations regarding advances in science and technology – particularly in
fields such as information and biotechnology – but there is also great
foreboding, especially in Japan, about the political and economic fronts.
In recent years, a great deal has been made of the
revolution in communications and Internet technologies. The more basic question
remains, however, of who will take up the challenges and realize the positive
possibilities of this revolution. Where will people find a genuine sense of
identity and purpose? What should be the core values on which to base human
endeavors in the 21st century?
Life – in the most encompassing sense, not merely the
biological sense – is the focus of increasing interest and discussion in
turn-of-the-millennium Japan. It is interesting to note that the words being
used in this context tend to be simple words of long standing – ’life’, ‘heart’,
‘spirit’ – written in the script historically used by women. The frequent use in
Japan of such terms is indicative of a profound transformation in the
orientation of people’s interests and thus in the currents of the times. I
believe, very simply, that this represents a search for identity, for a
satisfying sense of reality at a time when all values, structures, and systems
are being questioned.
If we fail to address such questions, we may well
find that the future awaiting us is anything but rosy, one in which life, heart,
and spirit are in fact strangled and crushed. It is this sense of anxiety about
an uncertain future that is urging people toward an inner journey or search.
I believe that the key values that must animate the
21st century are creative coexistence and the autonomous functioning of the
inner will. If these can be made the driving spirit of the age, we will be able
to put behind us the nightmares of the twentieth century and realize a century
of life and of peace.
Nowhere is the impact of the crisis of life, heart,
and spirit felt more intensely than in the family. Parent–child relations, and
family ties in general, differ from other human relations in that they are
essentially not of our choosing. They should be recognized as something that
issues from the depths of our being, and as such they represent the most real
and vital connections. Yet even these bonds are losing their strength, and
indeed their reality.
There is a sense that the bonds between people, as
well as the connection that we should sense with nature and the cosmos, are
becoming increasingly ‘virtual’. I think that the spiritual malaise afflicting
so many young people in Japan today – isolation, withdrawal, extreme apathy,
loss of expressive capacity, and collapse of personal identity – can be cited as
evidence of this phenomenon. This spiritual malaise has undermined the ability
of people to sense the truth that all things are connected.
On reflection, we see that the values, principles,
and ideologies that are presently being called into question are all the
products of male-dominated societies. As these are increasingly challenged,
values such as life, heart, and spirit are coming increasingly to the fore. Each
of these is intimately linked with ‘the feminine’.
In contrast with the conflict, exclusion, and force
that are traditionally linked to the psychology of men, women are naturally
oriented toward such values as unity and harmony – the values of creative
coexistence and inner autonomy. Thus, the emergence of women in the 21st century
has a significance that goes to the very core of human civilization. In this
sense, I believe that a century of life must also be a century of women.
The Japanese Constitution
In this context, I would like to discuss the current debate
about the Japanese Constitution, which I believe must be addressed if we are to
realize the promise of a century of life.
In January 2000, constitutional research commissions
were established in both the upper and lower houses of the Japanese Diet,
initiating the process of parliamentary debate on the current constitution. It
is only natural and right that, in order to respond to historical and social
changes, appropriate measures should be taken to review the Constitution, the
highest law of the land. Like Japan, Germany also began its postwar history
under a new constitution, one that sought to reflect the bitter lessons of World
War II. In contrast with the Japanese, the German people have amended their
constitution on numerous occasions in the intervening years.
There is a tendency to frame any debate on the
Japanese Constitution solely in terms of Article 9, which renounces war, as
views are sharply split on whether this clause should be maintained as it is or
amended. This narrow focus is unfortunate and short-sighted, as it obscures
other important constitutional issues that bear directly on the kind of
democracy Japan aspires to become in the 21st century. These include: diverse
and complex human rights issues, the need to respond to emerging environmental
challenges, and the problems raised by new information and communications
technologies. Also meriting consideration are the introduction of national
referenda and the direct election of the prime minister as means of better
reflecting the popular will.
It is important that the Constitution be reviewed in
the light of these issues and in order to realize the goal of a better society.
In this sense, I feel that constitutional debate is both necessary and
But it is imperative that such a review be conducted
within the framework of a long-term vision, sustained by enduring principles.
Hasty revision based on short-sighted goals, for immediate political gain or
without taking the time to develop genuine national consensus, must be avoided
at all costs. To do so could be cause for regret and would call into question
the legitimacy of the constitutional review process.
In any debate on constitutional reform, we must never
forget that the ideals of pacifism and international cooperation expressed in
the Preamble and Article 9 are the very heart and soul of Japan’s Constitution –
that which qualifies it to be called a ‘peace constitution.’
While there is room for multifaceted debate on
specific national security policies, I am concerned above all that the
principles and spirit of the peace constitution not be eroded. And, for this
reason, I feel that Article 9 should not be touched, a view that I have long
Sadly, the kind of pacifist message that Japan has
broadcast to the world during the past half-century under the present
constitution has been all too feeble. Those efforts that have been made have
been undermined by persistent and anachronistic moves to turn back the clock or
even to attempt to justify Japan’s past wars of invasion. The result is that
Japan has not emerged as a truly pacifist nation recognized and trusted by our
Asian neighbors or by the world as a whole.
The Pitfalls of ‘One-Country Pacifism’
Japan’s proponents of peace have suffered from a tendency to
turn inward, to limit their interest to Japan, and this is linked to the failure
to produce the kind of concrete actions that can actually transform the world.
The net result of this egotistical ‘one-country pacifism’, which ignores
movements in international society and the concerns of other countries, has been
a false peace. This is far from the original spirit of the Constitution, whose
Preamble declares the right of humankind to coexist in peace.
If we are to make the new century a complete
departure from the past century of war, it is imperative that Japan break out of
this stagnation and deadlock. I believe that in the 21st century Japan should
act from a realistic and global perspective and breathe new life into the spirit
and ideals of Article 9, sharing these with the world.
I am reminded of the following words of the Japanese philosopher Arimasa Mori
(1911–76): ‘The world is a competition in self-control. It is in this sense that
the political is superior to the military. In this is also to be found the true
meaning of peace’. 2
This is a view that we should carefully heed. What
have been most lacking in Japan’s postwar political culture – not only with
regard to debates on constitutional issues – have been self-mastery, genuine
conviction, and a truly awakened consciousness.
It is an undeniable fact that, during the Cold War
years, Japan’s leaders acted in a way that was neither self-directed nor
self-reliant. Nor has this changed in the post-Cold War era. The collapse of
Japan’s bubble economy, an event whose psychological impact is sometimes
compared with Japan’s defeat in World War II, has produced a spiritual landscape
of passivity and apathy far estranged from any ideal of self-mastery or
The same applies to constitutional debate. The most
important thing is to develop and elaborate, with care and autonomy, the core
principles and convictions of pacifism that characterize the entire
constitution. And it is my belief that this can be done without revising Article
Article 9, in particular the first paragraph, owes a
debt to the 1928 Treaty of Paris, in which the signatories renounced war as an
instrument of national policy. This was a direct attempt to realize humanity’s
profound desire for the abolition of war. By renouncing ‘war as a sovereign
right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling
international disputes’, the Japanese Constitution accepts limitations on
national sovereignty. From its origin, it is clear that Japan’s acceptance of
this condition of limited sovereignty was predicated on the idea that the
relinquished aspects of sovereignty would be entrusted to an international body,
specifically the United Nations.
Japan’s best and most natural choice is therefore to
make the voluntary limitation of sovereignty an impetus to work in a carefully
coordinated fashion with the UN to build a world of lasting peace.
This is entirely in accord with the spirit of both
the Preamble of the Japanese Constitution and the UN Charter. By locating the
particular constitutional commitments of Japan within a larger, universal
context, it should be possible to develop the kind of policies that make Japan
known to the world as a true nation of peace. Japan has an opportunity to take
the lead in creating the conditions for genuinely universal and effective
UN-centered security and conflict-prevention systems.
In conjunction with this, it is crucial that we find
effective means to promote international understanding and cooperation. Here
there is clearly room for Japan to take a more proactive stance. Japan can
contribute, based on the spirit of self-mastery and genuine conviction, in such
fields as international development and the raising of living standards, as well
as educational, cultural, and sports exchanges.
In order to do this, it is essential that all
Japanese citizens renounce passivity and embrace a profound commitment to
meaningful action. It is my fervent and unchanging desire that Japan play a
leading role in the unprecedented experiment and challenge of realizing a world
A Central Role for the UN
To realize peace in the coming century, it is absolutely
essential that we replace the traditional ascendancy of competing national
interests – the cause of so much war and tragedy – with an international
community dedicated to the welfare of the whole of humankind and Earth.
The success of Japan’s efforts in these regards is
therefore deeply linked to the future direction and development of the UN. The
UN can and must play a pivotal role in this transformation. The challenges
facing humanity – promoting peace and disarmament, protecting the environment,
eradicating poverty – clearly require that we cooperate and harmonize our
efforts across national boundaries. Indeed, we must unite as one humanity
engaged in a common struggle.
In this sense, we really have no choice but to turn
to the UN. For half a century, it has been actively building international
consensus as a forum for global dialogue, and it has
engaged in humanitarian relief and assistance programs in different parts of the
world. It is my belief that only the UN, for all its limitations and problems,
can play the axial role in uniting humankind.
The United Nations Millennium Declaration adopted by
the unprecedented gathering of heads of state and government at the Millennium
Summit of September 2000 has a profound significance in this regard. Calling on
the countries of the world to share responsibility for managing global issues,
the declaration clearly states: ‘As the most universal and most representative
organization in the world, the United Nations must play the central role.’ The
lofty objective and founding spirit of the UN are powerfully expressed in the
Preamble of the Charter: ‘We the peoples of the United Nations, determined to
save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime
has brought untold sorrow to mankind ...’.
It is time to move forward with the effort to create
a framework that genuinely engages all of humankind in a shared struggle to
abolish the scourge of war from the face of Earth.
President, Soka Gakkai International
Notes and references
* Excerpted from the author’s 2001 peace proposal; full text
available at www.sgi.org.
2 Arimasa Mori, Kigi wa
hikari o abite [Trees Bathing in Light] (Tokyo: Chikumashobo, 1972), on p.