Courtesy Reuters

Liberalism in Japan

WE who live in democratic states find it hard to understand why it is that people in authoritarian states have in the last decade given up their liberties with so very little struggle. We generally like to believe that they have been tricked into surrender and that, given some help and encouragement from outside, when the time is ripe they will strive to regain the freedom they have lost, will work and fight if need be for a kind of government comparable to our own. In extreme cases we suppose that the economic difficulties and political repression prevalent in these totalitarian states must have produced a potential revolutionary force, and that therefore only a little more hardship, a little more tyranny, are required to bring about an uprising. This belief may turn out to be correct; but so far there is very scanty evidence for it. In authoritarian countries there is no chance for the individual foreign observer to gain accurate knowledge of what the people are thinking. He cannot carry out a poll of opinion. He can only guess at public sentiment from a few haphazard samples; and since he can only guess at what people feel, he is not likely to be a useful prophet as to how they will act.

All these obstacles to political and social diagnosis are multiplied when we come to deal with a country like Japan, with its acute differences in tradition, language, thought and behavior. This no doubt is why the evidence which comes from foreign observers as to the present political temper and aspirations of the Japanese people is extremely various and contradictory. The foreign policy of the Japanese Government is clear enough, and it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that the issues between it and the governments of democratic states are now strategical rather than political. What is not so clear is the internal situation in Japan. To understand that, it is necessary for us to rid our minds of

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