Noranora, a farming magazine for children, proudly proclaims on the cover of its inaugural issue: "The birth of a farming magazine for kids!" "Nora-boys and nora-girls (boy farmers and girl farmers) are breeding fast now!" "Grandma's field commandeered by little guerrilla farmer."
The magazine introduces many young boys and girls for whom farming is a passion. For example, there is a 5-year-old boy in Yamato, Kumamoto Prefecture, who works a field that used to belong to his late great-grandfather.
Ryu Miyamoto, 11, of Sukumo, Kochi Prefecture, has taken over a corner of his grandmother's field and is growing whatever strikes his fancy. The kids have parents, who know the meaning of education, who leave them alone to battle Mother Nature on their own.
I discovered this magazine in a bookstore run by Nobunkyo (Rural Culture Association Japan). The bookstore claims to be the only one in Japan specializing in books on agriculture, but there is also an entire section dedicated to books and magazines about the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, nuclear power generation and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade initiative.
I can easily see that the March quake and the nuclear power generation issue go together, but the TPP? Where is the connection?
The answer came quickly. Nobunkyo represents the primary industry, and has consistently opposed the TPP in a series of booklets it has published. The first in the series was titled "TPP Hantai no Taigi" (Justification for opposing the TPP), which came out in December 2010. This was followed by "TPP to Nihon no Ronten" (The TPP and Japan's argument) and "Fukko no Taigi: Hisaisha no Songen wo Fuminijiru Shin-jiyushugi-teki Fukko-ron Hihan" (Justification for post-disaster reconstruction: Critique of neoliberalist argument for reconstruction that tramples on the dignity of disaster survivors).
The gist of Nobunkyo's argument is as follows: "A tsunami has struck our country. Before we've had time to recover from it, another tsunami called the TPP is about to strike. What is common to these two tsunamis is that both have the power to destroy and uniformalize what is small, what is diverse and what makes any community human."
Nobunkyo also decries "disaster capitalism" of the government and the business community for seizing the March disaster as a "golden opportunity" to force small-time farmers and fishing operators into handing over their businesses to "large-scale, cost-effective corporations."
Nobunkyo has to be right. But most people living in big cities--myself included--lack the imagination to recognize that these two tsunamis are of the same kind.
Kikan Chiiki (Community quarterly) is another magazine published by Nobunkyo. The feature story in the November issue is about a power generation plant that utilizes an agricultural waterway that was "built by pioneering engineers of the late 19th century and the early 20th century who wished only for the prosperity of their community and descendants."
According to the magazine, some of these pioneers "invested their own assets until their entire families went destitute and had to leave the community." But, continues the article, the community is prosperous today, thanks to the foresight of those people.
The previous August issue ran a feature titled "Daishinsai/ Genpatsu Saigai: Furusato, Tohoku, wa Akiramenai!" (The great earthquake/ nuclear disaster: Our hometown, Tohoku, will not give up!).
The magazine stressed the "true power of farming, forestry and fishing communities" in overcoming the devastation caused by the quake and nuclear disaster. The anger of the survivors could be felt from every page. But I also sensed that it was this same anger that steeled their resolve to rebuild their communities, and that the magazine came to their support by providing objective, well-reasoned and thoroughly researched reports.
Various commentaries on post-disaster reconstruction and the TPP have appeared in established opinion magazines, too. For instance, the January issue of Sekai (The world) contains "Tohoku-hatsu no Fukko-ron" (A theory on post-disaster reconstruction from the Tohoku region) by Yusuke Yamashita and "Kyoko Sareta Namida no Fu-byodo Joyaku" (A forced, tearful pact of non-equality) by You Gyon-hee. And there is a feature titled "Soryoku Dai-tokushu 'Gaiko Haiboku' to TPP" (Comprehensive coverage: "Diplomatic failure" and the TPP) in the January issue of WiLL magazine.
But at the end of the day, I must say that the publication that got to the bottom of these issues was not any of those established opinion magazines, but the farming magazine Kikan Chiiki that showed a sturdy farmer in overall and rubber boots on its cover.
I was also deeply impressed by "Ippan Ishi 2.0," (The general will 2.0) authored by Hiroki Azuma. While this work belongs in an entirely different genre from anything published by Nobunkyo, I fully believe this is a must-read "post-3/11" book.
Through his unique interpretation of "The Social Contract" by Jean Jacques Rousseau, the "father of democracy," Azuma offers an entirely new take on democracy, politics and statehood. At the risk of being misunderstood, I would say Azuma's concept of democracy is the exact opposite of the traditional concept of democracy.
We believe democracy cannot be perfected without "thorough deliberation" and public communication. But Azuma argues that our very belief in these things as indispensable to democracy has actually driven us away from politics.
"Humans are not so wise as to comprehend the entire world with the power of logic," Azuma asserts. "Sometimes, it is logic that closes down a community. We therefore need some other principle that enables us to comprehend what lies beyond our grasp. At the end of our search, we have arrived at this image: The 'sea of mercy' spreads beyond the insular universe that has been closed down by logical deliberation, and in this sea are flames of random empathy burning everywhere in networks of animality."
Outside the world of rational words, there is another world, such as the more emotional and subconscious-ruled world of the Internet. But will it ever be possible to show such a world to people who know only to argue rationally with words, and make them realize how limiting their words are? Or will we ever be able to realize the sort of paradigm envisioned by Azuma?
Emmanuel Todd, whose philosophy is anti-TPP, gives credit to Friedrich List's argument that was popular a decade ago. But Todd also asserts that free trade and democracy do not go together over the long run.
This overturns our traditional "common sense" understanding that free trade is "progressive" and protectionism is "reactionary."
In dealing with the "tsunami," we must question common sense.
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Genichiro Takahashi is a novelist and professor at Meiji Gakuin University.
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