Licht aus dem Ferner Osten

カエサルさん by ツインポー

Masaatsu Yasuoka, author of Oriental Political Philosophy, introduces himself in terms that at once win the reader’s attention: ” I am a Japanese and consequently disposed to revere what I conceive to be the spirit of my people; but I have also studied with interest and intense admiration the cultural adventure of the Western world.” He proposes that we drop the false idea of cultural homogeneity and try to compose our differences by understanding them rather than by ignoring them. Western philosophy, he says, is analytical, conceptual, and logical; Japanese philosophy is intuitive.
Western learning is inspired by a passion for analysis; Japanese learning by a passion for synthesis. “The West draws a distinction between the things that are Caesar’s and the things that are God’s; in the East Caesar and God are blended harmoniously.

Yasuoka illustrates the difference between Western and Japanese ideas by a comparison of clothes. Clothing in the West, he says, is sharply individualized; not so in Japan, where the traditional dress of men and women, restrained by rigid conventions in line, color, and form, is a kind of uniform. ” The idea of clothes as an expression of personality, which a casual glance at a fashion journal would suggest is a very important one to Western people, is unknown to us.”

The ” differends ” Mr. Yasuoka describes are more interesting to the student of philosophy than to the general reader, but his comment on the practical applications of the Japanese spirit are politically important. It explains the hive mentality which is so pronounced a feature of Japanese political concepts: “The Japanese spirit fits the Japanese for a self-abnegation and a greater social solidarity than can ever be possible in the individualistic, classifying West. It develops relationships between master and servant, protector and protégé, which are so much the product of our culture that it is impossible to conceive of the one side resenting or the other abusing them. They make for a certain dependence and absence of self-reliance. The essence of the Japanese spirit is eagerness on the part of the individual to find a person worthy to be served with unremitting devotion” (The italics are mine.)

And so he comes to the question of death and gives us an explanation of the Japanese army’s suicide squads which at least is less degrading than some others: ” A differentiating, individualistic culture tends, quite apart from religious dogma, to stress the sanctity of human life. To those trained by a culture which is forever seeking to grasp and serve a large entity the individual life is relatively unimportant. For a Japanese death is not awful in the true meaning of that word, nor is it important except in relation to the purpose it serves.

It is not even a sacrifice any more than the life of devotion is a sacrifice. It is simply the last act of that life of devotion, and that alone gives it its importance. We must know how to die well, we must be assured that our death will serve effectively the purpose which has animated our life. Death for us is a gesture, like life, and consequently we seek to make it an effective one. Thus, even in life and death, there is no differentiation.

Hugh Byas, Government By Assassination, 1942, p.256

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