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Sample(1) Bioethics and Japanese Culture
1. Brain death and Japanese society
"bioethics" appeared in the United States in the early 1970s, and spread to
other advanced countries in the 1980s. Japan was no exception. Through powerful
patients' rights movements and fierce debates on brain death in the 1980s, Japanese
society has realized the importance of bioethical ideas and bioethical ways of
thinking. Today, "informed consent" is a key concept among human rights
activists in the field of medical care. At the same time, however, Japanese
society seems to have showed reluctance to, for example, organ transplants from
In this paper, I will illustrate how the Japanese have responded to newly imported bioethical ideas by examining their discourse on brain death and patients' rights. Through the analysis the reader will encounter a typical Asian response to modern "Western" medicine and culture.
First, let us take a brief look at the important events concerning brain death and transplantation in Japan. In 1967, the first heart transplant in the world from a comatose patient was performed in the Republic of South Africa. The next year, in 1968, a similar heart transplantation was performed at Sapporo Medical School by Professor Wada. The recipient patient lived for 83 days after transplantation. However, a citizens group accused Professor Wada of illegal human experimentation, and also of exercising dubious judgment with respect to the donor's (brain) death. After this incident, the phrase "heart transplantation" became taboo in Japanese society, and remained so for fifteen years.
In the 1970s many countries and states established laws allowing transplants from brain dead bodies, we could call "brain death laws," and heart and liver transplants from brain-dead donors began to be performed frequently. Japan, though, kept silent until 1983. In that year, the Ministry of Health and Welfare established an ad hoc committee on brain death, and in 1985 the committee announced national criteria for brain death. In 1987 the Japan Medical Association declared brain death to be equivalent to the death of a human being. In 1992 the Prime Minister's special committee on brain death and transplantation likewise concluded that brain death equals the death of a human being. Despite this, however, in Japan, there has been no heart or liver transplants from a brain-dead donor since Professor Wada's case. Some patients with severe heart diseases have gone abroad, to Britain, Australia or the United States, for example, to have transplant operations there.
Social scientists have tried to clarify why the Japanese seem to reject brain death as the definition of human death, but they [87/88] have not found persuasive scientific answers to that question (Hoshino,1993). According to opinion surveys, surprisingly, almost half of the Japanese view brain death as equivalent to human death; this figure is very similar to that of Western countries (Macer, 1992; 1993). This suggests that we should seek the reason for Japan's current rejection outside of each person's individual choice or preference regarding the idea of human death. Researchers have proposed a number of factors which may prevent the spread of transplantation from brain-dead donors. These factors are, for example, the after-effects of Professor Wada's case, scientific doubts as to the Japan criteria of brain death, distrust of physicians, the influence of traditional Japanese culture, the clash of the Japanese autopsy system with transplantation procedures (Cf. Tachibana, 1986; Morioka, 1989; Lock & Honde 1990; Nudeshima, 1991). In my personal view, all of these factors taken together create a strong barrier which have prevented the use of heart transplantation.
I will discuss the brain death controversy again later, let us turn to the bioethics movement in Japan in the 1980s.
2. Bioethics and patients' rights
Historically speaking, the patients' rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s in
the United States was the main force lending support to the emergence of
bioethics. In a sense, we can see the patients' rights movement in the U.S. as a
powerful political movement which aimed to change the feudalistic medical
community into a modern civil society where all people are politically equal and
every rational individual has basic human rights. This is another story of
modernization in the field of medical care. Bioethics has, I believe, a strong
motive of modernization at its core.
In Japan, the word "bioethics" came into common use among specialists in the mid-1980s. Some interpreted it as a set of moral rules doctors should obey, and some as an academic discipline in which scholars and students debate to create tons of papers. Among those involved in the discussion, Mr.Okamura and Professor Kimura were two of the first to introduce bioethics in the early 1980s as a patients' rights movement. Kimura (1987) clearly states in his book that bioethics is a human rights movement and a process of making sound public policy.
A process very similar to that which occurred in the United States in the 1960s began in Japan in the 1980s. The trigger was, again, the brain death controversy. Through fierce debates on brain death and transplantation, it became clear to those involved that one of the strongest factors preventing transplantation was the average person's distrust of doctors, and of Japanese medicine's feudalistic customs. In Japanese hospitals if you ask your doctor in detail about the medicine prescribed, the doctor will respond with an unpleasant expression. Sometimes the doctor may scold you and ask you to keep silent. Paternalistic forms of conduct are still widespread among Japanese doctors. One aspect of this is that, Japanese doctors often refuse to give important medical information to patients. For instance, according to the results of a survey conducted by the Ministry of Health and Welfare in 1992, only 20% of terminal cancer patients knew the fact that they had a cancer because of their doctors' decision to tell them the truth (Asahi Shimbun 8 May, 1993). In the other 80% of the cases, doctors lied to the patients, or told almost nothing about the disease.
People call this "closed-door medicine," a system in which patients are unable to get important information about themselves, and can't say anything against their doctors. Ethics committees at medical schools are virtually closed to the public. An ethics committee is usually composed of the professors of that medical school; there are only a handful of people who are not professors of the particular university on all the 80 university medical school ethics committees in Japan.
Through the brain death controversy quite a few people expressed great fear that in the process of the determination of brain death and transplantation no information might be given to family members, and in the worst case that the doctors might lie to family members. Some pointed out the possibility that doctors might psychologically threaten the family members if they refuse to agree to organ donations from a brain-dead relative.
Patients' rights activists started to urge that we change our closed, feudalistic medical community into a more liberal and open society where each of us has the basic right to know medical information concerning our own body, and has the right to make important medical decisions by ourselves. They stressed the importance of "informed consent," "patients' rights," and "self-determination"; and their proposals are now gaining the approval of many people inside and outside of the hospital. For example, the Consumer Organization of Medicine and Law started its activities in 1990 at Osaka, aiming at establishing patients' rights in hospitals and completely changing old medical customs (COML 1990). Their newsletter has a circulation of 1,500, and the organization is widely supported by the people concerned.
This movement is now beginning to change Japan's outdated, feudalistic medical community. Modernization in medical care is now underway in Japan. The goal of this modernization is to establish a European-American style of human relationships in medical care, that is to say, the idea that every patient should be guaranteed his/her basic human rights, and that the doctor-patient relationship should be based on contract. And it seems to me that a number of Japanese are being attracted to this idea.
3. The brain death controversy and cultural factors
of our previous discussion, let us now reconsider the brain death controversy. We can
find here a way of thinking which is opposite to the one I mentioned in the
previous section. Through the brain death controversy, many
scholars and journalists attempted to discover why Japanese society continued to
reject organ transplantation from brain-dead donors. Some researchers thought
that there was a unique feature, specific to Japanese culture, and this unique
feature creates a strong cultural barrier against transplantation.
Shohei Yonemoto (1987:14) called this "the cultural factor". He said that the Japanese had accepted almost all of the fruits of modern European medicine, but seemed to refuse technologies concerning human birth and death. He concluded that this is because "modern medicine came into head-on collision with our view of life and death, or with our view of the dead body, notions which were lurking deep within our culture". He wrote that Americans think of organs as replaceable parts, and that this way of thinking is based on traditional Western notions of mind-body dualism. The idea of brain death and transplantation thus matches the Western way of thinking. Contrasting with this, Yonemoto noted that Japanese tend to find in every part of a deceased person's body a fragment of the deceased's mind and spirit (Yonemoto, 1985: 200). He suggested that the Japanese view of the dead body may be completely different from Western views. In addition, he thought we must make clear how this cultural gap, or cultural factor, functions in our cultural systems by painstaking research from the perspective of cultural anthropology (Yonemoto,1988).
In 1985, 520 people died when a Japanese jumbo jet crashed in the mountains. Emiko Namihira, a cultural anthropologist, investigated how the victims' family members behaved toward the dead children's or parents' bodies. She found that the bereaved families were very eager to confirm the dead family member's corpse with their own eyes, and tried hard to gather all the parts of the dead person's body as if they thought the body should be perfect. Her conclusion was as follows. Japanese think that a dead person goes to the next world as a soul. The soul has its own body, and it has senses and feelings similar to a living person. The soul hopes to come back to the house in which it lived. Part of the soul remains at the place where the accident occurred, and the bereaved family should visit the place periodically. The dead body must be perfect. If some parts are missing, the soul becomes unhappy in the next world (Namihira,1988:18-36).
Namihira suggested that in Japan it is believed that a dead person can communicate with the bereaved family psychologically and religiously, and the sadness of the dead person's soul can affect the bereaved family members. Hence they refuse to injure the dead person's body, since it may make the dead person's soul unhappy. She insisted that this traditional [88/89] world view is still alive in Japanese minds, and it prevents the acceptance of organ transplantation from the brain dead (Namihira, 1988:61).
Nobuyuki Kaji enlarged Namihira's idea. Kaji said that the Japanese view of the dead body is not specific to the Japanese. That world view is shared at least in East Asian countries where Confucianism once flourished. Kaji noted that the Japanese view of the dead body which Namihira pointed out resembles proto-Confucianism's view of life and death. "Proto-Confucianism" is Professor Kaji's term for the ancient Confucianism that was at the stage of shamanism. Kaji believes this shamanism must have widely existed in the East Asian region in ancient times. Hence, the transplantation problem in Japan is, according to Kaji, an expression of the clash between modern Western science and ancient Asian shamanism (Kaji,1990).
Takeshi Umehara, a former member of the Prime Minister's special committee that wrote a dissenting opinion, has asserted in an essay that a brain-dead human being is not dead. His view is that it is alive until all the circulation of the blood stops and the body becomes cold. According to Umehara (1990), the idea of brain death and transplantation goes back to the philosophy of Rene Descartes, namely, his dualism of mind and body, and "cogito ergo sum." Umehara held that Japanese culture is based on a kind of animism which tells us that all beings in the world -- including animals, trees, and the mountains -- have souls. He concluded that the Japanese should not accept the idea of brain death based on the Cartesian world view, which has brought about this century's world wide environmental crisis.
Interestingly, some of those who accept transplantation feel uneasy about the idea of brain death. For example, the influential journalist M.Nakajima insists that transplantation is necessary, but that the idea of brain death is unacceptable (Nakajima,1985). A draft transplantation law prepared by a citizens group argued that we don't have to define brain death as human death in order to perform organ transplants from brain-dead donors (Nakajima,1992).
4. Where should future Japanese bioethics go?
So far I
have examined some of the recent topics concerning the Japanese patients' rights
movement, and the cultural factor arguments that seem to have prevailed in
Japanese bioethics discourses. In this section I discuss further these topics by
distinguishing the level of "phenomenon" and that of "discourse."
First, let us look at the phenomena. As for patients' rights movement, Japanese paternalistic medical customs are gradually changing. Physicians themselves have come to use the words "informed consent" and "patients rights" more frequently than before. However, it is also true that the majority still hesitates the total truth-telling to the patients, especially in the case of cancer. As I have already noted, only 20% of the physicians said they told the truth to their cancer patients in 1992. Recent studies by Naoko Miyaji, an anthropologist, show that the most frequent responses from the physicians she interviewed were where the physicians themselves wanted to know the truth but in the case of their patients they do not tell the truth. Many physicians think that patients should live in the web of warm-hearted consideration shown by the surrounding people, and that it is a good custom that a patient leaves his/her decision making to intimate others. Miyaji surmises this as one of the reasons for the low rate of truth telling in Japan (Miyaji,1994).
Whether Japanese medical customs are restructured on the basis of "autonomy" and "informed consent" in the future or not will depend on how much Japanese society outside hospital is going to change toward a "Western" style civil society. If Japanese society as a whole becomes truly individualistic in the future, the physician-patient relationship will sooner or later change into a contract-based one, and the complete truth-telling will be executed. Japanese society is now rapidly changing; we don't have any reliable predictions. I feel that it will become more and more individualistic, but it is unlikely that Japanese society as a whole becomes, for example, an American style one.
Let us turn to brain-death and organ transplants. As I said earlier, a strong barrier against transplantation from brain-dead donors exists in Japanese society. In 1994 an Organ Transplantation bill was introduced at the Diet, but as soon as the bill was presented, a network against organ transplantation bill was established, collecting more than 700 signatures. Among the signature names there were such leading bioethicists as Rihito Kimura and Gen Ohi; such famous scholars as Tomio Tada, Tetsuo Yamaori, and Yoshio Kawakita; and many women feminism activists (Network 1994). Their reasons for opposition are diverse, but this signifies the negative atmosphere against brain-death and organ transplants shared among some intellectual groups.
However, according to public opinion surveys between 1985 and 1992, the respondents who think brain-death is the death of humans always exceed these who don't think. For example, Asahi Shimbun's survey in 1992 shows that 47% for and 41% against, and NHK's survey in the same year shows that 30% for and 22% against. As for organ transplants, the number of rejection gets lower, 5-25% (Nakayama 1992).
Here researchers fall into chaos. No one has succeeded in presenting a clear-cut theory that explains the gap between the result of opinion surveys and the loud negative voices which have repeatedly erupted at the time of the establishment of brain-death criteria(1985), guidelines for human death by Japan Medical Association(1987), and the transplantation bill this time. Public opinion surveys must be one of the basic data for bioethical discussion, but I cannot help thinking that the method of ordinary opinion survey may have crucial limitations when it comes to the matters of "life" and "death."
My personal communications with the people concerned show that many feel that organ transplants from brain-dead donors will be resumed sooner or later, and will continue to be performed in a comparatively small scale. But before that we will have to try to destroy the existing "closed-door medicine." Without that, transplantation will never get real public support.
As I wrote above, Japanese society is now accepting "Western" biomedicine and bioethics movement. Probably the modernization process in Japanese society will go further, but as to "individualism" and "autonomy," Japanese society will never reach an U.S.-like civil society. I think future Japanese society will be similar to that of south and/or east European countries. In this sense, bioethical guidelines from Europe will be well fitted to Japan for the coming few decades.
Let us turn to the level of discourses. Here we have to look again at the "cultural factor" arguments I cited in the section three. Yonemoto, Namihira, Kaji, and Umehara stressed that there is a unique feature, specific to Japanese culture,and this unique feature creates a strong barrier against transplantation. However, in spite of the apparent persuasiveness of their arguments, their theories need further social scientific investigations to confirm their statements. For example, some people say the Japanese view of the dead person's body is unique, but many of them just compare Japanese folklore and "Western" ones, and draw their conclusions. However, in order to conclude that Japanese view is unique, one have to demonstrate that it is different from those of all countries outside the "West," and at the same time look closely inside the "West" to examine whether there are exceptions among Western countries. Some people say East Asia is unique. In that case they have to do the same painstaking research outside and inside East Asia.
Instead, I want to pay attention to the reason why such cultural factor arguments had power in Japan's bioethical discourses. These arguments really have had power in the world of discourse; for instance, the media picked them up repeatedly, and their books sold well in spite that they were academic ones. Again I want to stress that having power in the world of discourse is one thing, and whether the ordinary people believe them is another. This is a very important point. Discourse is a tool of persuasion in a sense. It's like a mirror that reflects an ideal figure which you want to put to yourself.
I correlate this with "national identity." I said earlier that bioethics movement can be seen as a kind of "modernization." For Japan, and many other Asian countries, this is a movement came from the "West." Hence, for these Asian countries, modernization and Westernization are the opposite sides of the same coin. In Japan, such modernization processes began in the late 19th century, and she succeeded in catch up with Western [89/90] countries by the 1970s. And in the 1980s and 90s, the remaining closed door was opened; the medical world started to be modernized under the flag of "informed consent" and "patients' rights." Brain-death and transplantation can also be understood as modernization in the field of medicine.
The point is that this modernization came from the outside. This fact let people feel that their culture and the basic social systems are being forcibly modified, if I use a stronger word, raped by the "West." It is easy to imagine what do these people with such a victim consciousness try to do. They would seek from Japanese culture some sacred cultural-units which are considered to be so unique that even the strong "Western" power cannot overwhelm them. And they guard these cultural-units against the modernization, regarding them as sacred tools for maintaining national identity. In the brain-death debates, "the Japanese view of the dead person's body," " the Japanese view of the next world," and "Buddhist and/or Confucian and/or Shinto tradition" were among the sacred cultural-units.
I think this is one of the important reasons why the cultural factor arguments were so popular in the world of discourse in Japanese bioethics, in spite that some of them lacked objective data. In connection to this, Hyakudai Sakamoto's declaration of East Asian Bioethics shares this sentiment (Sakamoto 1995). He says that "though we should learn from Euro-American bioethics much more, "our bioethics" should be based on our own culture, and, therefore, it should be somewhat different from the Euro-American ones. (p.2)" In this case, something unique is enlarged from Japan to East Asia, and he thinks that should not be modified by Euro-American bioethics. He did not think profoundly what is "we" and "our own culture" in such a vast region with various religious and economic backgrounds. It is not fruitful to use "Japan/West" or "East Asia/West" framework when discussing international bioethics. As Helen Hardacre writes, "it is no more true that everyone in the West considers their existence principally in terms of the autonomous self questing for release from the prison of relations with other people than everyone in Japan is so mired in sticky relationships that they have no access to a consciousness of personal identity. (Hardacre 1994)"
However, this kind of cultural factor arguments might be a typical response when Asian countries accept "Western" bioethics. When Japan started to accept European civilization in the late 19th century, Japanese intellectuals advocated the importance of the attitude, "Western technique but Japanese spirit." Similar words "Western technique but Chinese spirit" were found in China at the same period. This time, at the end of 20th century, similar phenomena might be seen again in some Asian countries simultaneously.
When I first studied bioethics in the mid-1980s, I was once possessed with the "our bioethics" syndrome just as Sakamoto has. But now I refuse that idea because it has danger of bringing about evil (enlarged) nationalism, and because it conceals diversity inside "our culture" and diversity inside our own minds.
I have been showing the negative side of the cultural factor arguments. However, I don't necessarily think that cultural factor arguments are senseless. On the contrary, if we interpret them as an attempt to criticize modern scientific civilization in which all the people in the advanced countries, including Japan, are now dwelling, we can get fruitful insights from them.
For example, some of these arguments stress that the essence of human being resides not only in his/her brain, but also in every part of the body, therefore, the idea that brain-death equals human death can not be true in a certain context. Of course their arguments are not so strictly constructed, but if we take this theory seriously and develop it philosophically, it may have the possibility of criticize the very basis of contemporary civilization which is inclined to see humans only as a reasoning and calculating machine made up of brain's complicated neuron-networks.
Advanced countries, particularly the United States, are trying to construct broad transplantation networks, aiming at recycling all the possible organs and tissues from brain-dead donors. In this system, I must say, these organs and tissues are going to be regarded as mere exchangeable bodily parts -- just as cogwheels inside a clock. And this kind of social system might someday lead us to a more inhumane society in which every person is regarded as an exchangeable cogwheel of the total social system (Morioka 1994). In 1980s, brain-dead human bodies were used for medical experiments in the U.S., France, and Japan (Akabayashi & Morioka 1991). This is a logical result from the idea brain-death equals human death. We have to have an imagination to see what will be waiting for us at the end of this road. Hans Jonas once presented similar criticism (see Jonas 1980). I believe time has come to reconsider the mainstream biomedicine, as Jonas did more than 20 years ago.
When interpreted as critics against civilization, the cultural factor arguments will be sure to provide us precious materials for thinking about our future. Bioethics includes not only making sound guidelines but also thinking about the future course of our society and civilization.
* A former and shorter version of this paper was presented at the XIXth International Congress of History of Science, 22-29 August 1993, Zaragoza.
Akabayashi, A. and
Morioka, M., 1991,"Ethical Issues Raised by Medical Use of Brain-Dead Bodies
in the 1990s," Biolaw 2-48:S531-538.
COML,1990 = Newsletter COML vol.1, Consumer Organization of Medicine and Law (Iryo Jinken Center), Osaka. (In Japanese)
Hardache, H. "Response of Buddhism and Shinto to the issue of brain death and organ transplant", Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 3 (1994), 585-601.
Hoshino,K.1993, "Why Many Japanese do not Accept 'Brain death' as a Definition of Death", Bioethics 7 (1993), 234-238.
Jonas, H., Philosophical Essays. University of Chicago Press 1980.
Kaji,N.,1990 Jukyo towa Nani ka (What is Confucianism?). Tokyo:Chuoh Koron Sha, Chuko Shinsho.(In Japanese)
Kimura,R.,1987 Inochi o Kangaeru (Thinking about Inochi). Tokyo:Nihon Hyoron Sha.(In Japanese)
Lock,M. and Honde,C.,1990 "Reaching Consensus about Death: Heart Transplants and Cultural Identity in Japan" in Weisz,G.(ed.) Social Science Perspectives on Medical Ethics. Philadelphia:University of Pennsylvania Press, pp.99-119.
Macer, D. "The far east of biological ethics", Nature 359 (1992), 770.
Macer,D.,1993 "What Can Bioethics Offer to Japanese Culture?" Nichibunken Newsletter 15:3-6.
Miyaji, N., 1994, "Kokuchi o Meguru Nihon no Ishi no Shiseikan, Kohen (Japanese Doctor's Attitudes toward Life and Death as Related to Their Truth-telling to Dying Patients, Part 2)" Taaminarukea 4-6: 497-504. (In Japanese)
Morioka,M.,1988 Seimei Gaku eno Shotai (Invitation to the Study of Life). Tokyo:Keiso Shobo. (In Japanese)
Morioka,M.,1989 Noshi no Hito (Brain Dead Persons). Tokyo:Tokyo Shoseki.(In Japanese)
Morioka,M.,1991 "The Concept of Inochi: A Philosophical Perspective on the Study of Life" Japan Review 2:83-115. Also reprinted in Global Bioethics 6 (1), 83-115 (1993).
Morioka,M., 1994, Seimeikan o Toinaosu (Reconsidering the Idea of Life). Tokyo:Chikuma Shobo. (In Japanese)
Nakayama,K., 1992, Shiryo ni Miru Noshi Zokiishoku Mondai (The data book for Japan's brain-death and organ transplants debates). Tokyo: Nihon Hyoron Sha. (In Japanese)
Nakajima,M.,1985 Mienai Shi (Invisible Death). Tokyo: Bungei Shunju Sha.
Nakajima,M.,1992 "Mienai Shi no Rippoka wa Dekinai (Legislating Invisible Death is Impossible)" in Umehara,T.(ed.) Noshi to Zoki Ishoku (Brain Death and Transplantation). Tokyo:Asahi Shimbun Sha, 1992, pp.266-283.(In Japanese)
Namihira,E.,1988 Noshi Zoki Ishoku Gan Kokuchi (Brain Death, Transplantation, and Revealing a Diagnosis of Cancer). Tokyo:Fukutake Shoten. (In Japanese)
Network, 1994, Inochi to Inochi no Aida de (Between Life and Life). Tokyo:Baobabu Sha. (In Japanese)
Nudeshima,J.,1991 Noshi Zoki Ishoku to Nihon Shakai (Brain Death, Transplantation, and Japanese Society) Tokyo:Kobundo.(In Japanese); see also Nudeshima, J., Lancet 338 (1991), 1063-4.
Sakamoto,H., 1995, "New Initiatives in East Asian Bioethics," EJAIB 5 (1995), 2.
Tachibana,T.,1986 Noshi (Brain Death). Tokyo: Chuoh Koron Sha.(In Japanese)
Umehara,T.,1990 "Noshi, Sokuratesu no To wa Hantai Suru (Opposition to the Idea of Brain Death: A Philosopher's Point of View)" in Umehara,T.(ed.) Noshi to Zoki Ishoku (Brain Death and Transplantation). Tokyo: Asahi Shimbun Sha, 1992, pp.207-236. (In Japanese)
Yonemoto,S.,1985, Baioeshikkusu (Bioethics). Tokyo: Kodan Sha, Gendai Shinsho.(In Japanese)
Yonemoto,S.,1987, "Seimei Kagaku to Hotetsugaku o Musubu Tameni (A Way of Bridging Life Sciences with Philosophy of Law)" pp.10-17. in Nagao, R. & Yonemoto,S. (eds.) Meta Baioeshikkusu (Meta-Bioethics). Tokyo:Nihon Hyoron Sha, (In Japanese)
Yonemoto,S.,1988, Sentan Iryo Kakumei (Revolution in High-tech Medicine). Tokyo:Chuoh Koron Sha.(In Japanese)
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I first got to know the terrorist attacks when reading a post from an American person uploaded on a message board. I watched TV all over the night. The scene shocked me. Then I heard President Bush saying, "Make no mistake: The United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts." I was again shocked by Bush's words, "hunt down and punish." My first reaction was that if the United States hunts down and punishes those terrorists abroad, then this means a kind of personal punishment by the US, not an act of justice that should be achieved by the international community. American news media started talking about retaliation and war under the name of "justice."
I did not agree with the terrorists, but at the same time, I did not agree with the statement that the US should strike back the terrorists and the countries that would harbor them. On Sep.14, a Japanese translation of a statement, written by some of the US staff members of War Resisters League [Eng], was delivered to my email box by an unknown person. They were saying, "Let us seek an end of the militarism that has characterized this nation for decades. Let us seek a world in which security is gained through disarmament, international cooperation, and social justice not through escalation and retaliation. We shall live in a state of fear and terror or we shall move toward a future in which we seek peaceful alternatives to violence, and a more just distribution of the world's resources." This statement uttered by the US citizens moved me a lot.
On Sep.17, another email was delivered to me. It was a Japanese translation of a letter from Greg Nees, former U.S. Marine Sergeant, to the President of the US. He said in his letter, "I beg you, let not one more innocent life---American, Israeli, Palestinian, Afghan or any other---be lost. ...... What right can we claim that allows us to take more innocent lives? Is that not also a form of terrorism? Will we rise above the level of those who attacked us?" [Eng] This letter again moved me. I am running a Japanese website, Life Studies Homepage, which is one of the most visited academic site here. I thought of making a special page for gathering information about the WTC attack and the retaliation by the US. One of the reasons was that I couldn't find any information in Japanese newspapers about anti-war movements in the US, hence that people here probably did not know them. Another reason was that I wanted to know how netizens here and abroad thought about it.
I surfed around the net and found out that there had already been some Japanese websites especially for the WTC attack. All of them were anti-war websites. They were collecting articles saying "No" to terrorism and retaliation. They were frustrated by the fact that Japanese mass media only copied and pasted the articles in US newspapers and CNN, and did not present their own analyses on this event. Actually, it took lots of time until mass media recognized the pile of rich information and links on the Japanese anti-war websites.
The majority of Japanese netizens' websites on the WTC attack was created to present their objections both to terrorism and to retaliation. They paste the words such as "love and peace" and John Lenon's lyrics,"Imagine," on their homepages to show their attitudes toward retaliation and war. Probably the WTC attack reminded many netizens of two tragic events in Japanese history: atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and Hanshin Awaji Earthquake in 1995. The former killed more than 300 thousand ordinary citizens. And the latter killed 5000 people, which was nearly equal to the number of WTC victims. The main characteristic of these two events was that the lives of many people were taken "instantaneously," very similar to the event on Sep.11 in the NYC. One was made by US forces, and the other was mainly by natural phenomenon. We know two "instantaneous tragedies" in our history, and this time we watched one more instantaneous killing of 5000 people in NYC. When I heard Bush's words "hunt down and punish," I automatically and naturally imagined those who would be killed by high-tech attacks by US forces in Afghanistan. I presume such sentiments lie under the anti-war websites in Japan as well.
Global Peace Campaign was one of the earliest websites protesting against retaliation [Eng/Jp]. They received a letter from Greg Nees, mentioned above, and planned to publish his anti-war letter as a full-page ad in New York Times. They started a fund-raising campaign through their website just after the WTC event. For only two or three weeks, more than 100,000 dollars were donated. Finally, together with Veterans for Peace, USA, they gathered enough money for the ad, and the letter from Greg Nees was published in New York Times, Section A, page 23, Oct.9 [Eng]. 47% of total givers contributed from Japan, and 44% from the USA. They are now planning to publish another ad in Los Angeles Times.
Their website has both Japanese and English pages. They have some volunteer staff members for translating Japanese articles into English. The Japanese pages contain messages from the staff, lots of voices from the readers, and links. There was a message board, but it was closed because "flaming" occurred among the participants over the topic. I want to show one of the examples later.
Another earliest group was Give-Peace-a-Chance.jp, which started its peace walk campaign just after the WTC event [Eng/Jp]. They gathered citizens through their website and walked around the Shibuya area, downtown Tokyo, calling for peace. A series of peace walks and other campaigns succeeded around Japan . Many volunteers got together to make their website as a networking base for Japanese anti-war movements. Their website has a list of ongoing peace walks and other campaigns in Japanese and English. They also created a digital yellow ribbon image for peace and put on their homepage. Their site has a list of projects, links to the major anti-war sites, a mailing list, and messages from the readers. [See other campaigns Eng]
Alternative Mailing List [Jp], run by JCA-NET [Eng/Jp], an independent website for grass roots activities, played a key role for sharing information inside and outside Japan on this event. Just after the attack, members started to post a lot of information. For example, ant-war statements from the International Action Center and the Green Party of the United States were posted on Sep.12; the latter was the Japanese translation from the original text. The Japanese translation of a statement from War Resisters League, cited above, was posted there on Sep.13. A plenty of information, including anti-war rallies and meetings, came to this mailing list, and then spread out into the net.
Among the earliest there were several links-oriented sites. One of the characteristics of Japanese anti-war websites would be that they have lots of related links not only inside Japan, but toward around the world. They surf around the web and find important articles and messages in English and/or other languages, then sometimes translate them into Japanese for a very short period of time. We exchange the information on message boards and/or mailing lists. We have some automatic translation software programs on the net, but they do not work well, hence we have to translate by ourselves.
Prema21net is a good example of this [Jp]. "Prema" means "love" in Sanskrit. It contains a plenty of information and links. Among them are: Japanese translation of the Statement of Rep. Barbara Lee on the floor of the House of Representatives Sept. 14, 2001, a letter calling for peace written by parents whose son was killed on Sep.11, an anti-war statement by Korean 533 groups for calling peace, a message from Dalai Lama, donation list for WTC victims and refugees in Afghanistan, and many other important sites. Other examples are Japan Catholic Council for Justice and Peace [Jp], Tetsuro Kato's Imagine [Eng/Jp], and a special page for WTC attack in my Japanese website for Life Studies [Jp]. Gen Nakayama's Chronique Philosophique is an interesting site that periodically uploads Japanese translations of related articles written by scholars such as Susan Sontag, Samuel Huntington, Jacques Derrida, Edward Said, Giorgio Agamben, and so on [Jp].
Many activist groups and academic associations published statements objecting to terrorism and retaliation. More than 60 statements appeared in September [See the list Eng/Jp]. For example, a group of 31 people, including well-known writers, journalists, professors, activists, and religious persons, announced the statement, "We oppose the U.S. war of retaliation and request the Japanese government to retract its support for this war" on Sep.18 (English translation:Sep.22) [Eng/Jp]. They said in this statement that they were shocked by the terrorist attack and they did object to this crime. But they were alike shocked by the US attitudes to this event, that is to say, meeting an act of terrorism with a full-scale war. "The perpetrators and accomplices of this crime should be brought to justice under the international laws and tried and punished by an international criminal court set up by the United Nations." Hence, they "strongly oppose this call for war and ask the Bush administration to immediately retract it." What they really fear is to "bring the whole world into an infinite chain reaction of violence and hatred." They represent the sentiments most Japanese netizens share toward the terrorist attacks and the succeeding events.
Some grassroots activists were working as volunteers in Afghanistan before the event. Dr. Tetsu Nakamura, the director of Peshawar-kai, was among them [Jp]. He went to Afghanistan in 1984 as a physician, and began supporting Afghan people from 1986. Every year he treats 200 thousand people in Afghanistan. In addition to that, he and his staff have dug some hundred wells for providing fresh water. As a result of their effort, local Afghan people now have special feelings toward Japanese. Dr. Nakamura and his staff are now in Afghanistan, transporting a plenty of food into the area. His messages are being uploaded on some Japanese websites from time to time. Because his voices are sent directly to Japan, they sometimes convey precious information the international mass media never reports. Peshawar-kai is gathering funds for transporting food into Afghan on their website.
Almost all of the Japanese websites concerning the WTC attack were ones that express compassion toward the victims and their families, and object both to terrorism and to retaliation. They cast doubt on Bush's statements on war against Taliban and air raids on Afghanistan. However, on their message boards, there were posted-messages that supported the US government policy. For example, a series of posts were made on the massage board of Global Peace Campaign insisting that their campaign was a kind of hypocrisy and it would have no effect on terrorism. One of the posts stated that people of the campaign were using the words "love and peace," but only chanting the words would not produce anything. "All you do is the same old anti-American movement aroused by jealousy against the prosperous America. It is the USA that protects the order of the world and our abundant life in this country. Can you abandon our present affluent standard of living? You are in the state of "peace senility (heiwa boke)." It is more effective to teach Arab people the supremacy of liberalism, democracy, and capitalism than such a peace ad in the newspaper." [Jp]
Another post said, "Please do not scatter the illusory idea that repeating "peace" and "stop the war" will really stop the war. This time the victim was the USA, so please do not criticize American policy or American mass media. Please do not readily conclude from a one-sided perspective that this war means retaliation." [Jp] Generally speaking, a heated debate occurs over this kind of opinion, and it sometimes changes into "flaming" on a message board. In this case, too, such flaming occurred during the period of fund-raising campaign.
The opinions of these critics have a small piece of truth, especially concerning the narcissism in the peace movement, but in general, I disagree with them about the effectiveness of a peace ad in newspapers. Even if the anti-war voices outside the US may grow stronger, the Bush administration would think of them as a "threat" from people in foreign countries. We need to support the peace activities inside the US, and help melt the masculine idea of the administration from within. This is one of the most effective ways of disarm the country that is dominating the world by military force and economic power.
Anyway, anti-war websites, their message boards, and mailing lists played an important role for connecting people who were seeking information that did not appear in newspapers or on TV. It seems to me that a completely different air was flowing on the net. Through a discussion on the net, we learned that we should distinguish US policy from ordinary American people when criticizing retaliation because it is natural for an ordinary person to have the emotion of revenge after such a tragedy, but the government's foreign policy should not be based solely on the pile of people's such emotions.
It is worth noting that a person got angry on a message board saying that American TV hosts frequently referred to "pearl harbor," "kamikaze attack," and "Hiroshima" as if the terrorist attacks had some connections to Japanese history and culture. Another person was also angry that an American TV reporter said the ground zero was just like Hiroshima. In Hiroshima more than 300 thousand ordinary citizens were killed and many others have continued suffering nuclear disease up to the present, compared with some thousand victims in NYC. People in Hiroshima must have had some complex feelings when hearing the reporter's words. Did the reporter have the imagination of taking the viewpoint of the citizens in Hiroshima when he/she stood on a new ground zero in NYC? Another thing that struck me was that bin Laden talked of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Al Jazeera. I had never imagined that the names of Japanese cities might come out of his mouth. I couldn't help imagining a ghost of the miserable 20th century filled with wars, retaliations, and corpses.
in the 21st century should tackle the issues of war, retaliation, and the chain
of violence in the world, together with the problems of life and death in our affluent
Sample(3) what is life studies
1. What is life studies?
Life studies means holistic and transdisciplinary approaches to contemporary issues concerning life, death, and nature in our civilization. It includes philosophy of life, bioethics, environmental ethics, and criticism of modern civilization at its core. The primary concern is how to live in this chaotic society without regret. (We are not a pro-life Christian group. See Ch.3 below.)
Life studies has three characteristics, namely,
a) Deep understanding of the meaning of life, death, and the natural environment. Deep understanding of the nature of modern civilization we are in.
b) Expansion of our scope towards various social issues concerning life. Vivid pleasure of free thinking escaped from limitations of disciplines.
c) Combination of academic research and our own real life, which leads us to wisdom for living our own life without regret.
Life studies criticizes
inner desires to live a comfortable life as long as possible
* the social systems that enable us to pursue those desires
* our self-deception that turns our eyes away from the dark side of our mind
* scientific technology and capitalism that provide us transient pleasure and superficial freedom
* modern civilization, especially that of North America and Japan, which kills our wisdom
possibility of renaissance of philosophy instead of
dying armchair bioethics and academic philosophy (pile of dried-up
* the possibility of post-religious spirituality that may help us live a real life in this chaotic society.
Life studies is an open-ended program, in which people who do not satisfy existing disciplines, such as bioethics, environmental philosophy, contemporary sociology and clinical psychology, join and discuss to create a new way of understanding our life and civilization. I think of life studies as a research program similar to women's studies, disability studies, and peace studies.
I have been
researching on life studies for more than 10 years, and have published several
books (See List of Books). We are going to translate them into English little by
little, so you will be able to see the outline in the near future (See English
Translation Project). I hope to communicate with people with similar interests
and goals. Let us create life studies research network on the web.
2. The Declaration of Life Studies: Six Proposals (rough draft)
This is a rough draft. I am going to rewrite it and publish somewhere.
Declaration of Life Studies: Six Proposals
Nov.19, 2000 by Masahiro Morioka (International Network for Life Studies)
Life studies is a kind of vivid movement of our wisdom in which we contemplate the reality of our life and death, struggle against our inner desire, and try to find a way of resolving contemporary issues such as genetic technologies that may deeply manipulate human life, the exploitation against the natural environment and our own bodies, the psychological crisis of younger generations, and many other problems we ourselves have created through the centuries.
Note: In this sense, I object to contemporary American style bioethics. This is the main reason I chose the word life studies instead of bioethics in my first book, An Invitation to the Study of Life. Life studies has close relation to feminism, disability studies, deep ecology, philosophical counseling, and civilization studies.2. Criticism of modern civilization
Further note on science and wisdom 1).
Note: Bioethics often lacks this kind of criticism. I tried to figure out the essence of brain death through the criticism of modern civilization and modern science in my book, Brain Dead Person, and several essays, for example, Bioethics and Japanese Culture, and Two Aspects of Brain Dead Being.3. Meaning of life
Note: The important thesis of life studies is that in order to understand the deep structure of contemporary civilization we must first gaze at and reconsider one's own life and self in its everyday reality. I pursued this topic in my book, How to live in a Post-religious Age.4. Relationship and irreplaceability
Further note on reconsidering ones own self 2).
Note: I think that environmental issues and philosophy of life & death should be considered from this perspective. The philosophy of relationship and irreplaceability was introduced in my paper The Concept of Inochi(Life). See also chapter 1 "Brain Death as a form of Human Relationships" of Brain Dead Person.5. Reconsideration of desire, violence, freedom, and spirituality
Note: This is the main task of life studies researchers. The problems of new eugenics, environmental ethics, youngsters psychological emptiness, etc. can not be solved without reconsideration of these concepts. I discussed them in my book, Reconsidering the Idea of Life and a series of essays, Life Torn Apart. Recently, I examined them in my new book, Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics. I advocated post-religious spirituality in my book, How to live in Post-religious Age. I do not aim to deny religion by the words, post-religious spirituality. I wish to have dialogue between life studies and religious wisdom based on mutual respect.6. Support from a distance
Note: The aim of this site is not to found an association of life studies or something, but to help people support each other spiritually from a distance, that is to say, to encourage those who are struggling every day, living apart & alone on this planet. This was the main theme of my book, How to live in Post-religious Age. Instead of founding an association, I hope to create life studies research network on the web.Further notes:
Further note on my writings 3).
2) The first step of life studies is to reconsider one's own self. By the word "self" I mean his/her way of thinking, living, feeling, and existing, that is to say, what you are actually doing in everyday life. You must gaze at your real existence that you have skillfully concealed from yourself and never want to look at. In this process your self will be dismantled, and whole your existence will start transforming itself. Then you will be ready to reconsider your actual way of life, social systems that you are involved in, and modern civilization with scientific technologies. Our way of thinking and living must be changed. Life studies is the wisdom that supports our attempts to change ourselves and our civilization.
ideas of life studies were best described in my book, How to live in a
Post-religious Age, Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics, and a
series of essays, Mutsu Bunmeiron, which are to be published as a book in
the near future. I am going to translate and upload these works. Bioethics and
which have been the main subjects of my academic research, are only
subcategorizes of life studies. I do not think of life studies as armchair philosophy, a professional
discipline of science, or religion in a new fashion. Life studies is more like a
kind of activities that directly give us the meaning of life & death in this post-religious
society that is deeply influenced by scientific technology.