By Brian Small at Mar 30, 2009
It seems like when you talk with comfortable people in Japan (employed males or guys in general) - they all think they're Samurai. It must be the education and media covering wars and generals instead of taking a Howard Zinn approach learning from history. Why would you respect samurai more than Shozo Tanaka aof the Meiji Period? I heard that he gave up his house, belongings and position as a Diet member to live with victims of Copper Mining Pollution. (blog blurb) He sounded like Ghandi or a secular version of the 'Christian pantheist' Saint Francis of Assisi. Shozo also got Shusui Kotoku to write a petition to the emperor to rescue the farmers in the area. How can such a large percentage of people, even day workers apparently (heard from an anthropologist years ago) think they're Samurai Descendents?
Even progressive, Quaker peace guys in the States seem impressed with Samurai. If you mention they seem like fuedal SWAT teams you get 'Ah, but they wrote poetry.' Well you can see Ranger school graduate and veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq war guys on The Daily Show pushing books too.
Peasants paying rice taxes (agemai) during famines were more 80% of the population in Japan in the 1700's. Around 1750 a series of famines were so bad that infanticide was 'widely practiced' so that the population started decreasing. Shoeki Ando got pissed.(Maruyama Masao's Intellectual History of Tokugawa Japan pp. 252-253 translated by Mikiso Hane)
The peasants, he reflected, were the producers of the "five cereals" without which no one could survive even for a day. And yet their living conditions had become so desperate that they had to abandon their own new-born babies. What had created this situation? Was it not the fact that there was an unproductive class of consumers who expropriated the products of the peasants's labor without themselves doing any work, that is, engaging in what Shoeki called "direct cultivation"(chokko) Chief among these were the samurai. "The gentlemen-scholars (shi) are the warriors. The ruler has under him the warriors. They greedily consume the grain the people produce by direct cultivation. If anyone resists, the overwhelming force of teh warriors is used to arrest him. They behave in this way becaus they are robbing the world of nature and fear taht they might be objects of attack by others," Suppose there were no warriors in the world. The peasants would survive as peasants as before....But what if tables were reversed? Without peasants, clearly the samurai, who depend on their taxes would instantly fall into desperat straits. The peasants are thus, for the warriors, "the fathers who support them." And yet, the samurai is not only unashamed to treat his "fathers" disrespectfully, he also calls what he does benevolent rule" and behaves as if he were the benefactor of the people...." (p. 253)
What he found more amazing was the fact that not one of the Confucian scholars or religious figures who talked about "saving the world" and "aiding the people" had pointed out this glaring contradiction. This was because theese Confucian scholars and religious figures were themselves, like the warriors, "greedy consumers who do not cultivate the soil."(26) Going even further, Shoeki wondered if their teachings themselves might not have contained ideological elements tolerating this nonproductive consumption from the start. With this question in mind he examined the thought of past Confucians, Buddhists, Taoists, followers of Chuang Tsu, Shintoists , and others. Despite the great variations these schools of thought exhibited, he found they had something fundamental in common: they all accepted as their basic premise a relationship between laborers who are governed and governors who live off their labor; in other words, they agreed with Mencius that "he who is governed mus support others. He who governs must be supported by others."... (pp253-254)
Makes me think of Joel Salatin with forgiveness ('resilience' over 'efficiency' in new eco-business mimicry speak) and Wes Jackson taking 'nature as the Measure." He's hard on religion, the teachings and message. I wonder if he gave certain individuals special discompensation, like humanist Kurt Vonnegut insisting that Jesus said some great things, Presidents should try listening. Wes Jackson writes of St. Francis of Assisi complex view of nature and in Becoming Native to this Place. And William Jennings Bryant gives us St. Phocas as Fertilizer with his hospitable gardent. Though the 'direct cultivation' of Europe's witches that came before in Michael Pollans Botany of Desire might be more to Shoeki's liking. Do you know where the image of witches flying on broomsticks came from?