SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English
CHAN Ya-hsun “Pandemic・Global Civil-War・Kōtoku Shūsui”
My research life started from the book “Teikoku-shugi (imperialism)” written by Kōtoku Shūsui. Now I am facing crisis of critical thinking which fall into a trap from the pandemic. During these two years we have been engulfed by pandemic protectionism, frequent proclamation of emergency and social alienation. And lock-down, slow-down or shut-down based on governance of National borders and sovereign nation continued.
(＊Kōtoku Shūsui：1871-1911, journalist, idealist, anarchist in Meiji-era)
On the other hand, violence of war or civil war broke out beyond geographical borders quietly. The world is paying attention on Russia-Ukraine War. But shadows of war are lurking in Palestine-Yemen, Syria, Ethiopia and Myanmar too. Configuration of war has changed by reason of industrialization and globalization and does not limit to physical attack. Reality of violence which penetrate throughout our daily lives is called as “global civil wars” in modern political thought. Travel restrictions is extensive during the pandemic, people may consider easily that the situation of other countries or areas have nothing to do with them. We are now in state of social isolation which does not limit to the presence of human beings and may not be able to imagine the reality of global civil wars.
“Teikoku-shugi” which was published in the early 1900’s seems to respond to the pandemic and global civil wars in 2020’s. Koutoku Shuusui alerted modern imperialism saying that patriotic disease germs would spread in society and imperialistic plague would be transmitted into the world. And those would destroy civilization of 20th century. When this book was written, people in Japan were panicking over plague especially in the year of the Rat (Nezumi doshi). He used metaphor between disease germ and plague. It is outstanding that he made out psychological mechanism of imperialism through interrogation of patriotism. Violent behavior named patriotism precipitate mentality of hatred and entanglement toward the others. He says that tendency of discrimination or attack others by reasons of “non-patriots or traitors” deepen internal struggle consequently. Under such situation, people discriminate and attack others by patriotic reasons like “they are non-patriots or traitors”. He writes also that such situation bring rivalry among citizens of the world which they are unable to have no enemies, unable to have no hatred and unable to have no wars”.
“Teikoku-shugi” is an alert for pandemic which leads to the end war or civil war in worldwide scale by imperialism boom. This book has been gathering people’s attention for a while. During Russo-Japanese War (1904-05), Kōtoku Shūsui dared to stick to pacifism and trans-national solidarity. But he had a terrible time with coteries of Heimin (commoners)-sha (publisher of “Heimin Shinbun” (commoners’ newspaper)) and circulation of Heimin Shinbun dropped sharply because of oppressions of the authorities and abandonment by readers. Kōtoku Shūsui who fought against “patriot disease germ” and “imperialistic plaque” ended his life ten years after publishment of “Teikoku-shugi”. He has been monitored by the authorities and put into jail. Then he exiled himself. His last tragedy was frame-up of the “High Treason Incident” (Kōtoku Jiken). It is said that he incurred hatred for the administration. But we cannot overlook his social isolation which came from social atmosphere for patriotism. He was treated as an unpatriotic person. The administration crushed dissent voice using High Treason Incident as an excuse. It was an abuse of the administration and start of the tendency of civil war. What they could not stop was an abuse reflected the limits of social solidarity.
His sharp association to patriotic structure and world-wide war or civil war is essential even now. I do not say “Teikoku-shugi” can make sense in modern age, and we must find our own solution basing on present situation. Under the present pandemic, though we do not say difficult decision or strategic operation, people understand vaccine nationalism or closure of national borders which are nationalistic or protectionism and is the only solution. There are a lot of issues which should be solved, and trance-national solidarity is becoming weaker now. The issues like conflicts in conflict zones, North-South disparity, gender gap, racial discrimination and refugee issue are becoming more serious together with the world-wide pandemic. It is a present progressive global civil war. You must acknowledge the limitation of traditional and international cooperation system. You must change your stereotype sovereign states. You must seek possibility of borderless social solidarity. Those are basic stance when you face during the COVID-19 era. If you read “Teikoku-shugi” in real time, you will be able to elicit your critical thinking power as the Pandemic-alert.
I hope it will connect to your positive effort.
CHAN Ya-hsun / Doctor’s Course of International Social Science, the University of Tokyo
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Sabina Koirala