Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-023
I hate the phrase “restore the public’s trust.” It is too much over-cooked gobbledygook and I’d rather eat nails than hear it one more time. Lamenting the threat to or decline in the public’s trust in politics is one of those stock phrases that are rehashed whenever politicians write articles for the Opinion page and they want to discredit the newest administration by questioning and challenging the conditions under which the government is seen to operate. I don’t notice professional journalist using the phrase, only politicians and former politicians. Former Vice Minister of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (a bureaucratic office, not a political one) Shinji Fukukawa did exactly this in his September 16 essay “New prime minister must restore confidence in politics.” Not only is it one of the many polite fictions of society, but it is a stupid one at that, and I’m burning with enthusiasm to help Mr. Fukukawa get it into his head.
Fukukawa is now the president of a research institute and no longer in government, thank goodness. Purely in the spirit of human brotherly love, I want him to understand that 1) No one trusts politicians. No one ever did. Not in this country, anyway. 2) No one respects them. And, 3) no one even likes them very much. Politicians, especially Japanese politicians, are more akin to a nasty misfortune that we unavoidably must endure, like hemorrhoids.
Of course, I could be wrong. But I’m not.
Published on Thursday, September 29, 2011 as “Ban this intolerable stock phrase.”
The first weak point here, of course, is that I might be accused of confusing distrust of “politics” with distrust of politicians. Okay. I’m not unaware of it.
The same might be said of the police, that no one trusts them to begin with, so calls to “restore public trust” in the police are wrongly-based. It’s true that we hear this expression uncommonly often.