Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4 Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
Readers can probably tell from my June 18 letter “Japan’s censorship culture” that I have a fairly liberal, laissez-faire attitude toward information and knowledge.
Not wanting to stray too far from the themes and ideas of Yoshio Hayashi’s June 1 letter “Keep quiet on comfort women,” which I was responding to, I want to compare my attitude toward information with his. Like many adults, I suppose that Hayashi may feel that, as an adult, he has a rightful duty to“guide” youth along a proper path to maturity in society, and that this duty extends to “handling” what information is presented to the young, as well as the format of its presentation.
I have long and strongly maintained that this is an error-laced notion. My attitude is that information and knowledge about comfort women or anything else should be unregulated, uncontrolled, totally free and open. This is a necessary concession to the forces of anarchy to help preserve and maintain our maximum leeway to err, a condition that is very necessary to morally and existentially authentic existence.
Without having maximum leeway to err, the virtue and vice of the decisions and behaviors we choose in life are diminished. If we do not have the freedom to err then what does it profit us to chooser to act virtuously and morally? In short, it doesn’t profit us. If we have no opportunity to err, if we have no choice but to act virtuously then the moral value of that virtue is diminished and deserves suspicion.
Japanese conservatives who reject the inclusion of information about comfort women in school textbooks are reacting to the fact the Japan’s government, military, and supporting society were caught red-handed committing evil. The truth hurts.
Finally, it seems that we may pose the proposition that no person should judge the propriety of information. In fact, quite the opposite. To a great extent (but not completely) it is knowledge and information that should judge the propriety of people. Knowledge will tell us who is lying to us and who is scheming and deceiving. Knowledge, in the hands of our human reason, will reveal to us the folly of the foolish and the banality of the evil. Knowledge will guide us along the road of right better than ignorance, and with it we can arm ourselves against error.
Perhaps it comes down to the old axiom: If you shoot for the stars you may fail to attain them, but you will certainly land higher up. This limiting or unduly controlling information is an inappropriate hindrance to our humanity.
Published on Sunday, June 29, 1997 as “Laissez-faire policy beats censorship.”
Yoshio Hayashi strikes me as probably an old man form a different age who thinks that children ought to “keep quiet” in school and simply absorb what the teacher says, like rain from heaven. Even if he isn’t so, a position like that is something that I just can’t be quiet about. The topic of how Japan teaches its history - especially its modern history - is a battlefield of culture warfare in Japan, liberals and consrvatives fighting it out over textbooks comparable to the fight over science textbooks and school curricula in America between conservative Christians advocating “Creation Science” and secular or atheist scientists espousing straight Darwinian evolution. I believe in knowledge. In the case of American conservative and evangelical Christians “Creation Science” does not amount to proper knowledge. It’s pseudo science. Often I think that the thing to do in American schools is not so much teach correct science as to teach
students how to properly identify pseudo science, like Creationism, or astrology, or fraudulent medical ‘news’ foisted on