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Thinking about coming back to the second largest GDP is stupid!

Japan as “sliding down to the third place”, some specialists say, “Slough off GDP belief!”
Ms. Mie Asaoka (President, Climate Network) says, “You shouldn’t be surprised to hear that P.R. China has come in the second largest GDP in the world.  It is more wonder that Japan having a less population than P.R. China (the population of Japan is one-tenth of that of P.R. China) had been placed above P.R. China until yesterday. The resources of the earth are limited.  There is some doubt whether the economic growth is possible, the same today and forever.  P.R. China has passed the U.S.A. and come in the first largest of CO2 emission in the world.  It goes without saying that the improvement of the efficiency of energies and of the utilization of natural resources has a priority, but more essential is to put an upper limit to the total emission for reduction in earliest stage.

What should we do in JapanJapan has looked for GDP as an index of richness, and the economy chasing the U.S.A. has become extremely impoverished for the last decades and the anxiety due to a severe recession has caused moral decay.  Ms. Asaoka says, “Considering the limitation of the earth, we should look for a new index of richness based on Stock as a substitute for GDP as an index of Flow.  Especially, Japan has failed to have material or immaterial stocks appropriate to the second largest GDP during its period.  Now is the time for chance of investment to goods and cultures that can be passed to the people of next generation and of switch-over to sustainable low-carbon society.”

Mr. Shin-ichi Tsuji (Sponsor of “Namakemono Club (Sloth Club), cultural anthropologist) says, “The more we have, the greater our desire will be.  Actually GDP evaluating the economic growth is a goal into which one seeks to achieve one’s desires.  It’s natural for one believing in GDP to feel blue at the sight of the recession of economy in recent years.”, and talks on, “GDP myth has collapsed in the form of oil depletion, the destruction of nature, moral decay and others.  More GDP, human and nature can endure no more.  I think “Down-shift” from a higher gear is necessary, and a way of life called “localization” that comes from the local society and economy will be suitable for accepting such down-shift.”

Mr. Tsuji mentions foods, energy and spirituality etc. as keywords to realize localization.  To avoid hard landing at the breaking point of (economic) growth, we should go just in the opposite direction to GDP myth oriented direction.  Now in the third place is the time for its chance, and thinking about coming back to the second largest GDP, that’s stupid!

[My Opinion]

I completely agree with their statements as mentioned above.  To my thinking, “Ego” is another key to understand GDP myth.

“Ego” does not allow a human to take things as they are.  Such a nature of Ego as “a perspective of unlimited possibility” has brought changes to our societies and cultures in modern times.  In this respect, it can be said that GDP index is a scale to measure Ego that refers to the economic growth and expansion.

One’s moral or ethics sense has been changed to best advantage owing to Ego.  For instance, Ego allows the appearance of such a parent who feels his/her child as a pain and takes its life, and Ego allows to read out genetic information and attempt the recombination thereof to best advantage of the occasion with little or no forethought. Even God knows nothing about the future.  After all, those matters will be generalized to become a common sense in the times.  In other words, it can be said that a human has distinguished him/her self from other living things owing to Ego.  However, now is the time for a human to pay dearly for distinction to best advantages of long standing, in the form of destruction of ecosystems, moral decay, and so on.

Though somewhat wandering from the above subject, there is a quotation as follows.
“In Japan, I find the presence of such a word equivalent to “Ehrfurcht” (reverence) in German language which word is not present or obsolete in Europe and other states.  This term is unique to Germany, and it has no exact counterpart in English.  In short, this means having a strong will to learn the wisdom of predecessors.  Japan has it!  Because Japan has it, Japanese has a stronger feeling of respect for time-honored tradition and seniors than in Europe.  Regretfully, German has lost it.”
(Magazine “Ongaku-no-Tomo”, Feb. 1975)

This is the quotation of Dr. Kahl Böhm (August 28, 1894 – August 14, 1981), a great Austrian conductor who has visited Japan several times with his loving Vienna Philharmonic for the concert tours in 1970’s.

Needless to say, it can still be observed that the Japanese, especially who lives in the country, has a feeling of the fear of gods (deities) in all things with full respect and reverence at the back of his/her mind.  Nature worship such as worship of deities as believed to control fields of rice and mountains is the wisdom of our (Japanese) predecessors as agricultural peoples.  The wisdom teaches bearing in mind, not going against the dispensation of nature, and always respecting all things.

In religious term, respecting all things leads to a Buddhist self-insight with a philosophy represented by a term “nirvikalpa-jñāna” (old Sanskrit expression) which is translated as “undifferentiated cognition”, which does not mean mere thoughtlessness, but means neither cognition nor non-cognition; its basis is neither thought nor non-thought.... There is here no duality of subject and object. The cognition is not different from that which is cognized, but completely identical with it (cognition beyond such a thesis as whether existence or non-existence).  This thought was introduced into Japan at the same time when Buddhism found its way into Japan about more than 1,000 years ago.

In my opinion, this thought (“undifferentiated cognition”) is an antithesis of Christian dualism (enlightenment of existence or non-existence, cognition or non-cognition) based on differentiation of all things (based on belief in reason, progress, man’s maturity).  “Undifferentiated cognition” is hard to be perceived, but one says that the rock garden of famous “Ryoan-ji (Ryoan temple in Kyoto)” represents this thought (a microcosm of the universe from the human perspective).  Using the same metaphor, it can be said that the front garden of Palace of Versailles is a symbol of Christian dualism (the pursuit of truth in the belief that all things can be deducted into visible and recognizable existence, like geometrical patterns in the Versailles garden).

Rock garden of Ryoan-ji

Garden of Versailles Palace

From my personal point of view, GDP myth resembles the belief in differentiation of things as mentioned above, and the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (and its Agreement) that the Kan Administration is considering seeking the admission is based on the dualism as set forth above.  Kan says “TPP will trigger off the opening of Japan to the world”, and compares it to the U.S. black ships that came to Uraga first in 1853 and compelled the Tokugawa shogunate at that time to abolish the isolationism (and to conclude a one-sided treaty with the U.S.A.).

Black Ships came to Uraga in 1853

Once Japan becomes a member state of TPP, the strict dualism will force Japanese (especially peoples who engage in the primary industry, e.g., agriculture, fishery) to trample on a tablet bearing the wisdom of our (Japanese) predecessors in order to prove the conversion to such dualism.  Ironically, this is like as trampling on a plate ("Fumi-e")with a crucifix as a test of a non-Christian in the isolation period of Japan


Just once, if you go into the countryside of Japan, you know that only thing to believe in for peoples who live there is the wisdom having gone down to posterity, i.e., not going against the dispensation of nature, and always respecting all natural surroundings.  Something to be “undifferentiated cognition” is still present in such closed society, and it has formed its unique and distinctive culture, life-style, feelings and so on for each community.  Each province is an assembly of those communities.   I think that this presence is the essence of the Japanese and it constitutes the natural features.  It is interesting to note that the industrial products called Galápagos products have been in success in the closed market in JapanGalápagos (Japanese: “Galápagos-ka”) or Jalapagos (Japan + Galápagos) is a term of syndrome that describes the phenomenon of a product or a society evolving in isolation from globalization which is reference to a similar phenomenon observed plants and animals in the Galápagos Islands.  I think that Galápagos syndrome is shared in both the manufacturing industry and the primary industry in Japan.  In other words, both industries have the same root of the wisdom of our (Japanese) predecessors as set forth above.  Figuratively speaking, the plants and animals of the Galápagos Islands need Stock, not Flow (please refer to Ms. Asaoka’s statements in the above).  The former refers to a Buddhist self-insight, and the latter refers to a Christian dualism.  “Down-shift” as Mr. Tsuji said, needs the self-insight and some kind of “localization” which will be an antithesis of Ego.  Those words are proximate to domestic demand against external one. 

Now is the time that the Japanese should recognize that we ourselves have thoughts to suitably face Ego, and we can propose a new index of richness and a new thesis loaded onto a white ship towards the international community, not coals saying GDP and TPP loaded on black ships in the last century.  

I think that the Japanese should venture to object to hackneyed index (GDP) or economy of scale which will reach the breaking point (TPP and the like).  Vice versa is fully debatable!

by R. Enomori

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