Monday, May 11, 2009

Japan -- the rise of the Warrior Class

Yesterday I referred to the pacifistic 8th century Japan: When Japanese leaders eschewed violence and degraded their military forces, the ordinary farmer had to resort to defending himself and his property; so when a group of warriors, the Azumabito, showed up from the East, the farmers were delighted. At last, after nearly 100 years of pacifism, a force existed that might shield them from Japanese bandits and Ainu living in the North. But the success of the Azumabito and the desire on the part of the farmer to have a more effective military doesn’t mean that Japanese leaders learned their lesson. The imperial court continued on with its pacifistic leanings. And, interestingly, it managed to flourish, even setting a pattern for flourishing, together with more warlike Farmer clans.

On page 239, Sansom (in A History of Japan to 1334) writes, “It may be taken for granted that, especially in the provinces remote from the capital, almost every farmer was a warrior.”

The nature of the pacifistically inclined Japanese capital was such that rather than replace it, as might have happened in Europe, the Farmer clans were content to control it. If a great clan leader got the emperor to appoint him as regent, and if his children married into the emperors family, that was better in his thinking than killing the emperor and becoming emperor himself.

On page 241, Sansom writes, “It is relevant to point out here, in this account of the rise of a military spirit, that bloodshed was distasteful to the civilized statesmen who administered the codes. In accordance with Chinese theory penal legislation was regarded not as an essential instrument of government, but rather as something to fall back upon when other measures failed. Thus in the Heian period, which for all its shortcomings was civilized and peacefully inclined, the laws were administered in a mild manner and there was great reluctance to inflict the death penalty or indeed any drastic punishment. Amnesties were common, and perhaps for that very reason crime flourished. Some of the hesitation to take life, or even to wound, no doubt arose from Buddhist sentiment and perhaps from superstitious fear of vengeful spirits. But the Minamoto and the Taira [the warrior clans] (in their early days at least) had no such scruples, and were quite ready to take life in order to preserve order and to further their own interests.”


It is interesting that the goals of European and American Liberalism bear a striking resemblance to the policies of the Japanese Imperial Court during this period. The EU has determined that a nation can’t be a member unless it abandons capital punishment. “Cruel and Unusual Punishment” is condemned. Penal institutions have been renamed “Correctional Institutions.” The goal is no longer to punish criminals for their crimes but to “rehabilitate them” as though their criminal acts were failures in their education.

I’m reminded too of the British pacifism and appeasement of Hitler by Chamberlain, with support from many British leaders of the day, but when that failed, a Warrior, Winston Churchill was waiting in the wings like the Minamoto and Taira Warrior Clans to take the necessary military action.

We can see that the Japanese governmental structure is more clearly cut than leadership structures in the West. The British who tried pacifism, most of them, readily got behind Churchill when it was time to fight. By the same token, if the Democrats, the home of America’s Liberalism, is convinced that a war is necessary, it will rise to the occasion – without abandoning its opposition to capital punishment, and what the American Right Wing calls the “coddling of criminals.”

We can see in Japanese history that a “softening” took place in Japanese leadership. No emperor during this period had the will to become a military leader and restore or maintain order. Instead, those more mundane tasks were relegated to the Farmers, i.e., the Warrior Clans. But it should be noted that the farming clans were led by Japanese aristocrats. “The Taiho code, foreseeing the proliferation of imperial offspring, had decreed that in the sixth generation from an imperial sire his descendants were to be deprived of princely rank and title and assigned family names and ordinary titles of nobility. . . Of these ex-princes those who bore the name of Taira or Minamoto were most numerous.” So we can see that the farming clans of Japan were not the sort of farmers we are used to in our American Midwest. The leaders were descended from royalty, and the farmers they led, thanks to the Court’s policies of pacifism, were warriors used to defending their farms and their people.

Could Western Liberal policies result on the sort of anarchy that gave rise to the Warrior class in Japan? Yes, of course. If Liberal experimentation, following Rousseau’s belief that men are essentially good, ceases to maintain effective military and penal intuitions, then mankind, not able to live up to Liberal Ideals, will betray the Liberals and anarchy could follow. After that, the correction will occur, and as we have seen in the case of the Japanese the correction is far more extreme than the mild military and penal solutions that the pacifistic leadership abandoned. Unless we are willing as nations in the West to maintain military and penal order; then what follows (in perhaps 100 years – as long as it took in Japan) will be worse than what they presently fear, i.e., whatever they imagine the modern-day Republican party, and equivalent parties in Europe, stand for.

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