Wednesday, September 09, 2009


Is the World Tired Capitalism? Hatoyama’s World and Miyazaki’s

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/9/09

Is the world growing tired of capitalism? An important op ed in the New York Times last week by Yukio Hatoyama, the new leader of Japan, suggests that Japan is. The reassuring voices of the mainstream press have built a wall defending the old temple, but it is unmistakable that something is going on in Japan when the new Prime Minister-designate’s first words to the outside world are these: In the fundamentalist pursuit of capitalism people are treated not as an end but as a means. Consequently, human dignity is lost.

Or maybe they are just growing tired of America: The recent economic crisis resulted from a way of thinking based on the idea that American-style free-market economics represents a universal and ideal economic order, and that all countries should modify the traditions and regulations governing their economies in line with global (or rather American) standards.

What is interesting is that we recently have heard more or less the same words from Pope Benedict XVI and Germany’s Angela Merkel seemed to echo them. There is a new view of the world awakening and it contains a criticism of the combination of globalization and capitalism. “American-style capitalism” as Hatoyama calls it, the ultimate one-size fits-all economic culture first designed by Alexander Hamilton to cover the whole world.

For a while, between say 1946 and 2000, it worked. This view was first countervailed by Thomas Jefferson until the around 1948 when Karl Marx brought the opposing globalist perspective. From then till now, every opposition to capitalism, in the field, the factory or the English department, was based on Marx and Co. But if the world is tiring now of Hamilton, it tired first of his twin, Marx. Suddenly Jefferson, who favored the small and the rural; faith, family and community, is gaining relevance, not just in Texas with Governor Rick Perry, who most succinctly outlines and advocates the Jeffersonian perspective in America today, but in the Vatican as well and now in Japan.

It must be fun to be Japanese today. No erstwhile samurai like the great but severe Akira Kurosawa, no monks – or not many - with a shiv in the belt to kill themselves on route if they lose the path to enlightenment. Much more chill. And Hatoyama’s wife, Miyuki, who dreamed of being taken to Venus by aliens, is said to be a hoot. Robert C. Christopher, whose book, The Japanese Mind, was a best seller two decades ago said then that the Japanese had only three choices: To join with the Americans, the Soviet Union or the Chinese and eventually they would have to choose. One of Hatoyama’s national goals is greater fraternity with the East Asian community. But to understand Japan today Asia hands might go to Hayao Miyazaki.

Miyazaki is considered by many to be a visionary and a genius. His movies are primarily for children but they work just as well for adults. In Japan he is a national folk hero. Here in my little town in New Hampshire I once asked my kids and a few others what was their all-time favorite children’s movie. They’ve seen Disney, Spielberg, everything, but the answer was universally, Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke.

Miyuki Hatoyama says her husband likes the Miyazaki movies and she mentioned Princess Mononoke in particular. It should be shown to Congress and the State Department, because Princess Mononoke is about a war between two women, one the Industrial Mother who brought factories to the countryside destroying forests and communities in the process, the other is a girl, Princess Mononoke, who shares spirit with the wolf. She is daughter to the forest itself, and she comes to avenge nature and destroy the world of the Industrial Mother. It is beautiful and dark, like a folk tale. The floating bodies may offend those squeamish members of Congress but my kids didn’t mine, and the quiet background – no music pounding constantly – takes a little getting used to, but the artfulness of that style draws you in.

I’d read interviews with Mayazaki when his masterpiece Spirited Away first came out. He has no love for the modern industrial globalists – Hamiltonian or Marxist - and sees the spirit of nature as the core of human experience and community. This is a story that could be told by Jefferson today if he had Mayazaki’s gifts. Or Pope Benedict. Or Japan’s Yukio Hatoyama.