Democracy

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Bez
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Democracy

Post by Bez »

Some of you will know that I have been practising Buddhism for 6 months. I apologise for the length of this piece, but it is an interesting article from The Japan Times by the Daisaku Ikeda, the President of the SGI....



Arduous birth of democracy

By DAISAKU IKEDA

Special to The Japan Times

At the start of the 21st century the difficulties inherent in exporting democracy have become starkly apparent.

It was 60 years ago this month that the American Occupation authorities under Gen. Douglas MacArthur issued a directive that proved to be crucial for democracy in Japan. Having lived through the transition from totalitarianism, I am acutely mindful of the need to never take for granted the basic freedoms of thought, expression and belief that democracy brings.

I was 17 in October 1945. The scars of war were everywhere and chaos penetrated every aspect of life. Although I paid little attention at the time, the events of that month would signal great changes in my life and the lives of millions of others. They introduced us to new ways of thinking and acting that have profoundly shaped our society in the decades since then.

MacArthur's directive ordered the government to revoke all laws restricting freedom of thought, religion, assembly and speech, or which "operate unequally in favor of or against any person by reason of race, nationality, creed or political opinion."

Josei Toda, who later became my mentor in life, was quick to appreciate the full significance of this directive. Together with the educator and philosopher Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, in 1930 he had founded an association of educators who sought to reform Japan's nationalistic education system.

I experienced firsthand indoctrination under the nationalistic system. Its overriding goal was to inculcate blind, unthinking loyalty. As young students, we had to recite the Imperial Rescript on Education, which read in part: "Should emergency arise, offer yourself courageously to the State." Later, unable to continue my schooling, I had to work at a munitions factory where manned suicide torpedoes were made. The factory housed a school of sorts and compulsory military training was part of the curriculum.

What Toda and Makiguchi proposed was heretical in militarist Japan. They proclaimed that the life of each child is infinitely precious and that the happiness of children must be the true goal of education. They not only criticized the education system, but also the rites of State Shinto that worshipped the Emperor as a "living god" and were used to justify Japan's wars of aggression. This drew the attention of the dreaded Special Higher Police, and Toda and Makiguchi were arrested as "thought criminals" under the Peace Preservation Act, which forbade voicing any views critical of the government.

Makiguchi was 72 at the time of his arrest. He died in prison, having refused to recant his beliefs and continued to assert the primacy of individual human rights until the end. Toda, ravaged by severe malnutrition and abuse, was provisionally released just weeks before the end of the war.

For Toda, the Oct. 4 directive and its implementation on Oct. 11 were events of momentous significance. In a stroke, the law under which he was charged was struck down and the Special Higher Police abolished. No longer in the limbo of provisional release awaiting trial, he stepped into the full sunlight of freedom. But he saw an even greater meaning in this directive. For the first time, the Japanese people were granted the essential rights of free citizens that are the bedrock of democracy.

Having endured persecution under a system that granted favored status to one religion, teaching it in schools and making it a tool of state coercion, Toda welcomed the new climate in which people were free to follow their own conscience in matters of faith and individual expression. He devoted himself to building the foundations of the Soka Gakkai Buddhist association, as Japan experienced the rise of many new political, religious and civil movements.

The process of democratization is long and arduous; in many senses, Japanese democracy remains immature. But I think we need to remember that democracy everywhere is by its nature incomplete, a work in progress. The great American philosopher John Dewey warned against confusing the means, the forms and procedures of democracy, with its end -- a truly empowered and autonomous citizenry. He urged us to take up the challenge of reinventing democracy with each new generation and saw education as vital to this process.

Education, where the rising generation is fostered and shaped, can, as was the case in wartime Japan, instill a violent and racist ideology. Or it can open people to a full humanistic appreciation of the inherent dignity of all people everywhere, laying the foundations for democracy and peace. Such education makes us truly free.

Daisaku Ikeda is president of Soka Gakkai International, and founder of Soka University, the Boston Research Center for the 21st Century, and the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research. The Japan Times: Oct. 27, 2005
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OpenMind
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Democracy

Post by OpenMind »

it is an interesting article, Bez. An historical view of the development of Japan's democracy. Interesting also now that we have seen how they have used it to further themselves as a strong economic nation.

But what was your purpose in posting it? What is the link with Buddhism?:confused:
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Bez
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Post by Bez »

Daisaku Ikeda who wrote the article is the president of the Soka Gakkai International who follow the Buddhism of Nicherin Daishonin who was born in 1222. The SGIs aims are to contribute to peace, culture and education worldwide and is one of the most infuential , diverse and influential Buddhist organisations in the world. There are currently 12 million members world wide.

We often discuss other cultures at FG and despair at the conflict throughout the world. Mr Ikeda has met many world leaders and has spoken at the UN. I think the article shows what Democracy can do for a country...something we take for granted. I was thinking about Iraq and what a long arduous journey they are travelling right now towards democracy.

This article was posted at a SGI forum that I belong to.

If you want to know more about the SGI there are several websites.

www.sgi-uk.org

www.sgi-usa.org

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OpenMind
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Post by OpenMind »

Thanks for enlightening me Bez. Now it makes sense. I'm not very knowledgeable on world affairs, I must admit. The background information makes the article that much more interesting and very poignant. Thank you for taking the trouble to share it with us.

:-6
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Bez
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Post by Bez »

I appreciate your reading it Openmind. I have watched videos of this guy at meetings...he has a great 'presence'. I have another article about his meeting with Nelson Mandela that I'm going to post. This will be the last i promise. :)
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Bez
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Post by Bez »

Excerpted from an essay in SGI President Ikeda's recently published book One by One about people whose lives and actions have inspired him.

Lion of Freedom: Nelson Mandela



There is something very special about Nelson Mandela's smile. It's honest and pure, full of gentle composure. And yet it embodies the convictions and strength of character of a man who has led his people to freedom. It's a smile like the purest gold, from which all impurities have been extracted in the furnace of great suffering.



He was brimming with confidence when I greeted him in Tokyo on a July afternoon in 1995. It was our second meeting, and also a little over a year since he had been elected president of South Africa.

The "dangerous criminal" who had been imprisoned for 27 years for high treason had emerged from that prison to become president of his country. Justice, which had been locked away for so many decades, had finally begun to reign again in South Africa.

As Mandela has commented, "South Africa's prisons were intended to cripple us so that we should never again have the strength and courage to pursue our ideals."

The prisoners were awakened before dawn to start a long day of forced labor. For 13 years Mandela was led in chains to a limestone quarry and forced to extract lime from the hard cliffs beneath a burning sun.

Even under these hellish conditions, Mandela managed to study and encouraged the other prisoners to share their knowledge with each other and to debate their ideas. Lectures were arranged in secrecy and the prison came to be known as "Mandela University." Mandela never relented in his efforts to change mistaken views and create allies among those around him. Eventually, his indomitable spirit gained the respect of even the prison guards.

By far the cruelest torment he had to endure was his inability to aid his family or shield them from the incessant persecution of the authorities. The Mandela home was attacked and burned; his wife was repeatedly harassed, arrested and interrogated. Mandela was in prison when he learned that his mother had died of a heart attack. It filled him with immense pain to think that she died still worrying about his safety, as she had throughout the long years of his struggle for freedom and dignity. Shortly thereafter, he was told that his eldest son had been killed in a highly suspect automobile "accident."

Yet throughout it all, he refused to abandon hope. In 1978, 16 years into his imprisonment, he was permitted to have a direct meeting with his daughter Zeni, who brought her newborn child with her to the prison. The last time Mandela had hugged his daughter she had been as small as the infant accompanying her that day. Throughout their visit, he held his granddaughter in his arms. He later wrote: "To hold a newborn baby, so soft and vulnerable, in my rough hands, hands that had for too long only held picks and shovels, was a profound joy. I don't think a man was ever happier to hold a baby than I was that day."

Zeni asked him to name the child. Looking at his granddaughter, he thought of the future and how, when she was grown, apartheid would be a distant memory. He thought of her and her generation walking proudly and fearlessly under the sun of freedom; of a country where all people would live in equality and harmony. With these thoughts swirling through his mind, he named the tiny baby Zaziwe, "Hope."






When President Mandela and I first met in 1990, I suggested organizing a series of programs to inform the Japanese public about the realities of apartheid and to promote education in South Africa. President Mandela accepted my proposals with genuine joy. His secretary, Ismail Meer, said that this offer of cultural exchange was a welcome recognition of Africans as human beings. This is what had been denied them in South Africa, where they were simply classified as "black."

The tendency to label people is not unique to South Africa. Prejudiced attitudes are at the root of human rights abuses everywhere. By lumping people into categories, we stop recognizing them as individuals, as our fellow human beings; we are no longer able to put ourselves in their shoes. They are there in front of us, but we do not see them.

An unwillingness to recognize the humanity of the people of Africa is literally inscribed on the map of modern Africa; its arbitrary, divisive borders decided by colonial powers. Africa is not a "Dark Continent." The darkness was brought from without. Nor is Africa a poor continent. It was made poor by rapacious exploitation. During the Cold War, Africa became a stage for the proxy wars of the Eastern and Western blocs, and the weapons brokers of major powers grew rich as a result. And what did the rest of the world have to say to the African people who had endured so much? They called Africa a "failure." What indescribable arrogance!

"The struggle is my life." True to this conviction, in 1962 Mandela transformed even the courtroom in which he was being tried into a battleground of courageously articulated ideals and eloquent appeals for justice. Standing before the judge, he demanded that the right to vote be extended to all South Africans. He declared, "I consider myself neither legally nor morally bound to obey laws made by a parliament in which I have no representation."

From within his prison cell, Mandela continued to inspire the people of South Africa. Although he was unable to communicate with them, his very existence was a source of hope.

The world registered its disgust for apartheid and its support for those resisting it through economic sanctions and cultural and sports boycotts. Feeling this pressure, the South African government held out the offer of early release to Mandela on several occasions. He consistently refused these offers, which would have compromised the integrity of the antiapartheid movement. He refused to consider his own freedom before that of the whole country had been achieved. In his eyes, all of South Africa was a prison.

At last, the day of his release arrived. On that day, February 11, 1990, Mandela addressed a rally in Cape Town:



"I stand here before you, not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands."

Mandela dreams of a land ruled neither by blacks nor whites, but rather, of a "rainbow nation" in which all people enjoy equal treatment. He once said, "It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

South Africa's first nonracial elections, open to all citizens, were held in April 1994. As Nelson Mandela walked to the voting booth, the faces of all those who had died on the journey to that moment appeared in his mind. Men, women and children, they had given their lives so that he and his fellow South Africans could be where they were that day.

The most profound philosophies are born in those who have endured the most severe oppression. In Mandela's own words:

"It was during those long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people, white and black. I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man's freedom is a prisoner of hatred; he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. . . . The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity."

No one can better teach us the deepest meaning of freedom than this man who spent half his adult life imprisoned. The essence of freedom is found in immovable conviction. Only those who live true to their convictions, whose inner faith enables them to rise above the fetters of any situation, are truly free. As President Mandela has said: "To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

The struggle President Mandela waged to bring apartheid to an end is really a struggle for the very soul of human dignity. I feel that he took up this struggle as the representative of the entire human race

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OpenMind
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Post by OpenMind »

My mother died in 1982. Amongst her possessions was a book that i had never come across before. It was given to her as a teenager when her family moved to America. This is the inscription written in the frontispiece. "To Annie, Wishing you all happiness in the home to which you are travelling. Yours affectionately, Donald and May Parker, April 1926.

"I know not where God's islands

"Lift their fronded palms in air

"I only know we cannot drift

"Beyond His love and care."

Intrigued, I read the book. The book was based upon a real person who was a missionary, whose passion took her to West Africa. The book details her passion, her quest, and her mission. The book is entitled "The White Queen of Okoyong. Mary Slessor" and was compiled by W. P. Livingstone. It is undated.

The book goes into much that I cannot recount here, but I read it with fascination. Mary Slessor believed wholeheartedly in God and through that belief, she acquired her strength and her passion. She went to Africa against all advice because she believed it was God's will for her. She sailed to Africa in 1876.

In Africa, she was virtually abandoned by the mission who would not dare to go too deep into the land. But she dared.

She describes the horrors that she witnessed. She descibed a society of tribes of people that lived in fear and ignorance, where the strongest ruled.

She did not see savages like the rest of western society (including the Presbytarian Church she was affiliated to). Instead, she saw them as the human people they were. Steeped in folklore, superstition, and ritual.

She went forward with pure love in her heart. She dealt with each person as an individual and gradually gained their confidence. Moreover, she went where even the Africans warned her not to go. With love and belief as her only armour, she made great strides forward.

In the book, she speaks of the exploitation by "civilised" western man. The "Westerners" did nothing for the African people and used their ignorance to exploit them.

Not only did the tribespeople come to love and respect her, but the chieftains also. Long having lost contact with her mission, she suffered famine and disease. But she won their hearts. She even helped to overcome intertribal battles. She stood by her beliefs and her love for God. A true love rather than words alone. She stood up against the chiefs when she had to. It is a truly fascinating story to read, recounting even those moments when she had to overcome her doubts.

But, I do not think she could have succeeded if the Africans were really the inhuman savages portrayed by western society. Indeed, by the church itself which was also indirectly responsible for the corrupt dealings by the white folk.

I also have in my possession the book "The Seven Daughters of Eve" by Bryan Sykes who pioneered the use of Mitochondrial DNA for tracing our ancestral gene heritage through our mothers. The "seven daughters" all were Africans. In other words, the whole human race as we know it now, can be traced back to these 7 women from Africa. (His work also helped to explain sickle cell anaemia which is rampant in Africa.)

Somehow, the African continent did not develop at the same pace as the western world. But the "advanced" western world did not show them humanity. Sad to say that this woman's efforts did nothing but provide a means for further western corruption with the inherited selfishness of the tribal chiefs. But, she did give the tribespeople the means to know self-respect which has been able to grow over time.

Today, we still witness the same kind of selfish rulership throughout the "advanced" nations. Mary Slessor is an unknown warrior. She died in Africa where her heart remained forever. A Mother Theresa of the 19th century. Who knows, perhaps she sowed the seed upon which Nelson Mandela based his faith. Since having read the book about Mary, I have viewed Africa in a very different light. Since reading "The Seven Daughters of Eve", I now know that the Africans are my distant cousins.
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Bez
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Post by Bez »

I will definitely get the 'Seven Daughters of Eve' as it sounds such an interesting read. I wonder if it's possible to find 'The White Queen of Okoyong'....a bit of a hard task but I'm keen to find out more about this inspirational but forgotten lady.
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gmc
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Post by gmc »

posted by open mind

Today, we still witness the same kind of selfish rulership throughout the "advanced" nations. Mary Slessor is an unknown warrior. She died in Africa where her heart remained forever. A Mother Theresa of the 19th century. Who knows, perhaps she sowed the seed upon which Nelson Mandela based his faith. Since having read the book about Mary, I have viewed Africa in a very different light. Since reading "The Seven Daughters of Eve", I now know that the Africans are my distant cousins.




Hardly a forgotten warrior

http://www.dundeecity.gov.uk/centlib/slessor/mary.htm

Theres a lonk there if you want to hear her voice.

http://www.maryslessor.org/about/
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Bez
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Post by Bez »

gmc wrote: posted by open mind





Hardly a forgotten warrior



http://www.dundeecity.gov.uk/centlib/slessor/mary.htm



Theres a lonk there if you want to hear her voice.



http://www.maryslessor.org/about/



GMC..thanks for posting these links. I am ashamed to say I had never heard of this courageous lady. I am eager to learn more about her and will be following up on your information. Thanks again.
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Post by OpenMind »

Well done GMC. I shall have a look at that myself.
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Bez wrote: I will definitely get the 'Seven Daughters of Eve' as it sounds such an interesting read. I wonder if it's possible to find 'The White Queen of Okoyong'....a bit of a hard task but I'm keen to find out more about this inspirational but forgotten lady.



The Seven Daughters of Eve can be heavy going as it explains the mitochondrial DNA in scientific terms. Although, the various tests performed have interesting results. The second half of the book tries to depict each 'daughter' as she would have experienced life at the time. The stories are based on what we know or have learned about each time period.

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