Sunday, November 13, 2011

TPP: To Join Or Not To Join (Or Consult About Possibly Joining)

The last words on Japan's participation in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations were vague, to put it mildly. Prime Minister Noda was supposed to decide on Thursday, then delayed 24 hours, and by Friday he said Japan would "start talks with related countries toward participation in the TPP negotiations," according to the Daily Yomiuri.

Daily Yomiuri: Noda chose words carefully / TPP language thought to be aimed at soothing opponents

Noda sought to win the support of opponents to the talks by referring to his experiences on his family farm. "I remember my mother carrying me in a basket on her back in my childhood," he said. "I remember the earthy smells and the calm and peaceful farm village. These early experiences will remain in my memory. I will always protect beautiful farm villages."

Noda carefully coordinated opinions inside the government and the ruling coalition parties. He postponed his decision on the TPP for one day on Thursday, and consulted with senior DPJ officials about the statement he was going to make during the press conference Friday, and listened to their opinions.

Early Friday, Noda consulted with DPJ Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Michihiko Kano about what he would say at the press conference later in the day, a source said.

As a result of the consultations, Noda decided to avoid emphatically saying something like, "There's no choice but to join the TPP negotiations to rehabilitate Japan after two 'lost decades' of economic stagnation," the source said.

By using indirect language, Noda expressed his intention to join the TPP talks, but at the same time, he managed to give DPJ opponents the impression that Japan would be joining only pre-talk talks.

"The vague statement was meant to minimize discontent among DPJ opponents, including former farm minister Masahiko Yamada and those who threatened to leave the party, an observer said.

"Prime Minister Noda didn't say the government would join the negotiations," Yamada said after Noda's press conference. "He said only that Japan would join 'pre-negotiation negotiations.' He accepted proposals by the DPJ and stopped short at the end."

Contrast this with the headlines of major newspapers, that made it seem like Japan had now confirmed that it would join the actual negotiations. Noda can only hope for Japan to attend talks as an "observer" in Honolulu this weekend, when the heads of the nine negotiating countries will meet, as no real decision has been made to join.

The Mainichi notes that the TPP issue "has sharply divided public opinion in Japan." Yet their headline is misleading, to say the least. For a major newspaper to claim that "Japan decides to join Pacific free trade talks despite resistance" is just not the truth. This indicates how divided the publishers, editors and the journalists are when it comes to TPP and "free" trade.

Asahi Shinbun had somewhat better coverage of the TPP debacle. They quoted coalition partner Shizuka Kamei of the People's New Party, who has experience as a trade negotiator, and is against the TPP:

"The TPP concept originated from trade rules established by Singapore and other small countries. The United States is seeking to use them to govern the Pacific Rim free trade zone. If Japan gets involved in TPP rulemaking, it would amount to being unfair to China, South Korea and Indonesia, which are all major trading partners for Japan and not parties to the TPP regime."


"The Foreign Ministry does not appear to be capable of obtaining accurate information about what is going on inside Washington. Perhaps, it does not want to reveal even information that it already has. It looks like the Noda administration is calling for Japan's participation while keeping the country blindfolded. Giving lip service to the United States seems to take precedence out of political considerations."
Asahi: Kamei: Noda administration will collapse if Japan joins TPP talks

Asahi also had this analysis of how difficult it might be for Japan to get serious about negotiations, as different ministries are responsible for different sectors of talks, with opposite goals:

Another hurdle is whether Japan is fully prepared to engage in tough negotiations. The Japanese government does not have an office that handles all international trade talks, unlike the United States, which has the U.S. Trade Representative, and South Korea, whose trade bureaus under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade does the job. The Japanese Foreign Ministry works as the organizer of economic partnership agreement talks.

But officials from the farm ministry are the negotiators if tariffs on agricultural products are involved. And bureaucrats from the health ministry form the Japanese delegation if the talks concern medical products.

My conclusion is that Noda's announcement, for whatever it is worth, amounts to little of substance. This is how opponents of TPP look at it, according to Asahi's analysis:

DPJ members opposed to Japan's participation in the TPP negotiations watched Noda's televised news conference at a room in the Diet. "I was relieved," said Masahiko Yamada, former agriculture minister who is a staunch opponent of the TPP. "(Noda) did not go as far as to announce Japan's participation in the TPP talks, but stopped at entering consultations."

Asahi: ANALYSIS: Noda's tough TPP negotiations start in the DPJ

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

TPP: 11,668,809 Signatures Against Joining "Free" Trade Agreement

You may not know it, but Japanese people are very vocal and very outspoken. They protest a lot! Foreign media usually does not bother to cover activism in this part of the world. The current protests here in Japan against the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a case in point.

Over 11 million Japanese people have signed a petition against TPP. They realize that "free" trade is nothing but a massive assault that will force impossible conditions on their livelihoods. What is so "free" about that?

It could be called the fourth disaster to strike in 2011, after the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Fukushima.

Joining TPP negotiations to eliminate 90% of agricultural tariffs would make it impossible to live in rural Japan.

TPP might lead to a lowering of Japan's food self-sufficiency from around 40% to 13%.

Asking Japan to import 87% of its food? That would essentially kill one of the best reasons this country has for attracting tourists. It would kill a way of life, both for small restaurants that depend on local produce, and for fancy places that assure its customers that they provide the very best. It would make rice farming next to impossible, thus all related farm activities in areas that are known for their delishious rice to collapse. These are not empty words in a country that appreciates its farmers. Consumers here are strong supporters of the agricultural policy that has evolved in spite of external pressure.

I have no idea where all those people in rural areas would move, what they would do, how they are supposed to manage.

Farmers are the backbone of rural Japan, and they contribute to Japan's cuisine, with more Michelin Guide 3 star resturants than France, and a very high level of food safety we all can enjoy - also in the cities.

That is connected to postal services, banking and other services in rural areas. Pensions? Health insurance? Hospitals? Ambulance services?

These are other sectors that are targeted for the direct assault and deregulation by the proposed TPP rules.

But the people here clearly understand the gravity of the situation. Thus, they protest. Wouldn't you??

11,668,809 people (so far, and counting) are against the TPP.

On the other side of the fence, a few exporting companies that want us all to consume more of their cars and televisions. Soo 20th century if you ask me.

(Top image from NHK World, showing the massive gathering on Nov. 07 in Tokyo of farmers opposing TPP. Other images from JA, the agricultural cooperative movement, showing the 11 million signatures that they have collected against Japan joining TPP, instead urging the government to protect their livelihood. Click to enlarge.)

Other views on TPP:

Shisaku: Up Against The Wall On The TPP about Prime Minister Noda's "insane" schedule this week before he goes to the APEC meeting on Saturday

Japan Today: Big anti-TPP rally held in Tokyo as deadline for decision looms with a lot of pro-and-con comments, many bordering on the ludicrous while others try to point out facts

Consumers Union of Japan: Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement
We are particularly concerned about what this means for food safety and food security. Japan’s food self sufficiency rate, which is already low, will be further undermined. The United States, which will be a part of TPP, officially considers Japan’s food legislation as a “non-tariff barrier” and lists their concerns each year in the USTR report on trade barriers in foreign countries including Japan. Their goal is to abolish Japanese rules, for example regarding genetically modified organisms (GMO) and beef products, that they regard as one-sided.

Ten Thousand Things: Traditional Americans & Japanese Against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) "Free Trade" Agreement (very much in tune with events both here in Japan and in the US):

Americans and Japanese opposing the TPP are the 99% who are actually conservatives. They want to conserve their economic and social systems as they are and renew what has been lost because of past American and Japanese unsustainable obsession with economic competition and growth—that unduly benefited the 1%.

NHK World: Farmers hold rally against TPP
About 6,000 farmers and others have held a rally in Tokyo to oppose Japan's participation in talks on an Asia-Pacific free trade pact.

Agricultural cooperatives and other groups organized the rally on Tuesday. The governing Democratic Party aims to work out an advisory opinion on Wednesday on whether Japan should join negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.

The head of the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, Akira Banzai, said that even though it's clear the TPP will harm Japan's economy and destabilize its food supply, the government and a ruling party are still inclined to join the talks.

The representative of a doctors' association said Japan's universal health insurance system will collapse if the country joins the TPP. He referred to a possible introduction of combined treatment, under which patients receive medical care that is both covered and not covered by public health insurance.

More than 100 lawmakers also took part in the rally. The politicians included members of the ruling Democrats, and opposition Liberal Democrats and Communists.

They called on Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to refrain from announcing Japan's participation in the TPP at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum that opens in Hawaii on Saturday.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Some Surprises As I Search For "Off Grid" On The Internet

Living "off grid" or independently of the usual power supplier (the "grid") is not an unusual concept, although most of us are still trying to find ways of actually doing it. At least we are thinking about our energy consumption. Perhaps that requires some heavy duty Internet search!

If I use, I get lots of interesting results for オフグリッド (off grid), including: (a do-it-your-self shop website with lots of cool ideas)
Offgrid Q & A (blog by a small company with big ideas)
Ultra Technica (Beautiful visions by Osaka architects longing for off-grid living) (a crazy entry on a French ad for a certain company about how to get energy from - oranges!)

If your search engine of choice is selective, it will influence your world view - if you use commercial Internet search engines that select what you get in reply to your queries, based on who pays. I worry that even more selective search engines can and may influence a lot of people. On the other hand, even better search engines can help you make important choices.

(Images from Ultra Technica Off Grid Lab)

Non-Electric Lifestyle

A clever inventor in Nasu, Tochigi prefecture is thinking about how to live a non-electric lifestyle - and doing something about it. Yasuyuki Fujimura, with a PhD in engineering, makes products that don't run on electricity, including this fascinatingly simple refrigerator.

Japan for Sustainability explains:

How can it refrigerate food without electric power? It uses a phenomenon called radiational cooling together with the natural convection currents of water.

Radiational cooling occurs when infrared radiation is emitted from an object's surface, causing its temperature to decrease. On a clear night, infrared rays are emitted from the ground into the atmosphere, cooling the air down. This is why the night is extremely cold in the desert. Most people have experienced water's natural convection currents when warm water rises while cold water sinks and pools at the lowest level.

The cooling unit of the refrigerator (capacity 200 liters) is made of metal that has high thermal conductivity. A large volume of water (about 250 liters) is stored around this unit as a coolant. Radiator panels are placed on top so that the inner surface of the panel touches the coolant water. The heat of things stored in the cooling unit is conveyed to the surrounding water by the metal, and the heat goes up by natural convection. Thus it is conveyed to the radiator panel, and emitted through radiational cooling.

The system is most efficient on a clear night when there is less water vapor in the air. One clear night (and sometimes even one cloudy night) every three days can keep the temperature inside the refrigerator at around 7 to 8 degrees Celsius even on a mid-summer day. This innovative refrigerator belies our present-day common sense assumption that things cannot be refrigerated without electricity.

I bet this is going to be a lot more popular in the near future, as our electricity bills are bound to increase and we face chronic energy shortages. For those who are already experimenting with off-the-grid lifestyles, here is a wealth of information. People preparing for power outages will also be glad they found this!

Price? 44,000 Yen (about 400 Euro or 560 USD)

More images of 非電化 hidenka (non-electric) products on the website (J)
English website Atelier Non-Electric
(Hat tip to Pandabonium for bringing this to my attention!)

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Shall We Dansu 1/13

Director: Masayuki Suo (1997)


But, I have to say, I'd love to see a take on this film where a bunch of Europeans try to learn Japanese dancing LOL.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Dancing Chaplin, And More

Speaking of recent films, I had the pleasure to watch Dancing Chaplin here in Hanno, where some good people are trying to set up an independent movie theatre.

Directed by Suo Masayuki, the film has two parts: a documentary approach and the real deal, filmed at the Toyo Studios in Tokyo. A ballet based on the films by Charlie Chaplin. I enjoyed every minute.

Starring dancers Tamiyo Kusakari, Luigi Bonino, Lienz Chang.

Quote from Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow:

Now director Masayuki Suo will be returning to the the big screen with another dance-themed film. The 54-year-old filmmaker is set to direct "Dancing Chaplin", a loose adaptation of French choreographer Roland Petit's ballet "Chaplin". This return to dance for Masayuki Suo is a labour of love in more ways than one. The star of "Dancing Chaplin" will be Suo's wife, ballet dancer Tamiyo Kusakari. Although Kusakari will be starring opposite dancer Luigi Bonino she will be apparently taking on six different roles in the film including a turn as Charlie Chaplin on whom the ballet was based.

Mark Schilling has this to say - and he is very inspired, even to the point of wanting to join a gym to get in shape:

The first half of the film captures everything from the 10 days of rehearsal for the performance to Suo's at times testy interactions with the sagely looking, smilingly firm Petit, who rejects the director's proposal to shoot a portion of the ballet in a park (though the quietly persistent Suo finally gets his way).


For me, most of the inspiration came from Bonino, 60 at the time the film was made, but as vivacious, energetic and flexible as a man decades younger. He is also a masterful instructor, gently working with a nervous Kusakari as she moves through her intricate steps, while whipping the young male dancers through their paces like a no-nonsense soccer coach.

Talking to Suo about his own role, Bonino admits to an initial dread of matching himself against Chaplin ("I could watch none of the films," he confesses) and asserts that, though the Tramp is his inspiration, the interpretation is strictly his own.

By the time the performance segment started, presenting 13 scenes from the ballet, I found myself rooting for Bonino, Kusakari and other dancers whose dedication and pain I had just witnessed (which was Suo's intention, though it compromised my objectivity as a dance critic).

Also, instead of the now-common strategy of filming dance with zooming cameras and five-second cuts, Suo takes a relatively straightforward, restrained approach, more like NHK than MTV. At the same time, by occasionally moving the show into the open air, he not only breaks the visual monotony of the typical performance film but also reminds us that Chaplin shot some of his funniest bits with little more than a park, a cop and a pretty girl. Suo was right, in other words, and Petit was wrong.
The Japan Times: 'Dancing Chaplin' A loving convergence of comedy and dance in Japan

Here is the official trailer (they really should put more of it on Youtube if they want people to find out about it):

That got me looking for the original films, as many of the ballet scenes allude to actual moments in Chaplin's classic films.

Except, I realized I haven't seen very many of them. Of course I know he is a comic genious, but...

Finding this gem, from The Great Dictator (1940) was eye-opening. Enjoy the barber scene to the tune of Brahms's Hungarian Dance No. 5:

And the final impromptu speech that has such a beautiful message:

But since I will use the humour lable for this post, I can't help add an image from North Korean propaganda, side-by-side with the famous image of Chaplin just before his solo dance with the big globe...:

(Image of North Korean military brass from It's Your World Blog of The World Affairs Council of Northern California)

Friday, November 04, 2011

Tintin In Congo On Trial In Belgium

I just can't resist... The 1930s is a very long time ago, but still, there are people with chips on their shoulders. One case is the current trial in Belgium against the album Tintin In The Congo. And here is my take on this sorry affair (hrm):

I totally agree that Tintin in Congo should be banned and erased from the history books. Why? Obvious! It portrays a young white man as an agent of colonialism in Africa: we just cannot allow that story to be told in 2011! Why should a picture book about a white man and his noble efforts back then still be read today, when we are so much more enlightened and know that all men are created equal, and that white men are (and thus were!) no better or worse than anyone else! Let's stop this implied racism against young white men, once and for all. In fact, prohibit all of the Tintin books, while we are at it, since young white men are bound to find his actions so outlandishly lacking in values that we regard as common sense today, 80 years later!

Look at how they portray Tintin, a young white man, wearing silly trousers!

And while we are at it, we should ban all Agatha Christie books with that caricature of a Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot: it is just so insensitive to all fat yet highly intelligent men, especially white, from Belgium, who happen to like nice clothes and proper cuisine. AND of course, time to erase Charlie Chaplin from the world of cinema too, as he represents a poor white man in America, we just cannot have that, can we, what will the rest of the world think? What else should be banned while we are at it? As a white man, I feel so bad about all the representations of us in books in the past, let's just ban them all! Erase all descriptions of white men from literature!

(Image of Tintin hitting a black man, just another reason to ban this album, as it perpetrates the image of all white men as violent!)

AFP: 'Tintin in the Congo' lawsuit in Brussels

Here is The Adventure of Tintin - The Seven Crystal Balls, one of my favourites:

TIFF Tokyo Drifter, Everyone Was On Edge

Tokyo's International Film Festival is one of many events in this city, if you search for TIFF you'll get all kinds of answers. 2011 is the 24th event. Action for Earth! was the theme. Good.

They held a special event in Sendai to support the survivors of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, with a special screening for children:

Hal’s Flute is an animated film based on a story by Takashi Yanase, a Japanese creator of popular anime Anpanman. Following the screening at a theater full of children, voice over actresses Keiko Toda and Masako Nozawa came out on stage. Nozawa praised the film saying, “All creatures share the same emotion. This story lets you go back to the basics you tend to forget about.” Toda delivered a message from Takashi Yanase. “I would like the adults to watch this film, too. It’s very touching and has warmth and may do wonders to your mind.” A photo session with the two voice-over actresses and the children followed and the whole theater was filled with a warm and comfortable mood.

Also on TIFF, Tokyo Drifter, by director Tetsuaki Matsue who follows singer Kenta Maeno over a rainy May, 2011 night starting in Shibuya as he sings a set of songs reflecting on life, love and most of all, Tokyo itself. The haunting images of a darkened post-Tohoku disaster Tokyo serve as the backdrop Tetsuaki’s meditation on Japan in 2011.

2011.11.02[Interviews]【Official Interview】 Japanese Eyes “TOKYO DRIFTER”
— Were the songs written for the movie or songs written over the years?

Matsue: These were all songs Maeno-san composed before the earthquake, but the last song, “New Morning” is something that he was singing before the earthquake – last year actually. After the earthquake the song itself had a different meaning for me. While I was in Korea, I was listening to this song. It was during a time when you could hear people being very afraid of the radiation. So, it started to take a different meaning. From the very beginning I asked Maeno-san, “I want you to sing that song at the end of this film” because I thought it had an impact. There were several songs that Maeno-san did compose after the earthquake – Tokyo 2011, for example… the Coca Cola song. I wrote the words to “Tokyo Drifter.” When I was location hunting, Maeno-san said “You have to write the lyrics, because it will also give you an idea of what the film is about.” And that’s why I was forced to write the lyrics of the song “Tokyo Drifter.” And reading the lyrics, Maeno-san more deeply understood what the film was about.

— And the final location, on the river?

Matsue: So that was in Kawaguchi City in Saitama, across the river. I wanted to get a shot of Tokyo. That’s why I went to Kawaguchi. I thought if I went out of Tokyo I could capture the whole city. And to me, rivers play a very important role in films. When you see a flowing river you can imagine what’s outside that frame. So I thought it was very important. Rivers play a big role in expanding the imagination of the audience. The ocean is too big, but with the river you can image there are people living outside this frame along the banks of the river. So that’s why I thought the river was very important.

— The film is like a love letter to Tokyo. And interesting and positive response to the tragedy of 3.11. Anything more to say about that?

Matsue: The Tokyo now and the Tokyo then is different. In May everyone was on edge. They didn’t know what was happening. I prefer Tokyo then in May, rather than the Tokyo we’re in now.

Interesting, creative people prefer Tokyo to be a little bit more dark, a little bit more mysterious, a little bit more creative.

Speaking on being on the edge, how about Play by Ruben Östlund.

Director: Ruben Östlund
Starring: Anas Abdirahman, Sebastian Blyckert, Yannick Diakité

‘What does being an immigrant have to do with anything?’ demands a flustered parent towards the end of Play. That’s the elephant in the room during Ruben Östlund’s film, a dispassionate drama of human unpleasantness in the vein of Michael Haneke. On one level, it’s about bullying: the central story involves a trio of middle-class boys in Gothenburg who are accosted, toyed with and eventually robbed by a group of older kids. The fact that the perpetrators are black ultimately makes little difference to their victims, but is likely to provoke no end of squirming in the sophisticated, politically correct audiences for whom the film is clearly intended. When a pair of fathers try to confront one of the group later on, the impotence of their gesture is compounded when they’re interrupted by a pregnant woman who chastises them for picking on a child – and one from an immigrant family, at that. Touché. Östlund shoots much of the action in long, tightly framed shots where some of the actors are out of view, lending them the deadening immediacy of watching a crime unfold on CCTV footage. Though the tension sags at points, for the most part this is as compelling as it is utterly grim to watch, and the young cast excel themselves.

It is a Sweden I know next to nothing about.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Dalai Lama At Mt Koyasan

The Dalai Lama is visiting Japan. After his lecture at Mt Koyasan, he will go to Sendai to talk to people in the region who survived the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Asahi Shimbun: Dalai Lama delivers sermon at Mount Koyasan
The Dalai Lama gave a sermon at Wakayama Prefecture's Mount Koyasan, one of the most sacred sites in Japanese Buddhism, on Oct 31, during his first visit to the area in 31 years. The event, organized by Koyasan University, was intended to promote academic and cultural exchanges between the Koyasan Shingon Buddhist sect, which is headquartered at Sohonzan Kongobuji temple at Mount Koyasan, and Tibetan Buddhism. About 800 people, including young monks and members of the public, attended the event. At the beginning of the sermon, the Dalai Lama told the audience that he wanted to share, as a friend, the sorrow and pain of the Great East Japan Earthquake. He and Yukei Matsunaga, chief administrator of the Shingon sect, answered questions from the audience.

The Dalai Lama also noted that the Shingon sect in Japan has a history that goes back some 1200 years, way back before Buddhism was established in Tibet.

4 years ago, in 2007, the Dalai Lama visited Japan and Ise Shrine. Asia Times noted: "The 72-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate was in Japan at the invitation of a Buddhist group, to tour the famed Shinto shrine of Ise Jingu, visit local schools and give speeches on spirituality."

Asia Times: Dalai Lama cuts little ice in Japan

Webcast from the 2011 Koyasan visit (2hr 9 min)

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Rev. Yukei Matsunga interact with young Buddhists at the Kongubuji Temple.
Venue: Kongobuji Temple auditorium in Koyasan, Japan,
Date: October 31, 2011
Duration: 2 hours and 9 minutes
Languages: Tibetan and Japanese (And some English)

Here is a nice video from the temple where I usually stay: Fire Ceremony (Goma), at Eko-in temple, Koyasan, Japan

1992 lecture to the Parliamentary Earth summit of the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil:

Universal Responsibility and the Inner Environment

First of all, I always think that it is very important to consider oneself as one human being or one member of a big human family. Because every human is basically the same irrespective of culture, religion, country or race. It means everyone has the right to be a happy person and the right to overcome suffering. After all, the purpose of our very life, I consider, is happiness. This is our birthright.

Then, because of the changing situation today, the realization of oneness of all human beings is now very relevant. In ancient times, if you had that kind of perspective, good. If not, it did not matter. But now, today, in reality, whether we like it or not, every crisis is essentially linked to a global crisis. So talking about my nation, my continent, my family, my religion, my tradition is out of date. Therefore, there is really an urgent need to have a sense of Universal Responsibility and change of our Inner Environment.

This I consider to be the basic' foundation of our positive motivation. The prime mover of every human action is the motivation or the determination.

Firstly, our motivation should be simple and sincere. Whether we achieve the goal or not does not matter so long as our motivation is very sincere and we make an attempt. Finally, even if we fail to achieve our goal we won't regret making the effort. If our motivation is not sincere, even if the objective is achieved the person will not be so happy or satisfied deep down. So motivation is very important.

So, any human action, whether the result is positive or negative, largely depends on motivation. If the motivation is sincere then every human. action can be positive- including political initiatives. If our motivation is not adequate, not pure, even religion becomes smeared.

So, therefore, things ultimately depend upon proper motivation. I consider the important thing is unshakable determination based upon a genuine sense of brotherhood and sisterhood, or a sense of Universal Responsibility based upon human compassion or affection. That is the proper mental approach. Our goal may not be achieved so easily this way- it may take more time and may face many obstacles. I think right from the beginning, we must adopt that kind of attitude. If one expects to achieve the goal because our motivation is good, our work will be easy, and everyone will come to help, that is not right attitude.

The world, unfortunately, is not pure; there are lots of negative forces. For 33 years I have been telling my fellow Tibetans that we should hope for the best but at the same time prepare with optimism for the worst.

An optimistic attitude is the key factor for success. Right from the beginning, if you hold a pessimistic attitude, even small things may not be achieved. Therefore, to remain optimistic all the time is very important.

As I mentioned earlier, many forms of human activity like religion, politics, technology, science and law, are supposedly meant for the betterment and happiness of humanity. Because of past experience many people feel that politics is something dirty. That is also a wrong concept. In a democratic country practicing democracy effectively, whether we like it or not, political parties must be there. Under such circumstances, if you remain removed from politics, just to criticize or complain or resent, that is not a wise way.

For example, in the field of religion there is also abuse. In the name of humanity, and also in the name of religion, some exploitations and abuses are there. How can you change that just sitting on the sideline? If you only criticize, there won't be much effect. Go into It and try to change things from within. That is the way.

I want to praise the NGOs a little. Basically, every human Individual carries responsibility for the benefit or welfare of humanity and for the planet it self, because this planet is our only home. We have no alternative refuge. Therefore, everyone has the responsibility to care not only for our fellow human beings but also for insects, plants, animals and this very planet.

However, the initiative must come from individuals. But then, in order to make an impact, the unified mobilization of individual forces through various organizations is the only path. So various organizations become very important. I think at a government level action is sometimes not true to desires. This is due to certain policies or reasons and sometimes due to elected leaders being concerned about their re-election.

NGOs have more freedom and opportunity, so in many fields you can do many more and also you can create certain new ideas, new activities and act as a pilot. If this becomes something significant then the government will also follow your lead. Already some cases of this type have happened. So, therefore NGOs have a unique opportunity to contribute. Already you have contributed many things for humanity and planet and I hope you can continue your good work with full co-operation, confidence and determination.

Now, already the East-West division is there, mainly in economic terms. The richer nations, sooner or later, will find some problems because of this gap. So, we have to find ways and means to reduce this gap. In this field both sides should have genuine discussion in the spirit of our world, rather than my nation or my continent. This is to the mutual interest of our mutual future. If one side adopts a defensive attitude, or another side seeks only to complain and criticize, that is not good. Come together and think in terms of one world. Both sides belong to that same world. With this attitude you can achieve many things.

Another thing while we are talking about the gap between richer and poorer nations. There is no point in neglecting ones own community. Among nations there is a big gap between rich and poor people, like India and Brazil. So, a terribly pathetic situation is there. Practically, these are dangerous and critical situations.

Today only one Super Power remains. Last year after the collapse of the Soviet Communist bloc, when I was returning from Europe to India, there was a high official from an African state on my plane. When we reached Delhi Airport we were together for a few minutes. I expressed to him that recent developments in the world are very hopeful and positive; now there is no more danger of a nuclear holocaust. I expected his response to be equally positive. But instead he raised another possibility. Before there were two superpowers, so the Third World can manage between the two. Now there is only one power so we have more fear, more anxiety.

We are not sure what kind of future lies ahead. I think and feel this is quite unfortunate. The reason is not because of the American system of liberty, democracy, and freedom but primarily because of the US military forces. Perhaps economic power also has some relevance there.

Soon after the Gulf War happened I myself made some pledge or resolution that the rest of my life will be committed to the demilitarization of this planet.

Yesterday I heard through BBC that about 18 million people in Africa face the danger of starvation. Of course one immediate cause is drought but another cause is civil war in recent years. A lot of money is being spent on weapons and agriculture is neglected. All these unfortunate experiences are ultimately related to weapons. The military establishment or war is part of human history. But I think today things are completely changed and now we must find some new way of thinking. After all, we have such beautiful human intelligence but this intelligence certainly is not meant for destruction. If we use our intelligence for destruction it is really unfortunate.

Once I expressed that I consider the worst event on this planet in this century was the October Revolution in Russia. Because, in order to achieve that revolution and in order co sustain that revolution, so much bloodshed happened. Although, as far as original Marxism is concerned, I've deep sympathy, because of its practice and eventual development the outcome was so terrible.

During a certain period weapons in general, and particularly nuclear weapons, did some good that we call deterrent. Now the Berlin Wall has collapsed and Soviet Communist Empire has collapsed. That leaves only Communist China. Now there is no danger from communism, so I think nuclear weapons did their job. Now the time has come to say farewell to these dreadful weapons. We don't need them any more.

When we get seriously ill we need medicine and even some poison is needed. But as soon as one is cured then these poisonous medicines must be thrown out of the home. To keep them is really dangerous.

Now a quite favorable time has come and we should think seriously. First of all we should eliminate nuclear and biological weapons. Eventually we must think seriously about the very concept of war and military establishments. A recent Chinese proposal to totally ban nuclear weapons is good; whether they really stick to it or not is another question. They carried out a nuclear test recently. That is awful.

During one of my interviews with German television, one written question put to me was that Westerners very much fear death and Easterners don't fear death. Why is it? Then told the interviewer that I believed the contrary. You Westerners love war, you love these horrible weapons. These weapons kill, and war means death, and it is natural death. This is awful and it seems you have no fear of death! We Tibetans, in our time, saw soldiers and the military as something negative. That means we have more fear of death!

So, I think our concept of building military establishments in the name of defense is wrong. I consider military establishments as the worst kind of human rights violation_but legalized. Then, at the same time, I think it is true that with five billion people there are bound to be some mischievous people. In future world community there will be also never be a 100 percent perfect society.

Therefore counter measures to that are also necessary. During the Gulf War crisis the main force came from America. Because of the world situation the system of collective forces has already happened. In future a police or military force should be 'created by nations big or small, irrespectively, by equally balanced forces. These collective forces should be controlled by collective leadership on an international basis. Forces can be mobilized everywhere. If we achieve this then there will be no more violent conflict between nations, no more civil war. On the other hand, we save a lot of money and also we save a lot of destruction. So fear in the world atmosphere can be reduced to some extent.

Even if we take every precaution to preserve our planet, this is simply not possible because of the population. According to scientists, if the present rate of population growth continues, there is a real danger and the situation is increasing in seriousness every day.

As a Buddhist monk, of course, I consider every human life is something very precious, almost like a jewel. Therefore, from that viewpoint, to control human birth is not appropriate. This is the individual case. If we look at the whole then obviously, because of its high population, eventually this planet simply can't provide sufficient requirements for human beings. So this is not a question bf one individual, or two human beings, but the suffering of all humanity- including other species. Therefore, and from a Buddhist viewpoint, it is absolutely worthwhile to think about, and seriously implement birth control.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

An Organic Farmer Speaks Up Against TPP

The Mainichi has a great piece about Japanese farmer and poet Kanji Hoshi, 76, who has been engaged in organic farming for 38 years in the Yamagata Prefecture town of Takahata. Kanji-san is opposed to Japan's TPP participation:

Hoshi is the author of an essay called "Sonno joi no shiso: han TPP no chiiki ron" (The philosophy of revere agriculture, expel the barbarians: anti-TPP localism), published in May 2011 in the book, "Takahata-gaku" (Takahataology). In it, he writes: "I would like the philosophy of revering agriculture and expelling the barbarians to be the stronghold against the black ships of TPP," Hoshi writes. "We need to give primary importance to agriculture for its production of food for life, and to justly appreciate its function of protecting the environment. If we destroy our beautiful homeland, we will not be able to face our descendents. 'Expel the barbarians' refers to the elimination of our disposable consumer civilization. We need to possess a set of values necessary to live simply and spiritually rich in a mature society, and let us attempt self realization."

In this essay, Hoshi categorically states that TPP participation will devastate Japanese agriculture. Our dinner tables will be filled with imported products whose manufacturers and processors we don't know, sacrificing food safety, and rural landscapes will be destroyed, Hoshi says, and warns that local communities themselves will collapse.

The Mainichi: Fighting TPP with 'reverence' for farming and 'expulsion' of consumer culture

If the TPP negotiations lead to a situation where Japan is forced to accept zero tarrifs for main agricultural products like rice and wheat, a lot of farming in Japan will simply become impossible. I have never heard of a country that agrees to such policy. It has been noted that reducing the nation's already-low food self-sufficiency rate would leave Japan hostage to potential diplomatic conflicts. The Japan Times is quoting Japan's agriculture ministry, that "last year calculated that Japan's food self-sufficiency rate — at 40 percent on a calorie basis — would fall to 13 percent under the TPP."

The Japan Times: TPP bandwagons play tunes not all find pleasing to the ear

(Photo of Kanji Hoshi from a 2008 article over at Nikkei BP)

Website of Inochi Tagayasu Hitobito, a 2006 documentary about organic agriculture in Kanji-san's hometown, Takahata, in Yamagata prefecture: いのち耕す人々 (The people who cultivite life).