Saturday, June 25, 2011

25/06 VOX POPULI: Japan deserves better than our current crop of 'amateur' lawmakers

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.

In a recent Dentsu Communication Institute survey that asked what people would like to spend this year's summer bonus on, “domestic vacation trip" was their hands-down top choice.

With the rainy season and other things dampening their spirits, people just want to shake off everyday routines and visit new places. I can certainly understand their yearning for a little change from the daily rat race.

Diet members will be paid their summer bonuses next week, and I wonder how they intend to spend them. The amounts are 2.62 million yen ($32,750) for lawmakers at large, 3.5 million yen for Cabinet ministers, and 4.4 million yen for Upper House President Takeo Nishioka and his Lower House counterpart. Prime Minister Naoto Kan will receive 4.8 million yen, but he says he will return the difference between this and what the lawmakers at large are paid.

I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but I'm sure many people feel put off by the generous bonuses. Earlier this month, a no-confidence motion against the Kan Cabinet was submitted and rejected. In the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, a revolt occurred to back the motion and then died. A former prime minister has called Kan an “impostor," while lawmakers who normally contribute little have come out of the woodwork just to stir things up. All in all, the political community is in too much of a mess to earn the people's trust.

The vernacular Asahi Shimbun recently invited readers to submit their poems about the March 11 disaster. One prize-winning entry went: “More than 100 pairs of shoes/ Removed and placed in neat rows/ At the front door of an evacuation center for tsunami survivors."

The civility and exceptionally good manners of survivors won the admiration of the world. But the state of our political community conjures images of muddy, torn shoes, left lying around in utter disorder for anyone to step on and kick around.

"The people get the government they deserve," goes an old saying. But when I think of the Japanese people, I want to believe that we deserve something better than what we are stuck with now. It's distressing to have to watch amateurs perform in a professional theater that charges professional-level fees.

As if Kan has all but forgotten about his earlier announcement of his intent to resign, he is still around. He is like a ham actor in the role of a feudal lord who has already committed hara-kiri and slit his belly, but keeps rambling on. If the prime minister is to earn his summer bonus, he must dispel the people’s mistrust by indicating exactly when he intends to step down.

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 24

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

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