Ando Shoeki to Today

I was thinking back over how I became fascinated with the Basic Income idea as a ‘non-reformist’ reform, getting sidetracked to rediscover Martin Luther King (Guaranteed Income to treat poverty), Ireland’s Green Paper and now Germany (Public Debate on the idea is picking up – public tv debate in 2006 and 14 books published on the subject by Jan. 2007 – Grundeinkommen, Burgergeld.  pp.217-218 in Japanese version of Gotz W. Werner’s _Basic Income_ book)

The interview with Yoshiharu Shiraishiã(2008,12,13 SyukanKinyobi issue 732 p.31) blurbed him as saying he felt attached to the Japanese French scholars Chomin Nakae, Shusui Kotoku and Sakae Osugi and their democratic history. Unless their steeped in Peace activism or history teachers most Japanese people don’t know these names. Chomin Nakae will draw pained looks – ‘I saw his name in a textbook uh….’ so if you say ‘Eastern Rousseau‘ it shortens the misery. He gets a blurb in the textbooks and probably has his dates memorized for tests. A Discourse by Three Drunkards on Government (translated by Nobuko Tsukui) is good, I read it a long time ago and mostly remember the introduction and preface. "..Yet there were important differences between Nakae and the Meiji leaders. Nakae’s values remained explicitly Confucian, he had grave doubts about the need for burdensome military spending, and he believed in the importance of a fully representative government."(p. 9)"Consequently Nakae also had a deep suspicion and distrust of his government; he knew from his Western reading that freedoms granted from above were less secure than those won from below. It seemed to him taht Japan’s problem was to transform the government’s gift into the people’s achievement."(p.9) This sounds a lot like today’s problems with citizen’s trying to protect Article 9 of the Peace Constitution, a gift from MacArthur and consort after WWII.

He got Rousseau translations (The Social Contract) past Meiji government censors by writing in difficult Kanbun (Chinese Style) writing.  He also drank like a fish. "So complex, ironic and often sardonic a figure is difficult to structure and to analyze.  The inconclusive nature of Nakae’s Discourse speaks revealingly of the conflicting tides of ideas in which Nakae’s writings played so large a role. While an intimate of the great of Meiji society, he also sided with the outcastes of Osaka, the Ainu of Hokkaido, and, indeed, with subject people’s everywhere."(p. 11)

Of the 2,000 ‘disciples’ that studied at ‘his French Academy’ one was Kotoku Shusui who went on to translate Peter Kropotkin (Conquest of Bread) into Japanese. Sakae Osugi would continue translating Japanese editions of Mutual Aid and Memoirs of a Revolutionist. (Apparenlty he liked Bakunin better, some of his stuff is just fluffy seeming though.. Rock Star kinda stuff I guess so the comparison to Mick Jagger might be appropriate.

  I couldn’t remember how I got onto Ando Shoeki from all this but got to cleaning and stumbled on Victor Garcia’s pamphlet Three Japanese Anarchists – Kotoku, Osugi and Yamaga. In his explanation of Osugi’s humble statement ‘I too am a translation of anarchism’(p. 8) writes "Here we are confronted with the prototypical Japanese, forever self-effacing and making little of his efforts which of course have their merits. The fact is that Osugi’s translations were vital for a movement that had no roots. To all intents and improvisation without any native antecedents, in that the genuinely Japanese predecessors such as Ando Shoeki (The William Morris (Godwin?) of Japan) were only brought to light later, once researchers had gained access at a much later date to the documentary sources of the nation’s history"(P.8)

  You have to wonder who Ando Shoeki is and he doesn’t dissappoint. He lived from 1703-62 but his writings weren’t discovered until 1899.  Dismissed as a madman due to his opaque style he wasn’ t given exposure until 1908 in an Education journal. This interview with the discoverer was republished  in ‘the anarchist Heimin Shimbun (People’s Newspaper)," where ‘Shoeki was introduced as an anarchist thinker’. Though apparently he was really  presented as ‘a spokesman for physiocracy (nohonshugi)."(p.4 Ando Shoeki Social and Ecological Philosopher of Eighteenth-Century Japan by Toshinobu Yasunaga.) Why would you think he was an anarchist?

  From the back cover of the book "…Fuyi was teh first ruler. He set himself above all others, and in the great excess of his glory, he had mantises captured and put in cages to amuse him. One day he had one of his mantiese taken out of its cage and placed beside him. Then he commanded his servants: ‘This insect is unhappy. Bring it rice and soup to eat.’ The manits laughed at the king and spoke. ‘Do you think, O Lord, that giving me food is the practice of humanity? What you would give to me is the grain produced by the RIght Cultivation of the people. SInce you don’t cultivate but only greedily consume, since you thieve Heaven’s Way, not one single grain of that rice is yours. What you would give me is the surplus from the cultivation of the masses. I may be an insect, but I do not stoop to sharing a theif’s spoils.’ From ‘The Great Introduction‘"

   Ouch! That ruler was despised with a vengeance.

  And how about this paragraph from the provocatively titled chapter "A Method for Making the Theiving and Violent World of Law Tally with the World of the Self-acting Living Truth."  (p.233) ""This is the RIght Cultivation of the LIving Truth among human beings. Heaven-and-Earth are one substance. Neither is ruler or ruled, they have mutual natures and one is not separate from the other. HUman beings, men and women, are also one. Neither is ruler or ruled, they have mutual natures, and one is not separate from the other.  Human beings are all meant to practice Right Cultivation, and all are meant to share the same activities and feelings. This is what the world of people who live in accord with the operations of the Self-acting Living Truth would be like.  In that world there would be no theiving or revolt, delusion or strife, for a world where people live in accord with the Way of the Living Truth would be one of peace.   But the sages appeared in the world. They did no cultivate the land, but were idle and greedily devoured the fruits of the Right Cultivation of Heaven and humanity. They established self-serving laws adn forcefully extracted taxes from the multitudes. They lived in palaces and many-storied mansions, where they subsisted on rare delicacies. They wore gorgeous silk brocade, damask, gause, and embroidered robes and were served by beautiful waiting women. They devoted themselves to pleasures and lost themselves in profitless amusements. The extent of the extravagance of their lives is beyond description.   The sages went on to establish the distinction between the ruler and ruled, the ruler above and the ruled below. They established five ethical principles the four classes of subjects, and other laws, with a system of rewards and punishments to guarantee the lwas’s enforcement" (p.234)

   I just found that passage above by chance. The introduction makes the book seem worthwhile too though.  "Two aspects of Shoeki’s thought mark him as a pioneering and original thinker not only in his time but for at least a century afterward. The first is his social philosophy, characterized by a sharp criticism of authority and its systems of control. The second is his ecological philosophy of nature. Shoeki was keenly aware fo the rapidly proceeding destruction of the natural environment in his age and he vigorously condemned it. " (p. 7-8)

   Just by luck I also came upon Wes Jackson of The Land Institute slamming markets from an ecological point of view in Becoming Native to This Place. (pp. 69-72) I like all these Food Education and agroecology people. The Supersize Me DVD is a great concrete, everyday issue (McDonald’s and Fast Food Nation) to ease the way to The Corporation. You start with the case study, McDonald’s is amoral not to mention unhealthy then you work up to the general with The Corporation – and there are DVD version for you non-reading buddies. Ecoliteracy, "from seed to table" educaiton is a great movement to work on keeping people healthy enough to think and democratize school lunches. Wendell Berry says ‘Eating is an Agricultural Act’ and I think Michael Pollan or someone adds that it’s also a political and social act.

Leave a comment