I came across two pieces of reading that despite being of the same authorial voice and written only 15 years apart, reflect such antithetical sentiments that their dissonance is what resonates. What a difference in political reality, national ambition, and human endeavor 15 years make!
Enough with prologue, here are excerpts from the readings themselves. Let’s start with the Constitution of Japan (1948) first. It rings out,
“We, the Japanese people, acting through our duly elected representatives in the National Diet, determined that we shall secure for ourselves and our posterity the fruits of peaceful cooperation with all nations and the blessings of liberty throughout this land, and resolved that never again shall we be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government, do proclaim that sovereign power resides with the people and do firmly establish this Constitution . . .
We, the Japanese people, desire peace for all time and are deeply conscious of the high ideals controlling human relationship, and we have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world. We desire to occupy an honored place in an international society striving for the preservation of peace, and the banishment of tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance for all time from the earth. We recognize that all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want.”
Compare that to this earlier proclamation found in the publication Japan’s case in the Sino-Japanese dispute as presented before the Special session of the Assembly of the League of Nations (1933)
“The moment our troops acted in Manchuria, the whole of the Japanese nation was roused and supported them. I belong to a political party in Japan, and we Japanese politicians fight among ourselves in much the same way as you. But, once this incident in Manchuria was known, we buried our differences. The people of all classes and of all shades of opinion buried their differences and supported the military officers who had acted as they should have acted. The same can be said about the military actions in Shanghai . . .
. . . this does not imply any threat on our part, though our Chinese Colleagues conveniently refer to my utterances as threats . . .
It is true that international peace can be secured only upon the basis of mutual concessions. There are, however, with every nation, certain questions so vital to its existence that no concession or compromise is possible. The Manchurian problem is one of them. It constitutes such a problem to the nation of Japan. It is regarded by our people as a question of life and death.”
Them’s fightin’ words, as fightin’ as a diplomat can utter them. There you have it: “never again shall we be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government” on the one hand, and the action of government precipitating what will come to be known as (the Pacific theater of) WWII on the other. Makes for interesting reading, no?