Tuesday, July 29, 2014
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Ilhas de isolamento

PARIS - Os japoneses e os britânicos podem parecer muito diferentes, mas um olhar mais atento revela algo semelhante a um destino paralelo para estes dois povos insulares. Com as suas antigas ambições imperiais e uma aversão generalizada aos grandes continentes de que estão separados por estreitas extensões de água, os britânicos e os japoneses são vulneráveis ao “canto da sereia” do isolacionismo. Infelizmente, ambos parecem estar actualmente a sucumbir a essa tentação perigosa.

Talvez a geografia seja o destino. Como ilhéus, os britânicos e os japoneses foram cautelosos - e manifestaram muitas vezes um sentimento de superioridade - na sua relação com os grandes vizinhos continentais, a Europa e a China, respectivamente. Ambos foram historicamente compensados ​​pelo seu isolamento, através de fortes governos centrais, uma marinha poderosa, uma dinâmica empresarial, uma cultura vibrante e uma ambição imperial.

Hoje, o Japão e o Reino Unido fingem ser sociedades abertas e ser intervenientes no processo de globalização. Na realidade, ambos continuam demasiadamente fechados ao exterior e preocupados com a desintegração da sua cultura original. Ambos tentam desesperadamente controlar a imigração, quer através da segregação cultural no Reino Unido ou, no caso do Japão, através da simples rejeição. Quanto mais as civilizações se interligam na nova ordem mundial, mais os japoneses e os britânicos se sentem tentados a permanecer alheados e afastados.

No Japão, a tentação isolacionista é expressa através do actual sentimento de nostalgia pelo período Edo, 1600-1868, antes de o Imperador Meiji ter aberto o Japão ao mundo. "O Regresso ao Edo" tornou-se o estado de espírito dominante e tema de debates públicos promovidos por escritores, especialistas e historiadores como Inose Naoki (que também é Vice-Governador de Tóquio), que argumentam que os japoneses eram muito mais felizes no seu mundo fechado, abençoadamente isolado da procura de sucesso material e estatuto internacional.

Este discurso do "Regresso ao Edo" traduz-se na recusa de jovens japoneses em aprender uma língua estrangeira ou em viajar para fora do país. De facto, na Europa, na América do Norte e em outros lugares, os omnipresentes turistas japoneses da década de 1970 foram substituídos por chineses e coreanos. Houve uma nova quebra no número de japoneses que estudam no estrangeiro, precisamente na mesma altura em que os sul-coreanos e os chineses pululam nas universidades europeias e norte-americanas. Até as melhores universidades do mundo, de Harvard a Oxford, têm cada vez menos japoneses entre os seus estudantes.

Neste aspecto os ingleses estão a imitar os japoneses: é cada vez menor o número de britânicos que aprendem línguas estrangeiras, que estudam no estrangeiro ou que seguem a antiga tradição de trabalhar em Hong Kong, Singapura ou Austrália. Esta atmosfera de "pequena Inglaterra" é de tal forma predominante que o governo do primeiro-ministro David Cameron está agora tentado a realizar um referendo para perguntar aos britânicos se querem permanecer na União Europeia, um voto que, nem mesmo a eurocéptica-mor, Margaret Thatcher, se atreveu a arriscar.

A possibilidade de um referendo reflecte o sentimento generalizado dos conservadores, que às vezes mencionam a Noruega - um país que não pertence à UE, cujo principal papel nos assuntos mundiais é a atribuição do Prémio Nobel da Paz - como um modelo para o papel da Grã-Bretanha no mundo. É certo que a Noruega regista o maior rendimento per capita do mundo. Mas não deverá constituir o padrão de medida para o Reino Unido nem para outros países ocidentais, porque a Noruega tem uma densidade populacional baixa e homogénea e possui inúmeros recursos naturais, dos quais faz uma boa gestão.

Se lhes for perguntado em referendo, é bem provável que os britânicos queiram sair da UE, da qual nunca gostaram. Este desfecho teria como consequência o fortalecimento não intencional dos federalistas no continente, acelerando assim a dinâmica de integração que os britânicos pretendem agora travar.

Na verdade, os britânicos sairiam justamente no momento em que a Islândia, a Sérvia, a Turquia e a Ucrânia, apesar da crise actual da Europa, estão a tentar entrar. E, apesar da zona euro estar em crise, a Polónia, entre outros, ainda pretende tornar-se membro num futuro próximo. Os britânicos podem torcer o nariz ao euro - ao qual até o supostamente independente franco suíço está indexado - mas é quase certo que este continuará a ser a moeda de cerca de 300 milhões de europeus.

O isolacionismo seja no Japão ou no Reino Unido, não é apenas uma escolha míope, pode também ser uma escolha perigosa, especialmente para o Japão, dada a ascensão da sua vizinha China. Tanto o Japão como o Reino Unido, por mais que não queiram admiti-lo, dependem do mercado global. O isolacionismo deixaria os seus cidadãos mal preparados para enfrentar a concorrência e os seus governos ficariam excluídos das decisões que têm impacto na economia e no comércio mundiais. O isolacionismo também não consegue garantir a segurança nacional numa época de crescentes ameaças de grupos terroristas e de ambições crescentes por parte da China e da Rússia.

A nostalgia pelo Edo no Japão e o encanto pelo modelo Norueguês no Reino Unido não são escolhas racionais. Canalizam simplesmente cautela nacional numa época de concorrência global entre culturas, economias e ambições estratégicas emergentes.

Por vezes as nações, tal como os indivíduos, ficam cansados e anseiam pela sua juventude idealizada - um fenómeno recorrente que os historiadores denominam "declinismo". Quer o designemos por este termo ou por um desejo de tirar umas férias da história, o Japão e o Reino Unido parecem estar a escolher um caminho que apenas irá acelerar o declínio.

Tradução: Teresa Bettencourt

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  1. Commentedm r

    The article is devoid of scholarly rigour linking irrelevant aspects to fit authors outlandish thesis. Thanks to the two other commenters defining and defending Japanese/ British ends respectively. There is no more "strange" relation between Islands and neighbouring continent than were they linked together. Unlike Japan, Philippines did not have the Wolfowich doctrine (encroaching/ attacking just because one can) available to join Japan at the time of Chinese carve- up. No more that Cuba with USA or Sri Lanka with India; Madagascar on Africa or Corsica/ Sardinia vis a vis France/ Italy any profoundly suspect link can be found or construed.
    It appears clear that the author is really suffering from what French past leader De Gaulle always complained that French were just second to British- and quite rightly so.
    Pre- or post Bastille/ Bonaparte French political system has not grasped democracy, but just exported it all over.
    British essence rests on the thesis that it is not all that critical how one attains political power BUT how do we get rid of one "gracefully", without resorting to what in the past was political assassinations.
    Mubaraks/ Mugabwes of this world were as starters quite genuine people but joined Dr. Bandas/ Adenauers of this world, who eventually ended up thinking that without them at the helm the world they built will fall apart.
    British political system is without doubt superior and they do not need to suffer from superiority complex, but French political system is welcome to feel inferiority complexes because it just is so. It be better though, just learn and close the gap. This world will be a better place thereby. All the currents uprisings ( and there are enough of them including USA)- all emanate from French system, where once there, the boss is untouchable.
    Iron Lady was removed in about two weeks and it took the whole of France to rise in uproar to remove the most genuine father of modern nation, Gen. deGaulle.

  2. CommentedYoshimichi Moriyama

    The closest look would reveal something akin to a different destiny.

    The Japanese have not had perhaps wary relations with their continental neighbor, at least until the arrival in East Asia of modern Western countries, except when Mongols attempted two invasions and Portuguese and Spaniards tried to convert Japan to their Chiristianized colonies.

    The Chinese think that everything good is in China and everything good that there is in China is the best in the world, a deplorable habit that the Chinese cannot shake off, and the Japanese have historically thought that bonnie things lie over the ocean, in China first and then in the West since 1868.

    The Chinese have enjoyed a superiority complex and the Japanese have suffered from a inferiority complex.
    The first surge of Japanese nationalism was in the 7th and 8th centuries. It was the reaction formation of a very strong inferior sense that the Japanese felt facing gigantic Sui and Tang China. The second was in reaction to modern Western imperialism.
    Each time that the Japanese were confronted with great civilizarion, they became ardent and enthusiastic admirers and learners. For instance, in Japan's efforts to modernize itself, France, too, had much influene in the area of political thought. Montesquieu's and Rousseau's works were translated. The Japanese modern system of civil codes is French. Compare this attitude with that of China. Compare it with Great Britain. Did the British ever show a comparable zeal in foreign countries' industrial technology, educational systems, political thoughts, constitutional ideas, modern system of government, etc.?

    In the 17th century, when the English began to shoot our overseas, the Japanese are generally thought to have closed their door in the Edo Period. We can say that certainly but this is half-true, for Japan had prepared itself for successful adaptation for modern industry and nation-state in this period which lasted for two and a half centuries without war.
    There was no time in Japanese history when the Japanese showed so strong and sustained interest in Confucianism. It was in this period that knowledge about the Western world was sought through the Dutch. Far from inward looking, Portuguese, Spaniards, Dutch and Westerners who visited Japan on the eve of its open-door policy noted an unusual curiosity that the Japanese manifested.

    Vice-Governor Inose is a very intellectual person. His personality is very far from blind, jingoistic nationalism. I do not know what he said that made Mr. Sormancomment on him as "back to Edo" disposed.
    We sometimes say things that sound like back to Edo, because in this period the Japanese enjoyed economic and commercial development, a considerably high standard of living and on top of all these peace that seemed to endure forever; people could live without worrying about internatinal rivalry and security; they felt living in a society which was intellectually easy to understand and emotionally very familiar. It is not surprising if many Japanese jokingly speak of it, as I do, as a paradise though knowing that it had shortcomigns and that it is impossible to go back to it.

    There is much truth in Japanese trying to keep immigrants at bay by rejection. But Mr. Sorman should know, for instance, that about six hundred thousand Koreans opted to stay in post-war Japan instead of going back to the Korean Peninsula. Close to five hundred thousand of their descendants are living, not a small number of them pledging allegiance to the North. Chinese are buying fountains where they can have clean and fresh water in many places.
    As it seems that more emphasis is coming to be laid on cultural assimilation from immigrants in France, so in Japan too there is a change of mood taking place.

    Young Japanese were and are very eager to learn a foreign language, English most often. This eagerness has not declined and the Japanese Government has invited for the past two deades hundreds of young people annually whose first language is English. But there has been no sign of improvement in the English-speaking abiltiy. Mr. Gregory Clark, a son of economist Colin Clark, asked why the Japanese seem to struggle so ineffectually to learn English. His answer was the counterproductive way in which English was taught in schools. My suggestion is that it is high time the Japanese gave up English and tried French instead so that Mr. Sorman, whose knowledge of Japan leaves much to be desired, would not have to learn Japanese.

    I agree, though, that the number of young Japanese going abroad to study has fallen. I do not know why. The government should give able, young Japanese very good stipends. It should also encourage Japanese companies, as a way of remedy, to give their able and promising emloyees a long sabbatical since Japanese, once employed and caught in workaholism, seldom have chances for further, intensive self-improvement. This benefit should not be egalitarian as is often the case in Japanese groups. It should be completely meritocratic.

  3. CommentedCelt Darnell

    Well, it was Napoleon Bonaparte (remember him?) who said every nation follows its geography.

    But, could we have some balance here? The idea that the UK is "isolated" if it fails to integrate with Europe overlooks the vast English-speaking world or Anglosphere which includes among others, Canada (Quebec notwithstanding), Australia, New Zealand and oh, yes, the US of A. Unlike Japan, the culture of which is found nowhere else, the UK has other linguistic brethren. While language does not equal culture, but it is a large part of it. The existence of the Anglosphere means a different set of rules for Britain in comparison to Japan.

    Do the Japanese and British really find their continental neighbours distateful? For most of its history (the 20th century was the exception) Japan had to fend off Chinese encroachment. For Britain, within living memory, the continent gave us such luminaries as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Before that it was Napoleon and Robespierre, before that Phillip of Spain. That Britain's liberal state has been created and maintained all too often in defiance of various continental powers has certainly led to a certain wariness among the British. That's not the same as distaste.

    Anyone who claims that the UK is a less open society or is any more hostile to immigrants than any European nation is either ignorant or medacious. Britain hasn't always successfully integrated its new arrivals, but it does as well as anyone else and has far more of them than any of its neighbours.

    Finally decline. The fact is, the entire west, especially Europe, is in decline. The process of western world dominance that began in 1492 is well and truly being reversed -- and it is increasingly obvious that there is nothing the US or the EU can do to stop it.

    Frankly, on that matter, it really doesn't matter what the UK does.

    On the subject of languages, I'd recommend you start learning Mandarin.

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