Welcome to the
President of Soka Gakkai International,
Peace Proposal 1994
Light of the Global Spirit: A New Dawn in Human History
(The full text of SGI President Ikeda's peace proposal, commemorating the nineteenth SGI Day, January 26, 1994)
Four years since the end of the Cold War, our world seems to be approaching a major turning point amid worsening end-of-the-century turbulence. Dizzying changes are taking place in rapid succession. Expectations for a new, more hopeful world order in the wake of the Cold War were quickly dashed, and the future seems wrapped in gloom - confused and unpredictable.
Total Revolution for Symbiosis
Worldwide recession in particular has inflicted severe economic difficulties on all nations, leaving them to struggle for survival. Under circumstances such as these, people tend to be preoccupied with immediate concerns and their hearts turn inward. In trying times, however, we must above all resist the temptation to close our hearts. On the contrary, it is a time when we must adopt an open, global perspective as we grope forward. In a world of growing interdependence among nations, it is no longer possible for any single country to flourish in isolation. We have no choice but to work together, searching for a road to peaceful coexistence and mutual prosperity. "Symbiosis," which means living and prospering together, has become the key word of our time, whether in reference to the relationship between nations or that between humankind and nature. What is needed now is a "total revolution for symbiosis," which can be achieved only through a human revolution on a global scale. The SGI's movement for spiritual rebirth of the individual provides the foundation for these efforts.
The less certain our future, the more important it is to avoid pessimism and embrace an optimistic outlook, adopting hope as our motto and challenging the unknown with determination. Today's world offers many sources of insecurity: the quagmire of civil war in former Yugoslavia and the rise of the right and extreme right in Italy and Russia, as well as the rampant neo-Nazi movement in Germany. But there are bright spots on the horizon as well. Last year, the signing of the Declaration of Principles for Palestinian Self-rule marked an epochal first step toward peace in the Middle East. Unfortunately, implementation of that agreement is still stalled, demonstrating how difficult it is to defuse a decades-long conflict.
In a speech delivered at Soka University last year, former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev observed that "we should be very careful and wise in developing a philosophy for the twenty-first century," adding that "evolution, that is, gradual, step-by-step reforms which correspond with the nature of humans and society, is the only effective way. It is also the only effective way to open up a new era." Mr. Gorbachev has had intimate experience with the evil of radical ideology. Hearing his comments, I could sense the inspiring wisdom of a humanitarian statesman whose "new thinking" helped clear a path through an era strewn with turmoil. We have no choice but to walk the road of reform with firm conviction, one step at a time, while concentrating our collective wisdom on the goals of peace, development and symbiosis.
Organization for Peace and Culture in Asia
My first trip for peace in 1994 will be to Asia. It goes without saying that next year, the fiftieth anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War II, will mark an important milestone. Since the war, Japan has been intent on catching up economically with and even surpassing the economies of Europe and the United States. Unfortunately, Japan's concern for other Asian countries, including the issue of its responsibility for World War II, has been far from adequate. As we approach a major turning point in our recent history, we ought to reassess our country's past actions as well as future prospects in an Asian context. Before anything else, I believe, Japan must act responsibly as a member of the Asian community, and must earn a place of trust and respect among its neighbour. The popular catchphrase of the day enjoins us to "think globally, act locally." I have personally resolved to extend my concept of "local" to include Asia. Hence my first trip of the year is to this region.
Eight years ago, in my remarks commemorating the eleventh annual SGI Day, I presented a proposal for an Asia-Pacific Organization for Peace and Culture that would properly reflect the dawning of the Asia-Pacific era. I also suggested an Asia-Pacific Summit, in which all leaders of the region would participate. What I had in mind was a permanent forum where chief executives could talk on an equal footing about such regional issues as peace, human rights, disarmament and economic development, while promoting cultural and scientific exchange. To develop equal and reciprocal ties among Asia-Pacific countries, it is essential to establish a base that permits them to work together. To that end, I suggested that we adopt a flexible, gradual approach, beginning with the tasks that are already within our grasp, and slowly building up an organization based on mutual trust that would provide a regular forum for consultation. I also pointed out that a loose conference format might be suitable at the start.
At the time, I had in my mind an image of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), which was established in an attempt to create a new framework for Europe. I believed that Asia-Pacific countries also needed such a framework, and thought a similar consultative body might be feasible in this region as well. The CSCE was not conceived of as a permanent regional organization, but rather as a series of conferences where leaders from all member nations could meet at one time, with the results of each meeting building incrementally on the achievements of past sessions. One of the innovative aspects of my proposal was the idea of linkage with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in various countries, focusing on peace, disarmament, development and culture, and making sure that the voice of the ordinary people was both heard and empowered.
One of the reasons I proposed a framework that went beyond Asia to include other Pacific countries was that I believe the Asia-Pacific region has the potential to create a new kind of civilization that encompasses tremendous diversity. I cannot forget the views expressed by Count Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, one of the first to advocate pan-Europeanism, and historian Arnold Toynbee in past discussions with me. With their deep and unique insight into world history, both placed great hope in the arrival of an Asia-Pacific civilization.
Another reason I specified Asia-Pacific was because it would be unrealistic to create a forum without the participation of the United States, which has deep connections with Asia. The problem of greatest concern, which is constantly on my mind, is how to include the United States, China, Japan and, if possible, Russia, in such a way that they can work harmoniously and cooperatively. Viewed in a broad perspective, this problem constitutes an extensive experiment in harmonizing and reconciling the civilizations of such countries as America, China, and Japan, which differ greatly in terms of history, culture, ethnic roots and social structure.
Last year, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Seattle provided a glimpse of the future that gave impetus to my concept. My attention was particularly drawn to one of its statements which outlined a vision of community. I applaud the forward-looking stance of this document, which, for the first time in this century, raises the flag of the Asia-Pacific region as a single community. Having called for an Asia-Pacific summit eight years ago, I recognized the great significance of the APEC meeting, which permitted all the Asia-Pacific leaders to meet and talk. We have made a beginning toward mutual understanding and stronger ties of friendship under the motto of "open regionalism," well aware that differences continue to exist between countries. While seeking to hold a loosely organized structure, APEC plans to hold another summit this year, which indicates to me a gradual move toward institutionalization.
Another move deserves special mention: Reportedly Japan intends to take the initiative in establishing an Asia-Pacific Cultural Exchange and Cooperation Council (tentative name) that would function as the cultural counterpart of APEC. Tokyo will also propose to harness NGO power to create a private-level Network for the Promotion of Intellectual Exchange in the Asia-Pacific Community. As one who has long advocated greater emphasis on education and culture in addition to economic and security concerns, I welcome these developments with open arms.
Toward a UN Office in Asia
Last September, I delivered my second lecture at Harvard University. One topic everyone seemed to be talking about there was the essay entitled "The Clash of Civilizations?" by Samuel Huntington, which discusses the post-Cold War problems and conflicts arising from the collision of seven major civilizations: Western, Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox and Latin American. Of these, the clashes in greatest danger of culminating in violent conflict are those between Western and non-Western civilizations.
The problem is how to find a way to avoid the clashes and the "crash," and build a framework for peaceful coexistence. There is no question that the world contains many different ethnic groups, each with its own culture and religion. Differences in culture or religion, however, do not have to lead to confrontation and strife. Historical examples abound of peoples with diverse cultures or religions living side by side in harmony. What we need to do is to understand what conditions lead to confrontation, and search for ways to resolve conflicts once they arise.
In other words, we must somehow create a multilayered control mechanism founded on the concept of conciliation, which can be used to prevent tensions and confrontation from erupting into violence. The key words here are conciliation, which will underlie and maintain a regional or international order, and, more specifically, control. To borrow a phrase from Joseph Nye, "soft power is not competitive power, but rather cooperative power." We must avoid the divisiveness caused by competition, and replace it with soft power, which engenders conciliation and union. To accomplish this, we must see how far we can go in establishing self-restraint and control as the guiding principles of international behaviour, and work to incorporate those principles in a communal system.
For many years now I have pointed out the need for a UN Asian office. The United Nations already has a number of organizations in Asia, including the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Bangkok and the United Nations University in Tokyo, but these are not enough. Asia has a huge population, including 1.2 billion Chinese and 800 million Indians; it has long suffered the devastation of war, from World War II through Korea and Vietnam, and continues to have its peace threatened by regional conflicts and by partition and confrontation on the Korean Peninsula; further, it is the scene of deepening problems in such areas as human rights and the environment. With all of these difficulties confronting the region, isn't it time the United Nations established an Asian office?
The Europeans have their CSCE, which is contributing to the emergence of a new European order; they also have the UN Office at Geneva (Palais des Nations), which works in close cooperation with other UN organizations. It seems to me that two comparable organizations should be located in Asia: the Asia-Pacific Organization for Peace and Culture and a UN Asian office.
As to the location for such an office, the first place that comes to mind is the country that gave birth to Shakyamuni or Gautama Buddha and his pacifism; the country that gave the world King Ashoka and the great twentieth-century leader Mahatma Gandhi, as well as Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who led the non-aligned nations; in short, that "great country of the spirit," India.
Another possibility would be the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea, a vast strip of land that symbolizes the tragedy of the war and violence in the twentieth century. Considering the history of the Korean Peninsula, and the bleak devastation and atmosphere of confrontation that characterize the DMZ, some people may feel that building a UN Asian office there constitutes too large a gap between the ideal and reality. I hope they will understand, however, that I make this suggestion from a long-term perspective that takes into account a half-century of partition between the North and the South, and that looks forward to a new Asia in the twenty-first century. I will comment in more detail about the basic issue of Korean partition later.
Toward the end of last year, I had the opportunity to meet with Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and present my proposal for a UN Asian office to him during his visit to Japan. The United Nations will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in 1995, and the secretary-general asked for our support in the observation of that event. As an NGO, SGI wants to do all it can to help. At present, our plans centre on celebrating the auspicious occasion in the United States where the UN Headquarters is located, and many programs designed to raise public interest in and awareness of the world organization. SGI-USA, for example, will hold a commemorative culture festival in San Francisco, the birthplace of the UN; a UN Renaissance Conference in New York; a cultural exhibition of the world's ethnic peoples in Philadelphia, and a festival in honour of the UN World Children's Day in Florida. Furthermore, SGI-USA's Youth Peace Conference has set the fiftieth-anniversary year as the target date for completing and presenting its proposals concerning concrete support for the United Nations and reform of its organization.
It is widely known that the United Nations was established after World War II primarily in compliance with the intentions of five of the victorious nations: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the Soviet Union and China. In the fifty years since its inception, world conditions have changed completely, and, with the number of member nations vastly increased, it is now time to radically reassess the UN's organization and role. There is no doubt that the fiftieth anniversary offers the best opportunity for reform. In that sense, the next twelve months or so will be an especially important period. We must achieve a true UN renaissance by concentrating all our wisdom on developing an international organization that meets the needs of the post-Cold War era.
During a visit to Boston last year, I inaugurated the Boston Research Centre for the Twenty-first Century as a base from which SGI can contribute to the cause of international peace. Boston is a major world centre of scientific and intellectual endeavour, and I chose it as the site for the Twenty-first Century Centre with the expectation that it will provide fertile soil for the transmission of various ideas that will make a positive contribution to the coming century. With the help of people of international renown, we will gradually build up the centre's programs and facilities, and I hope it will eventually be the source of proposals to deal with the manifold global problems we face. As a start, the centre could enlist the help of specialists in an attempt to formulate a set of recommendations for UN reform in time for the fiftieth anniversary.
During my meeting with Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali, I suggested, in addition to the establishment of an Asian office, that the United Nations use the energies and resources of NGOs to the greatest extent possible. I am glad to say that he agreed completely with me. To strengthen the UN's role as the representative of humanity and people, I proposed that a World NGO Summit or World NGO General Assembly based on fresh perspectives be held to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary. My basic concept is that the United Nations will be properly reformed only when it succeeds in hearing and empowering the voice of the common people. Therefore, I want the Boston Research Centre for the Twenty-first Century to take a global perspective that transcends the boundaries of sovereign states, and to formulate a UN reform proposal from an NGO point of view.
The Security Council is the focal point for activity on reform. Deliberations on reform began at the forty-eighth General Assembly, which was convened in September of last year, with consideration given to increasing the number of permanent members and changing the council's structure. In this connection I wish to comment on Japan's contributions to the international community, and especially its commitment to the United Nations.
Yasushi Akashi has been appointed the secretary-general's special representative in charge of the former Yugoslavia. As a fellow Japanese, I strongly sympathize with his decision to take on this extremely difficult task, which shows little hope of resolution. Amid reports of the suffering of people who cannot find food to eat even as they struggle against extreme cold, my constant prayer is that UN efforts will be rewarded as quickly as possible, and that peace will return.
I cannot help feeling, however, that the concern of Japanese society and the Japanese people is not as strong as it should be with regard to the civil war in the former Yugoslavia. The geographical distance between Japan and Eastern Europe is one obvious reason for this apathy, but the real problem appears to be that Japanese do not yet see themselves as being actively involved in building a global framework for peace.
Behind their apathy and passivity, we can sense the Japanese attitude that has been criticized before as "single-nation pacifism." I have long emphasized the need to correct this selfish and passive tendency to believe that everything is fine as long as Japanese are not directly affected, and that they can be satisfied as long as Japan itself prospers. Japan has developed deep economic ties with the rest of the world, and has prospered and become an affluent nation through international trade. It is not possible for the Japanese to live according to "single-nation pacifism," because doing so would mean nothing less than total isolation from the rest of the world.
When the Gulf War erupted in 1990, the problem of Japanese participation in the multinational efforts shook Japanese society to its very foundation. This should have served as an opportunity for full debate concerning what kind of international contribution Japan could make without abandoning the ideals of its pacifist constitution. Regrettably, widespread discussion did not arise. Since the end of the Cold War, the world has been groping for a new framework for peaceful coexistence, and I believe that Japan's role has become increasingly important. The time has come for Japan to develop a clear concept of how it can contribute to the world in keeping with its national charter.
The UN Security Council and Japan's Commitment to Peace
One of the important aspects of this issue is the commitment Japan shows toward the UN. Currently, the Security Council is the focus of overall UN reform, which involves the question of whether or not Japan should be given a permanent seat. In light of its present standing in the international community, Japan simply cannot sidestep the question. In today's world, other nations look to Japan not with anticipation, but with the demand that it fulfil its responsibilities in a way commensurate with its national strength.
In short, I believe that Japan should actively pursue its unique role within the Security Council. For one thing, such a course of action will help us utilize our experience in the postwar period under the pacifist constitution for the benefit of humankind. No one would deny Japan's postwar contributions to world peace as an economic power that has upheld its constitution, refused to possess nuclear weapons, and supported the cause of disarmament and abolition of nuclear weapons. Japan's constitution and the UN Charter may be said to share a common footing in that both view war as an illegal act and adhere to the principle of international conciliation. If we are to globalize the spirit of Japan's constitution, it is only natural for Japan to take a more active role in the United Nations.
However, there is one thing that must be resolved if Japan becomes a permanent member of the Security Council: it must define its basic stance regarding the balance between its constitutional requirements and its commitment to UN military action.
It would seem that the United Nations seeks to step beyond a simple peacekeeping role by strengthening its peacemaking function that permits the use of military force. Since the end of the Cold War, the world has placed high hopes in the UN's peacekeeping role, and its active attempts to live up to those expectations have been widely praised. I strongly feel, however, that great caution is required if this tendency goes too far. Without adequate power and resources, the United Nations could well find itself a participant in a war rather than a peacekeeper.
Mr. Boutros-Ghali recently submitted a report to the Security Council concerning UNOSOM II, the UN's first peace enforcement unit, which has been deployed in Somalia. In the report, he recommended that the use of military power to force the Somalis to disarm be abandoned, and urged that the unit assume the mission of conventional peacekeeping operations (PKO), which have always placed emphasis on protecting supply routes used for humanitarian aid and goods. This is one example that demonstrates how the impetuous use of force is not necessarily effective.
The single case of Somalia is not a sufficient basis upon which to judge the proper role of UN peacekeeping operations, however, because the UN will no doubt be obliged to adapt to a wide variety of circumstances in the future. Even so, if military force is considered a kind of "hard power," then we must not forget that the very foundation of the United Nations rests on the concept of "soft power," which means working to reconcile nations and harmonize their actions. Therefore, even when the United Nations is forced by circumstances to adopt specific military measures, this must be recognized as a "necessary evil." It comes down to the question of whether or not we are prepared to practice restraint in our use of military force. During my meeting with Mr. Boutros-Ghali, he mentioned his favourite books, and told me how his youthful admiration for Napoleon and Alexander the Great had, in his later years, given way to respect for Gandhi and Toynbee. We can infer from this anecdote that the secretary-general fully understands the UN's inherent reliance on soft power, even when circumstances require the use of military force. If Japan is given a permanent seat on the Security Council, it will naturally have to think about making military involvement; should that happen, the actions and pronouncements of Japan, with its commitment to pacifism, will come to carry their own kind of weight and significance.
One criticism often heard is that the present Security Council is dominated by the great powers, and that it too easily resorts to the use of military force. It is my hope that the addition of Japan as a permanent member of the council would make more balanced choices possible, thereby better reflecting the concerns of small and medium-sized countries. In other words, I would hope Japan could help offset any high-handedness on the part of the large nations, and use its power in a positive way as a restraining force. I believe this also ties in with the goal of enhancing the legitimacy of the United Nations itself.
In his meeting with Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa last year, Mr. Boutros-Ghali mentioned the issue of Japan's permanent seat on the Security Council, stating that "dispatching PKO personnel is not a condition for council membership. All UN member countries have a duty to provide financial support for PKO, but participation is not a requirement." He went on to express the view that Japan should provide humanitarian support and make active contributions in the fields of economic and social development. I felt this frank expression of Mr. Boutros-Ghali's expectations embodied an important perspective.
Today, the complex interaction of various factors results in the eruption of many regional conflicts. However, the United Nations does not become involved until the situation has grown serious. One important issue that must be addressed, therefore, is what measures it can take to prevent such hostilities from arising in the first place. Many problems related to the political, economic and cultural structure of society lie behind these conflicts, including poverty, hunger, oppression and discrimination. Finding solutions to economic problems in particular can go a long way toward achieving resolution in an armed conflict. If the underlying social factors are ignored, military actions cannot provide a true solution to the problem. The tasks of solving the various social problems confronting different regions, and of improving and stabilizing the lives of all the world's people, can be more appropriately handled by the UN Economic and Social Council.
From this it would seem to follow that the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council need to work closely together. Compared with the powerful Security Council, which enjoys executive authority, the Economic and Social Council is considered a weak organization that does not possess the authority to impose compulsory measures. Considering the crucial nature of its mission, the strengthening of the Economic and Social Council is an important aspect of UN reform, and one of the key issues in the future will be how to effectively link this council with other organizations within the UN Headquarters itself, and within the larger context of the UN system.
If Japan becomes a permanent member of the Security Council, it can greatly contribute to the international community by striving to make the adjustments I have just described.
About twenty years ago, I presented a somewhat vague concept of a Worldwide Citizens' Council for the Protection of the United Nations, and posed the question whether or not the establishment of such a body would be feasible. The realization of such a council is still many years away, but I still believe that the education and nurturing of people who can take a global perspective that transcends the borders of a single country or ethnic group will prove to be the long-term lifeline of efforts to revitalize the UN.
Perspectives on the Attitudes of Youth
In view of the need for a new borderless perspective, it is difficult to be optimistic from where we now stand. Our youth, to whom we will entrust the twenty-first century, look upon neither their future nor their world with bright hope. This is why I feel compelled to digress here to discuss the problem of our youth, particularly in the advanced industrialized nations. The issue is especially relevant because the UN has designated this year the International Year of the Family, and it is essential that we consider the problems of youth in the wider context of family life.
It is said that children are the mirror of society; young people are quicker than older generations to perceive and respond to the trends of the times. The collapse of socialism in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe is significant in this sense. It is no exaggeration to say that, between the Russian Revolution and the fall of the Soviet Union, a period spanning more than half of the twentieth century, socialism virtually monopolized the position as the most ideal system in humankind's history. Although different countries conceived of it in different ways depending on their developmental stage and geographical location, the socialism of the so-called "Red Thirties" represented the goal of historical progress and development, and provided lasting spiritual support to all people who would not tolerate evil and injustice. It was especially appealing to the young, whose hearts burned with idealism. At long last, however, this tendency began to fade in the last quarter of our century, and the final blow came with the sudden collapse of socialist regimes in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the late 1980s. The young activists of the past, with their outpouring of youthful energy, their indomitable and devoted spirit proudly expressed in the full-voiced singing of the "L'Internationale," their eyes alight with idealism, have virtually disappeared from the main stage of world history.
With the realization that, far from being a utopia at the end of the rainbow, their "promised land" was in fact a wasteland filled with oppression and servitude, the world's youth have been drawn into a whirlpool of confused values. In a way, it is only natural that they have fallen under the spell of Mammon, and have come to look upon material wealth as the only thing they can trust.
The ostensible "victors" in the Cold War, the countries of the Free World, have not escaped this phenomenon. There, in every corner of society, a kind of desolation is emerging that does not seem in keeping with the glory of victory. The misconduct of youth and the rise of crime are symbolic expressions of an underlying malaise. Although there is no end to the list of people who lament our future and sound the alarm, Boston University President John Silber makes an insightful observation when he says, "The greatest threat lies within our own borders and within each of us." He elaborates as follows:
We bear the unmistakable traces of self-indulgence. The habits developed through years of ease and plenty have left us, if not at our worst, very far from our best. We seem incapable of making those decisions that, though imperative for our own well-being and that of our children, require unwelcome self-restraint and self-denial. This failure in self-mastery is apparent not only in individual lives but in every aspect of our society. Through self-indulgence and seductive advertising we have turned our luxuries, even our whims, into needs.1
There is perhaps nothing new about Dr. Silber's assertions. They were taken from a book that happened to be close at hand, and reflect what might be considered common knowledge. The same sentiments can be found in this classic utterance of Rousseau: "Do you know the surest way to make your child miserable? Let him have everything he wants; . . ."2 As this implies, people in all ages have recognized that the curbing of selfish impulses is the first step in developing good habits, and that freedom without self-restraint leads to self-indulgence, unhappiness and confusion, and, in extreme cases, tyranny.
The most serious problem we face is the difficulty of instilling this common knowledge, this reasoning, in the hearts of our youth. Dr. Silber contends that the rising dissatisfaction with hedonism and materialism currently spreading among the American people represents a hopeful sign of sweeping change. While I have great respect for his optimistic conclusion, I do not believe things are really that simple.
I say this because what is really being questioned here is the very principle that has served as the driving force for modern civilization. As we all know, modern industrial civilization places priority on convenience and efficiency as the primary standards of progress and development, and in this context it is difficult to avoid, or indeed resist, the single-minded pursuit of pleasure, which has become the supreme value. Therefore, the materialism, hedonism and mammonism that now cloud the end of our century are almost the inevitable consequence of modern civilization, which has neglected to rein in human desire. In addition, overwhelming waves of urbanization and information networks generated by technological advancement in industrialized society have enveloped homes, schools and local communities that once provided important educational forums for our youth. In the past, these were the places where children were taught discipline, a function that is severely limited today.
Under these circumstances it is extremely difficult to preach the time-honoured virtues of modesty and frugality; in fact, if handled poorly, any attempt to do so can become the stuff of parody, as those in the teaching profession (broadly defined) understand better than anyone. It is not enough to simply decry "negative" aspects of modern civilization such as materialism, hedonism and mammonism. We must also show our youth new standards and values that can take the place of the negative ones, and provide them with models that will help them become what they need to be: people who are in control of their own desires and deportment. If the self-restraint and self-control we profess are not based on true conviction, our efforts will not be persuasive, nor will we be able to instil an ethos of world citizenship in the younger generation.
In antiquity there was one man who placed himself right in the middle of the chaos of his times and resolutely attempted the task of instilling just such an ethos: that great and immortal educator of youth, the "Teacher of Humankind," Socrates. He lived in a time when the democratic government of Athens was in decline, and undoubtedly the confusion of values typical of such an era cast a dark shadow over the hearts of the young. The dialogues of Plato provide ample evidence of this. It was the Sophists - philosophers like Protagoras, Gorgias, Prodicus and Hippias - who controlled the education of the lost young souls buffeted by the currents of the times with no protective harbour; and with that control, they maintained both their own wealth and reputations as they pleased.
A typical example of their educational technique can be found in Xenophon's "Memorabilia," where Gorgias speaks about the "Trials of Heracles." Because it constitutes a textbook pattern of moral education that is common to all times and places, I will quote it here at some length.
When Heracles was on the verge of manhood, he came upon a fork in the road and did not know which to take, at which point two women appeared before him. ". . . The one was fair to see and of high bearing; her limbs were adorned with purity, her eyes with modesty; sober was her figure, and her robe was white. The other was plump and soft, with high feeding. Her face was made up to heighten its natural white and pink, her figure to exaggerate her height."3 Of course, the former lady was there to lead Heracles toward virtue, and the latter to entice him toward vice.
I will omit what the advocate of evil said, because it is identical to Rousseau's "surest way to make a child miserable." Here are the words of the advocate of virtue: ". . . But I will not deceive you by a pleasant prelude: I will rather tell you truly the things that are, as the gods have ordained them. For of all things good and fair, the gods give nothing to man without toil and effort. If you want the favour of the gods, you must worship the gods: if you desire the love of friends, you must do good to your friends: if you covet honour from a city, you must aid that city: if you fain to win the admiration of all Hellas for virtue, you must strive to do good to Hellas: if you want land to yield you fruits in abundance, you must cultivate that land: . . ."4
This goes further than Rousseau; in fact, it is a classic pattern for youth education that also underlies Confucian morality, and represents a commonsense, sound doctrine that anyone can agree with. The loss of awareness that "nothing good and fair" can be won "without toil and effort" is exactly what Dr. Silber so deeply laments in his book.
As I have already mentioned, our problem lies in the fact that present social conditions are far beyond the stage at which we can simply preach this sound doctrine as is and expect it to be accepted. In other words, it is not just a simple matter, for example, of increasing the time spent on moral instruction in our schools. That is not enough. An extremely interesting article on Japanese morality by Prof. Masahiko Fujiwara of Ochanomizu Women's University addresses this point. Based on his own experience, Professor Fujiwara focuses on the Japanese "way of the warrior" (Bushido), a code of ethics that has been compared with the English concepts of chivalry and gentlemanly behaviour. He strongly felt the need to reassess Bushido as a means of recovering the Japanese ethos that once fascinated the people of the West.
When he had his first-year students read Inazo Nitobe's famous work, Bushido, however, he found that they rejected it in far stronger terms than he had anticipated. He writes: "For these students, who were steeped in Western individualism, the virtues of loyalty to one's country, filial piety, and obligation to the family were nothing more than a joke; in today's materially oriented social climate, the concepts of honour and shame have only secondary importance. Some students even grew indignant at the idea of valuing honour above life, calling the whole notion nonsense."5
Given these dominant social norms, it is frighteningly difficult to convince our youth that nothing of value can be obtained "without toil and effort." Not only that, but the adults who espouse such classical moral values are themselves thoroughly immersed in modern civilization, with its emphasis on convenience, efficiency and pleasure. Under the circumstances, we cannot expect young people to accept traditional values as they are. Failing to realize this, any attempt to preach from a position of impertinent moral superiority will only invite apathy and rejection from our youth.
Although we must be wary of facile comparisons, it seems clear that those famous Sophists in Athens also looked down upon their juniors with a supercilious, ostentatiously learned attitude. As Plato so vividly describes, even Protagoras, who is known for his aphorism that "man is the measure of all things," was tainted by that aura.
Socrates himself trenchantly addressed this point. A single reading of "Protagoras," "Meno" and other dialogues concerned with the education of youth reveals that Socrates concentrates not on the question, "What is virtue?" but rather on the question, "What is not virtue?" Whether it be courage or temperance, justice or piety, not a single established virtue, such as those explicated in Prodicus's "Trials of Heracles," escapes Socrates' piercing examination. And each time the discussion is played out, the foundation for all virtues is razed, and we return to the question of whether or not moral education is in fact possible. In "Protagoras," we find these lines: ". . . And I should like to work our way back through it until at last we reach what virtue is, and then go back and wonder whether it is teachable or not, . . ."6
Similarly, in "Meno" we find: ". . . But the certainty of this we shall only know when, before asking in what way virtue comes to mankind, we set about inquiring what virtue is, in and of itself."7
I believe we must thoroughly pursue a Socratic examination of virtue, which, in today's society, presents such a wretched, antiquated figure. If virtue is not thrust into the furnace and cast anew, it cannot be reborn as a new ethical standard. Without this, no amount of energetic exhortation will avail us; the bewilderment and unreceptiveness of our youth will go uncorrected, and we will suffer an ever-widening gap between generations.
The questions of what virtue meant to Socrates, and whether or not he thought moral education was possible, involve the subtle philosophical concepts of "idea" and "mutos" (myth). Setting such finer points aside, we must note that the most important thing from the educational point of view is that the Socratic approach, of examining what does not constitute virtue, was far more persuasive and instilled a far more lasting impression in the hearts of students than the Sophist emphasis on examining what does constitute virtue. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that the authorities, who feared Socrates' influence, decreed his death to ensure his silence.
But where did this rare persuasiveness, this uncommon influence, originate? It arose because Socrates was more acutely aware of his era than anyone else. He scrutinized it more keenly and deeply; and more than anyone else, he lived through his time with full vigour, ready to sacrifice his own life. The attractiveness of his life-style, the magnetism that emanated from his very humanity, could not but reach the impressionable hearts of the young. Regardless of the times, there lies unchanging in the depths of the young human soul an earnestness that responds to earnestness, a seriousness that reacts to seriousness; this is the true character and prerogative of youth. In his reply to Meno, who likened Socrates to the torpedo that paralyses anyone who comes in touch with it, Socrates said: "As for me, if the torpedo is torpid itself, while causing others to be torpid, I am like it, but not otherwise."8
I believe this is the ironclad principle - indeed, the imperishable "golden rule" of human education and moral upbringing: that the fervent involvement of the teacher is precisely what gets the students involved. In this there is no trace of contemptuousness in the teacher's attitude toward those who are learning; rather the relationship is maintained on a thoroughly equal and fair basis. Reverberating from such a relationship is the resonance of individual personalities associating and interacting in earnest and in harmony as complete human beings. The form of trust created in this way is precisely what has been called "virtue" since antiquity. It seems to me that this is where we must seek the underlying, fundamental cause for the rising misbehaviour, crime and other problems we observe among modern youth: the lack of fully human interaction between individuals. We cannot expect our various treatments for the symptoms of this "disease" to work effectively at least until we clearly address this underlying need.
In this connection, I wish to emphasize the importance of the SGI movement we have undertaken. The "torpedo" metaphor is directly relevant to the spirit of "shared suffering" that is the essence of Mahayana Buddhism. As the Nirvana Sutra states, "The Buddha takes on the varied sufferings of all living beings as though they all were his own sufferings." Similarly, the Vimalakirti Sutra quotes the Buddha as saying: "Because all living beings are sick, therefore I too am sick." In this the SGI movement has great potential for human education, and precisely because it is rooted in the noble concept of "shared suffering," we are able to tread the main avenue of human history, confident that we are making history.
In his Essays, Montaigne wrote: "Someone asked Socrates of what country he was. He did not answer, 'Of Athens,' but 'Of the world.' He, whose imagination was fuller and wider, embraced the whole world as his city, and extended his acquaintance."9
The goal of the SGI movement is nothing less than this: to instil an ethos of worldwide citizenry. As it was with Socrates, so it shall be for us: by defining ourselves as citizens of the world, we will be able to revitalize the now almost faded virtues of courage, self-control, devotion, justice, love and friendship, and to make them vibrantly pulse in people's hearts. That is why, in my comments for the 1991 SGI Day, I observed: "If a religion is worthy of the name, and if it is one that can respond to the needs of contemporary times, it should be able to nurture in its followers the spiritual base for becoming good citizens of the world." I went on to suggest that, rather than attempt unprincipled compromise or collusion among different religions, we should instead encourage them to compete in the task of producing world citizens.
Toward Enduring Peace in Northeast Asia
Focusing again on the current international scene, one of the greatest threats to the security of the Asia-Pacific region is of course that which exists in Northeast Asia, namely, the partition and confrontation between the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea).
I commented on the partition between North and South in January 1986, at which time I believed that the most essential thing was to place the highest priority on having the top leaders from both sides meet and talk directly, and make a mutual non-aggression and no-war pledge. Unfortunately, the president of South Korea and the North Korean head of state have not yet engaged in direct dialogue.
However, the first prime-ministerial talks between the North and South were held in May 1990, and at the fifth such meeting in Seoul in December 1991, the two parties signed an Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-aggression and Exchanges and Cooperation between the South and the North. In Article 9, it states: "Both parties shall not use armed force against each other and shall not make armed aggression against each other." In Article 10, it asserts: "Differences of opinion and disputes arising between the two parties shall be peacefully resolved through dialogue and negotiations." The agreement also notes that efforts will be made to discuss and promote the peaceful use of the DMZ. It went into effect at the sixth prime-ministerial meeting held in February 1992, along with a "Joint Declaration for Denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula.
Through these efforts, the basic framework for peaceful coexistence has been constructed, but both sides continue to run aground in a series of backlashes against each other. The South, for example, insists that all doubts be dispelled concerning the North's nuclear development program, and the North demands that American military forces be withdrawn from the South.
For North-South dialogue, 1993 was a year of bitter trial. Talks were suspended because of the problem of nuclear development in the North, and the resulting deadlock prevented any further progress. Even if the proposed "nuclear inspections" are carried out, the path to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a difficult one that remains obstructed by many factors.
In my 1986 remarks, I pointed out that one other element was needed in addition to top-level dialogue and a mutual non-aggression and no-war pledge: the relaxation of tensions between the North and the South through the confirmation and support of other nations directly involved, i.e., the United States, the Soviet Union, China and Japan. One reason for this is that, as present circumstances attest, there are serious obstacles that prevent the two Koreas from implementing an agreement on their own. Of course, the cooperation and support of other nations should never be allowed to interfere with how the North and the South address their problems. Nevertheless, I believe that the nations that were involved in the partitioning of the peninsula and in the Korean War have a responsibility and duty to sincerely try to create an atmosphere conducive to the realization of an agreement.
The most urgent issue is the nuclear problem. Adopting a long-term perspective, we must hold a Northeast Asia Peace Conference attended by South Korea, North Korea, the United States, Russia, China and Japan in order to achieve peace and stability in the region.
The problem of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Korea, which is demanded by North Korea, cannot be solved by the two Koreas alone. It will only be possible when the proper environment emerges. At the conference I envision, the first task would be to discuss how to create the circumstances that would facilitate implementation of the items agreed upon in the Joint Declaration for Denuclearization. Another issue that should be addressed is the realization of an Agreement for the Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons that would contribute to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The second part of my proposal, to which I have already alluded in connection with the establishment of a UN Asian office, is the peaceful use of the DMZ. I make this proposal purely from a humanitarian standpoint, stemming from my desire to see this wide expanse of completely desolated land used in the cause of peace and human rights.
This proposal is an urgent one designed to help the most victimized people of all: families that have been separated by the North-South partition. Many efforts have been made to reunite and promote contact between the estimated ten million people who have been affected, but in reality their fervent prayers are far from being answered. I further propose, again from a humanitarian perspective, that Panmunjom or some other site in the DMZ be chosen for the rapid establishment of a Reunion Centre for Divided Families. The centre should be set up based on North-South consultation and agreement, but it could be placed under the jurisdiction of the UN or some other agency such as the International Red Cross. If, under current conditions, there are obstacles to having family members in one country visit their relations in the other, then we can at least, as a transitional measure, establish a new location in the DMZ where such meetings and exchange can take place. I believe that this plan is a realistic option.
Parallel to these efforts, I further propose that we seek, for example, the help of international volunteer groups to establish a centre dedicated to providing people in developing Asian countries with language training and instruction on agricultural and industrial technology.
I am convinced that opening up some areas of the vast wasteland of today's DMZ to the outside world will, in the long run, raise international confidence in both the North and the South, and make a beginning for the regeneration of the entire DMZ, thus serving the national interest of both sides.
In addition, by providing unstinting support for reconstruction in the DMZ, Japan can atone in some small measure for its responsibility for the war, and for the state of partition that has continued to the present day.
Suffrage for Korean Residents of Japan
I would now like to comment on another major problem that has persisted during the half-century since World War II: the human rights of the approximately 700,000 Koreans who currently reside in Japan. While this is Japan's internal problem, I believe it is Japan's important element in any attempt to improve the unfortunate confrontational relationship that has existed between Japan and the two Koreas up until now. Furthermore, in this age of internationalization, it is a problem that must be solved if Japan is to be trusted and recognized by the international community.
Many Koreans live permanently in Japan. Some moved here after World War II, but many came after Japan annexed Korea in 1910, when their ancestral homes were seized and they were forced to leave their villages to find a livelihood; still others were forcibly brought over during the war, and stayed on with their descendants to date.
One of my chief concerns is that these people, who are authorized permanent residents of Japan, have been denied the mainstay of the fundamental human rights: suffrage. Although they pay taxes just like the Japanese, they are not given comparable rights.
In Norway, Denmark and Sweden, any foreigner over the age of eighteen who has lived in the country for three years or more has the right to vote in local elections. In Australia, anyone who pays property tax is entitled to vote in municipal elections. In France, a number of local assemblies are considering opening the way to foreigners' participation in municipal government through advisory memberships.
We must be more concerned about the present situation in Japan, where not only first-generation, but Japan-born second-and third-generation Koreans have long been refused this basic human right. If, fifty years after the war, Japan should continue to seek the path of prosperity while making a contribution to the international community, it must first meet the basic human demands of people within its own borders who, even after the war, have been subjected to various kinds of discrimination and persecution.
As a member of a generation that has experienced war in the twentieth century, I know the debt of that war has not yet been paid off within Japan, and that the proud and ancient people of Korea have yet to be freed from the yoke of a tragedy that, even after the passage of half a century, continues to divide them. I have presented several proposals here in the hope that we can start a new movement aimed at reform.
Institution for Disarmament
Finally, I wish to emphasize that, as we grope for a new international order, we must by all means set our course toward disarmament. This is extremely urgent, especially in view of the economic difficulties that have arisen as a result of the worldwide recession.
The greatest hope for many of us when the Cold War ended was that we could stop wasting money on military expenditures. In fact, however, there has been no noticeable progress in arms reduction. We had hoped to reduce the amount invested in the military, and use the money instead for peaceful purposes; unfortunately, this so-called "peace dividend" is becoming no more than a dream. Particularly lamentable is that Asia has become the world's largest purchaser of arms.
In the five years from 1987 through 1991, the five countries of the United States, the Soviet Union, France, the United Kingdom and China were responsible for eighty-six percent of weapons exported worldwide - weapons that make international disputes more difficult to resolve. It is ironic that all five permanent members of the UN Security Council, who are charged with maintaining peace, are at the same time the world's top weapon exporters. By buying these arms, the Third World countries are simply making an already tough economic situation worse, and doubtless preventing improvement in the lives of their own citizens. It is grievous that the end of the Cold War has contributed nothing positive to the situation. We must work for change, so that the money which ought to be paid for food, medical care and education no longer is diverted to arms procurement.
No policy will provide a quick and simple solution to this problem. The first step is for the weapon-exporting nations to take the initiative in promoting disarmament, encouraging the conversion of military industries to civilian production, and practicing enough self-restraint so that they can get by without exporting large quantities of weapons. In this regard the postwar path taken by Japan could provide the perfect model, since it was able to achieve stunning economic development by remaining "lightly armed."
In 1991, on the basis of a proposal presented by the EC and Japan, the UN General Assembly established a registration system for the transfer of weapons. However, no one is obligated to use this system, and we can only hope that each country will register voluntarily. Such an inadequate system cannot possibly control arms exports. Here, too, is an area where Japan, which has had absolutely nothing to do with arms exports since 1945, is perfectly suited to help establish systematic control of such exports, thereby applying a brake on worldwide weapons traffic. To stop Third World countries from buying weapons, some say that the leverage of official development assistance should be brought into play. Weapons purchases could be closely monitored, and any country that bought large amounts of weapons could be denied foreign aid. Such an arrangement would prove very effective if it could be systematized internationally.
Comprehensive Ban on Nuclear Testing
Next year, 1995, will be a highly symbolic year for world peace. It will mark both the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the United Nations and the fiftieth anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Also, in the spring of that year, a review conference will convene to determine whether the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) should be extended indefinitely or for a specified period. In the midst of all this, however, it seems to me that interest in nuclear disarmament has weakened in recent years.
It is true that the end of the Cold War alleviated the threat posed by the fierce nuclear arms race between the two former superpowers, but we must lament the relative lack of concern for the threat represented by the huge nuclear arsenals that still exist. Nuclear proliferation continues to be a major problem, as symbolized by the current dispute over nuclear inspection in North Korea; it is in fact a concern of all humanity to reduce the huge arsenals of the nuclear powers as quickly as possible, and to eventually find a way to eliminate them altogether. I believe that we should try to make 1995 a turning point in our efforts to solve the myriad problems associated with nuclear weapons.
The first thing we must do is formulate a treaty that comprehensively bans nuclear testing. Then, at the NPT review meeting, we must ensure that the nuclear powers strongly reaffirm the ultimate goal of total abolition of nuclear weapons. The uncertain question concerning the abolition of nuclear weapons in the Ukraine has been happily resolved, but even if the United States and Russia are able to significantly reduce their stockpiles, we will still need international nuclear monitoring if we hope to get that level down to zero, and some sort of organization must therefore be established for that purpose. The end of the Cold War has rendered the idea of nuclear deterrence meaningless, and I believe this is precisely the time we should pursue the path of total abolition. We will need to expand the UN disarmament talks currently being held in Geneva into a new UN Disarmament Agency that can also address such issues as the disposal of nuclear waste..
I call on all people directly involved in these matters to seriously consider how they should approach peace-related issues during the watershed year of 1995, when the United Nations celebrates its fiftieth anniversary. In the postwar years, Japan in particular has advocated the abolition of nuclear weapons based on its own experiences at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and should now take this historic opportunity to exercise leadership in the cause of peace. For example, we could work to convene a UN Peace Summit in 1995 that would gather the world's leaders at the United Nations to achieve an agreement on total disarmament.
Some people may think that proposals such as international nuclear monitoring or total disarmament are unrealistic dreams, but there are precedents for both. Soon after World War II, the United States itself presented the Baruch Plan to the UN Atomic Energy Commission, which was a plan for international nuclear monitoring. Also, in 1952, it proposed a comprehensive disarmament plan that, on the basis of the UN Charter, was designed to build a warless world by systematically making war impossible as a means of settling disputes.
It is up to people themselves to build a world free from strife. The fate of the twenty-first century hinges on whether we give up the idea as being impossible, or continue to work at the difficult task of achieving true peace. According to archaeologists, humankind has engaged in organized war, meaning clashes between groups, for only about ten thousand of the four million years of human existence on earth. This fact should lead us to the conviction that it is not impossible to realize a human society in which war does not exist.
Only seven years remain until the twenty-first century. The time has come for the ordinary people, those who have been tossed about on the waves of war and violence in the twentieth century, to take the leading role in history. It is they who must take the initiative in constructing a new framework for symbiosis. By linking hands in an alliance that transcends national borders, the ordinary people can realize a world without war, and make our third millenium an era of bright-hued hope. Toward that goal, this year, too, I am committed to continuing my travels and pursuit of dialogue for peace around the world.
January 26th 1994
Copyright 1994 by Soka Gakkai
All rights reserved
1. John Silber, Straight Shooting: What's Wrong with America and How to Fix It (New York: Harper & Row, 1989), p. 304.
2. Jean Jacques Rousseau, Émile, trans. Barbara Foxley M.A. (London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd. and New York: E. P. Dutton & Co. Inc., 1948), p. 51.
3. Xenophon, trans. E. C. Marchant (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1923), p. 95.
4. Ibid., p. 99.
5. Masahiko Fujiwara, "Nihonjinno Hinkaku" (Japanese Refinement), Gakushi Geppo (March 1993): p. 61.
6. Plato, trans. W. R. M. Lamb, M.A. (London: William Heinemann Ltd. and Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1962), p. 257.
7. Ibid., p. 371.
8. Ibid., p. 299.
9. The Essays of Michel de Montaigne, trans. Jacob Zeitlin (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1934), p. 137.
Each year since 1983, Soka Gakkai International (SGI) President Daisaku Ikeda presents peace proposals on behalf of the international lay Buddhist organization, to which Soka Gakkai belongs. In them, he articulates Buddhist ideals and philosophy as a framework for addressing the manifold problems our global society faces in its efforts to realize human security and world peace.
This web site has been published by Ted Penfold (SGI-UK), with the unstinting support of BJ French (SGI-USA). The contents are solely the responsibility of Ted Penfold and are for educational use only. The copyright remains the property of the Copyright holders.
Any comments are welcome and are to be sent to Ted Penfold.