Excerpts from the Teaching “Dependency of Japanese People”
When I observe the Japanese people today, one thing that strikes me is their ingrown attitude of dependency. On a bigger scale, the government is dependent on foreign countries regarding trade and other matters. In private sectors, industries are requesting aid grants from the government and financial help from the Central Bank of Japan.
Small businesses claim they cannot remain solvent without securing bank loans. Many individuals, unless they borrow money from relatives or friends, cannot make both ends meet, and students claim they cannot continue their studies at school without help from their parents. The unemployed, widows, and underprivileged people are dependent on government aids, public works, or assistance from charitable organizations. Wherever we look, we find many, many individuals who cannot live without help from outside sources, and I am truly amazed at the dependency of the Japanese.
What is the fundamental cause of all this? I think it is that our society cannot yet rid itself of the feudalistic way of thinking. In the olden days, samurai and government officials comprised the leading classes, and the majority of the population were ordinary citizens. The former lived on allowances given by their masters, the feudal lords. The latter, except for a few wealthy individuals, served as employees or apprentices for many years, perhaps for decades, with their livelihood guaranteed although their pay was very low.
When the terms of their servitude were over and they were about to become independent, it was customary for the merchants to help them start their businesses and give them the accounts of some of their own patrons. Laborers did not have the right of collective bargaining then, so they were able to survive only by the patronage of feudal lords or wealthy merchants.
Consequently, most of the people lacked independence, had no equality, had to rely on receiving the favor and protection of the wealthy and the strong, and so were not guaranteed the right to live. This kind of situation lasted for centuries, so it is understandable that the Japanese people today have not yet gotten rid of that spirit of dependency.
Women, unable to take up any occupations such as there are today, had to depend on their parents even after reaching maturity. Once married, their husbands' homes became their prisons for the rest of their lives, with absolute obedience required to the wishes of the husbands' families. To go against the demands of the husbands or husbands' parents was considered to be against the morals of all women. It was indeed a hard life for them, unable as they were to live without clinging, like ivy, to something stable.
In comparison, things in the United States of America were completely different. As the history of the United States tells us, several hundred Puritans left England and landed on American soil in the beginning of the seventeenth century. They developed forests and plains, and through their struggle and hard work began the two-hundred-year building of the present brilliant culture of this great nation. So, it is only natural that America's philosophy is quite different from that of Japan. From the beginning, the people there had no one to rely upon, no outside assistance to expect, nothing except their own hard labor and ingenuity. They had no choice but to produce something from almost nothing, from scratch, by their own efforts. When I look at the present self-reliant attitude of Americans, I feel a kind of envy toward them.
If we Japanese are to rebuild our country after having been so completely defeated in World War II, it will be to our advantage to emulate the pioneer spirit of Americans. I can assure you that introducing this philosophy to Japan would be much more effective than introducing capital. According to the law that spirit governs matter, this should be the fundamental method of national reconstruction. But very few among the present leaders in Japan seem to realize this vital point, and the mass media is impressing dependency upon the hearts of the people.
This expression may sound rather extreme, but to me dependency is the philosophy of the coward, the spirit of beggars, begging for mercy from others and appealing for pity. When they cannot get what they ask for, they grumble, express their complaints, even take defiant attitudes, and finally try to defeat others by using the power of the masses. They seem to be unaware that if they achieve that goal and beat their opponents, they too are ruined. Such foolishness is truly beyond description. Far from rebuilding Japan, we cannot expect even to maintain the present standard if the majority of people cling to this mental attitude.
I believe that the best method to follow is to totally eliminate the dependent spirit from the hearts of the Japanese, and I assure you that there is no better way to reconstruct our country.
March 25, 1950