Analyzing Today's Society from a Legal Viewpoint
24 , 2004
Prof. Asaho Mizusima (Waseda University)
I wonder what everyone imagines when they hear of "taking steps"
and "following procedures". Today we can see tendencies of top-down
decision-making and of undervaluing procedures throughout society. Even in today's
society where massive amounts of information circulate at high speeds, decisions
are made behind closed-doors. If you do not feel somewhat uncomfortable with such
speedy top-down methods of decision-making, you probably lack legal intuition.
So, what exactly is the significance of "taking steps" and "following
procedures"? These are both pearls of wisdom created so that those in power
determine policies through democratic processes. In addition, the human rights
articles of our constitution ordain an inalienable domain of which no power can
violate even through proper "steps" and "procedures". In the
legal world, such is the terminus ad quem of history. However, those presumptions
crucial as premises for debate are being discarded.
Because it is a time of weakening civic virtues
The right to vote is essential in the democratic
process. In principle, voting must be popular, direct, confidential, equal, and
free. In a confidential vote, no one else finds out whom you voted for, and being
able to vote anonymously holds a significant meaning. However, today we see how
people abuse anonymity in a different domain ? cyberspace. Through taking on an
anonymous identity, there have been increasing numbers of people who one-sidedly
say whatever they feel like. The emergence of this problem should not necessary
lead to regulation of speech, but it is a good example which depicts how civil
virtues have degenerated.
The degeneration of civil morale can be seen throughout
society. For example, when we learn about the principle of good faith we have
to start from why such an idea exists in the first place. This may sound slightly
exaggerated, but I have even seen a specialist not knowing what to say when questioned,
"Why shouldn't we kill other people?" This is the deplorable reality
? we encounter situations where we actually have to explain those previously unspoken
assumptions. "We must not violate human respect or dignity". Behind
these words are the cruelties and atrocities committed during the Second World
War. However, people have faltered in seeking the real meaning behind these words
in the sense that they have not been tracing the history behind. We are paying
for our lack of attention now through degenerating morals. Before we study our
Constitution or our laws, we must commence the exhausting process of reconsidering
Directing our attention to the discrepancies between the
Constitution and the real world
We often hear slogans calling for the integration of our
constitution into everyday life. Although that sounds soothing
to the ear, in reality things aren't as easy as they seem.
The Constitution is an important device that makes the lives
of living people trouble-free. However, thinking that the
Constitution is "something that all of us must obey"
is a big mistake ? it is meant to be "something that
certain people in power must adhere to". The underlying
mentality of suspicion is that we should constantly check
those in power since they do not always act under good faith.
Thus the Constitution is really a set of rules that restricts
the powers of the state, and it is disturbing and worrying
that many recent debates have forgotten this point of origin.
For example, the finalized Yomiuri Paper's proposal of Constitutional
Amendment is based on an inversed premise of "making
everyone adhere to the Constitution". Japan's most circulated
Yomiuri paper is praising its own Constitutional Amendment
proposal ? this is not even amusing.
When we talk of Constitutional Amendment, we tend to get into
two-forked arguments for and against amendment, but what is
more important is to consider how we want the Constitution
as the cornerstone of society before we start such debates.
What is the Constitution in the first place? As such premises
for debate is being undermined, we must first preserve and
maintain the forum for the Constitution, or else we are most
likely to be left with a Constitution which no one adheres