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July 23, 2022

A Call for New Humanism

 The world today is in turmoil, and the modern values of "freedom and democracy" are seen as having lost their power. Authoritarianism dominates in developing countries, while populism prevails in developed countries, stifling freedom and democracy.

 The world, however, is still in the process of the Industrial Revolution that took place in 19th century Western Europe, in other words, the economic upheaval brought about by industrialization is reaching the developing countries as well. In Western Europe, the U.S., Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and other countries, the expansion of economies through industrialization has created a large middle class, which has been given equal voting rights in elections, one person, one vote. This guaranteed the rights (freedom) of people and became the foundation of democracy, where people with rights get together and decide things peacefully. Developed countries have achieved a standard of living and rights unmatched in the Middle Ages.

 This situation of "freedom and prosperity" reached its zenith in the white American society of the 1960s. It was the so-called "beatnik generation," and the youth of that time made "self-realization" a buzz word in life. Today, among the youth of many countries, including developing countries, these American values of the 1960s, along with American pop culture, enjoy great support.

 Nowadays, however, "freedom and democracy" are seen as anathema by the ruling classes in former socialist countries and in developing countries. In authoritarian countries, freedom and democracy are seen as destructive, first of all, to the family. The children will no longer listen to their parents. The leaders of authoritarian countries know well that they will lose their power if they seriously introduce democracy.

Opposition parties in these countries are trying to gain power not for the sake of the masses but for their own usurpation of the interests currently monopolized by the ruling parties. Western non-profit organizations are supporting these opposition parties to take power (regime change), but this is not creating democracy. The owners of interests are simply replaced, but nothing changes in the lives of the people. And the competition for interests leads to civil wars, and ordinary people suffer. Syria, for example, has generated millions of refugees. The Western non-profit organizations or the neocons in the U.S. who created this mess take no responsibility for this tragedy.

Because of this, many leaders of former socialist countries and developing countries have come to fear and dislike the U.S. and see the words "freedom and democracy" or "globalization" as synonymous with domination by the U.S., and have come to reject it. Many former socialist countries and developing countries did not vote in favor of the UN General Assembly resolution denouncing the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, not because they are anti-US or pro-Russia, but because they are afraid of regime change incited by the US. If the U.S. changes its stance, it could turn many of them into "pro-U.S."

Can the US maintain "freedom and democracy"?

 The developed countries may not worry about the U.S. phobia in the developing countries, but today they are facing a far more serious problem: can the United States maintain its own freedom and democracy?

 The U.S. is losing governance as the rivalry between the Democratic and Republican parties intensifies, and its foreign policy line sometimes changes 180 degrees with each new administration. If Trump is reinstated in the next presidential election, NATO, the Japan-U.S. alliance, and other alliances will be neglected, and the U.S. will not engage the world in a responsible manner. Western European countries are also losing their domestic governance, with populism at its height. They are also unable to engage with the outside world in a coherent and responsible manner.

 In such a world, Japan will assume the G7 presidency next year. Japan has tended to focus on disparate issues such as the environment and science and technology without touching on values and the larger global framework. This should not be the case this time around. Freedom and democracy are necessary for the Japanese people themselves.

It is the responsibility of the G7 chair, Japan, to make sure that the foundation of the G7 is freedom and democracy in a situation where we do not know what will happen to the United States in the near future. Japan's government is now stable, which is rare among developed countries. This is because the opposition parties are divided and losing power, and there will be no major elections for the next three years.

 Japan should raise the banner of continuing, deepening, and spreading "modernity," which promotes human rights through industrialization and economic improvement, to developing countries. Japan is well qualified to do so, having embarked on economic globalization and modernization of values nearly 150 years ago, and having paid dear prices to build the high standard of living and democratic society it enjoys today. The fact that Japan provides official development aid to developing countries to the tune of $15 billion a year also adds weight to Japan's statement.

The "New Humanism" Declaration

 I would like to sum up all of the above with the phrase "New Humanism". Western Europe laid the foundations of today's freedom and democracy during the Renaissance in the Middle Ages. Following this model, the "New Humanism" today frees human beings from the shackles of Marxist and neocon philosophies, and places human rights and the betterment of life at the foundation of everything. This follows the ideas of John Locke, Jeremy Bentham, and other thinkers in 17th century modern Western Europe.

 The term "new humanism" is vague. However, because it is vague, it is more likely to be supported by many people. The words "freedom and democracy" are discredited in former socialist countries and developing countries. Developed countries should not try to give lectures to developing countries in a condescending way, but should give them advice, which is more practical and understandable.