State Funerals Destroy Democracy

Abe Shinzo, the destroyer of democracy


Immediately after the assassination of former prime minister Abe Shinzo on 8 July, leaders of all the political parties in Japan issued statements declaring that they would never tolerate such a dreadful act of violence that destroys democracy. This sounds like a perfectly natural response to the shooting, and no one should have any objection to it.

However, it is not only visible physical violence that destroys democracy. Johan Galtung, a Norwegian peace studies scholar, coined the term “structural violence” to describe a different type of violence in which the actors of the violent act are invisible. Structural violence means poverty, hunger, oppression, discrimination, obscurantist policies and the like. In retrospect, Abe Shinzo was the one who took full advantage of structural violence to destroy democracy by constantly spewing lies and deception, like a heavy smoker who spreads filthy smoke everywhere.

“Abenomics” – which Abe introduced as an “economic revitalisation policy” – has brought about a sharp rise in prices and huge wage disparities, while simultaneously increasing the defence budget every year. As a result, the lives of many ordinary citizens are heavily burdened, especially single-mother families, the elderly, and the homeless. The impoverishment of these people is increasing daily. Rather than revitalising their lives, Abenomics has forced many citizens to struggle to find ways to survive.

On Moritomo School, the Kake veterinary faculty, and annual cherry blossom garden parties, Abe squandered taxpayers’ money as though it literally grew on trees. When the truth was about to be exposed, he made bureaucrats under his control cover up, falsify, and destroy the evidence to get away with his crimes. In the Moritomo School corruption case for which he and his wife were largely responsible, he drove one of the Ministry of Finance officials to commit suicide, ultimately forcing him to take the final responsibility. If this is not violence, then what is?

Deliberately misusing and abusing Galtung’s concept of “positive peace”, Abe enacted one unconstitutional law after another. The law authorising the right of collective self-defence, the special secret protection law, and the conspiracy law all contain examples of his typically delusional claims.

In his bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Abe tried to cover up the effects of the Fukushima nuclear power accident by stating: “For those of you who are worried about Fukushima, let me assure you, the situation is under control. Tokyo has not been and will not be adversely affected in any way.” In so doing, he shamelessly lied to the world. Vast quantities of radioactive water continue to flow into the plant; the situation there is completely out of control.

In diplomacy, his deep sense of racial discrimination was blatantly reflected on many issues. For example, he tried to end the Korean pursuit of Japan’s war responsibility for the Japanese military sexual slavery (so-called “comfort women”) with a Japan–Korea agreement which he termed a “final and irreversible solution”. In fact, this characteristically deceptive phrase meant: “We will pay you a billion yen so you will shut up about the issue from now on.” In this way, one billion yen was used to buy the memory of the historical fact of Japanese military sexual slavery, and to erase the memory of this war crime from history.

Nonetheless, in response to strong criticism from the US media of his dishonest approach to the comfort woman issue, Abe expressed his apologies to President George Bush at Camp David in March 2007. The president accepted his apology, while both men ignored the actual victims of the Japanese military sex enslavement. Abe never expressed an apology directly to any former comfort woman prior to or following this meeting with Bush. Similarly, on the issue of US military bases in Okinawa and arms purchases from the US, Abe flirted Presidents Obama and Trump as if he were their pet dog wagging his tail, and he made huge US arms purchases.

Let me reiterate that Abe was the one who destroyed Japan’s originally fragile democracy by taking full advantage of structural violence. Furthermore, Trump and Abe are the two who will go down in history as the heads of state who told the biggest lie of all.


State funerals: acts of subversion of democracy by state powers


The Kishida administration and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are eager to politically exploit the death of a democracy-destroying politician – this time, in the form of a state funeral.

Strangely enough, Abe’s death has exposed a long-standing cosy relationship between a pseudo-religious organisation called the Unification Church and many LDP members who accept large donations (bribes) and other forms of political support from this church. Abe’s assassin was one of the victims of this church’s dubious activities. Donning the false cloak of religion, the Unification Church takes advantage of ordinary people’s mental vulnerability to extort money and at the same time strongly advocate anti-communism.

In an effort to cover up LDP’s corrupt relationship with the Unification Church, the government is now trying to enshrine Abe as a “great defender of democracy,” wrapping his death in a second layer of lies to cover the many deceits of his lifetime. Accordingly, a solemn state funeral is now being planned as an official government event with many distinguished foreign leaders being invited. The true aim of this state funeral is to guard and preserve the political power of the ruling LDP by paralysing the public’s rational thinking. Politicians who have been victims of “vile violence” are the most convenient figures to be used for such state mythologising.

The same logic used to enshrine Class A war criminals is at work here. Once enshrined, war criminals such as Tojo Hideki must be remembered and revered as noble and holy human beings, and their personal histories must not be questioned. At the same time, the history of Japanese imperialism which produced such soldiers must not be questioned. When the state power mourns a particular person by holding a national funeral, it legitimises its own power by enshrining and mythologising the person. State funerals are held for the purpose of bringing political benefits to a particular political party or politician who is in control of state power; there is no such thing as a “non-political” or “politically neutral” state funeral. A state funeral is not only a clear violation of the Constitution of Japan, but also a very dangerous political act that destroys democracy.

Furthermore, the majority of people who are given state funerals are men; very few women are honoured in this manner. Although the status quo is changing rapidly in many other countries, it is still the case in Japan where politics are predominantly a man’s domain. Therefore, state funerals also serve to reinforce the culture of male dominance.

In many countries, state funerals include the ceremonial firing of cannons and guns. Consequently, the guard of honour who escorts the spirits of the dead, plays an important role in the funeral rites. In Japan, the Self-Defence Forces play this role at the Emperor’s Grand Mourning Service, which carries symbolic significance in sanctioning the military power of the state to the people. Through the national funeral, the guard of honour validates the idea that a nation can only be a nation by possessing a violent organisation of military power. In this sense, the state funeral is contrary to the principles of the Constitution, especially the Preamble and Article 9 of the Constitution.


The Guard of Honour from SDF attending Abe's Family Funeral on July 12

Indeed, on 12 July, at the family funeral of Abe, on the instructions of Kishi Nobuo, then Defence Minister and Abe’s younger brother, the guard of honour from the Self-Defence Forces attended the ceremony. The use of the Self-Defence Forces for a private family matter also seems to be a violation of the Constitution.

Bearing in mind these subversive aspects of state funerals, it becomes clear that they need to be opposed. Calling for their cancellation is an important expression of democracy by Japanese citizens. We need to be fully aware of this fact and expand our opposition to national funerals on a nationwide scale. 


Yuki Tanaka