Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Mr. Hashimoto Attacks Japan's Constitution"

Is this post relevant for a visual anthropology-themed blog? Perhaps this post might best be filed under outrage?

Visual anthropology as I see it certainly includes the visions and images of society and culture; those visions of influential politicians like Osaka Mayor Hashimoto fall into this category. Aside from his "One Osaka" platform, he has been promoting ideas and ordinances aimed at giving him greater power at the expense of the rights of individuals. One of these rights is privacy, an issue that VAOJ has been concerned about in terms of protecting the visual anthropologist and those s/he studies during ethnographic fieldwork (especially the issue of photographing individuals in public). The Japanese public might be considered paranoid in terms of protecting their privacy; when politicians abuse privacy the environment can only get worse, making anthropological fieldwork that much more challenging. Is this too much of a stretch for VAOJ to get political? That's up to you. But anyone concerned with Japanese politics, human rights, privacy and/or living in Osaka should read this new article by by Lawrence Repeta at Japan Focus. Here is his introduction:

On February 6, 2012 Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru issued an order to all Osaka City employees compelling them to disclose personal information concerning labor union activity, their support for political candidates, and other sensitive matters. The survey includes such questions as “In the last two years, have you participated in any activities in support of a particular politician?” and “In the last two years, has a co-worker ever requested that you vote for a particular politician?” It goes on to request the identities of such co-workers or others who invited the respondent to participate in political activities. Each respondent must provide name, employee number and work description. (An English translation of the Hashimoto Survey is found at the end of the article.)

Although most questions in the Survey require respondents to identify themselves, the Survey also provides directions to a designated “reporting window” that create the opportunity to snitch on one’s enemies anonymously. This episode is illustrative of ongoing threats to the already precarious status of individual rights in Japan.

Mr. Hashimoto’s cover note includes a stiff reminder that he’s the boss: “this questionnaire is not a voluntary matter. It requires factually correct responses from all employees by order of the Mayor. In cases where responses are not true, penalties may be applied.”

The audacity of this inquiry into workers’ political and union activities and relationships is breathtaking. This is an intellectual strip search designed to enable the Mayor to create detailed personal profiles of all Osaka City employees. If these survey results are compiled, Mr. Hashimoto will be able to identify his political supporters and opponents with a few key strokes and then be free to find ways to reward and punish at his leisure. Protections for fundamental rights have been embedded in democratic constitutions all over the world and in international human rights treaties precisely to protect against this kind of abuse of power.

Link to entire article: http://japanfocus.org/-Lawrence-Repeta/3728

Click here for more VAOJ coverage of Mr. Hashimoto.

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