Sunday, August 03, 2008

A graceful death by hanging

In an effort to show that former Justice Minister Hatoyama was not a fluke, the new Minister Okiharu Yasuoka announced that he opposes offering a life sentence without parole in place of the state killing people by hanging.

Naturally, this is at least partially due to Japanese culture. As the late, great Ruth Benedict* said, Japan is a shame-based culture. Therefore, Yasuoka says that "the majority of people support the idea of dying gracefully to pay for a crime" and that life without parole "is cruel, and does not fit with Japanese culture.**" (quotes from a Japan Times article.)

I for one am very thrilled that Fukuda has replaced his cabinet. Now we will see real change and forward movement as a bunch of new retro-grouches of advanced years replace the old bunch of retro-grouches of advanced years and we can confidently rush headlong into the 1960s.

*Ms. Benedict is the author of the well-known The Chrysanthemum and the Sword in which she implies that Japan is a shame-based society vs. the guilt-based society of the West (the US in particular). She based a large part of her research on interviews of Japanese prisoners of war which may have been a bit of an unusual segment of Japanese society. There is an ongoing debate (here and here, for example) about her work which is surprising only because it is ongoing.

**Yasuoka may have a bit of a point here---of course the point is a few hundred years old:
...[Edo Period] prisons as there were held suspects awaiting verdicts or criminals awaiting sentencing. The sentence might be death (by crucifixion, for example), or exile, or flogging. But it was almost never a specified period of incarceration. The concept was scarcely known, and facilities all but nonexistent. Severity generally won the day in the name of public order...(From The Japan Times Tokyo Confidential which is based on stories from the tabloids. Some people consider the tabloids a bit more reliable---or at least less under political control than MSM.)

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