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The world's largest urban area is also the most peaceful.

Kuhara observes that religious integration seems to be one reason why the world's largest urban area is the most peaceful. It is in fact more than that. Shinto, the religion native to Japan, is a true religion. Buddhism and Confucianism are as much about philosophy as religion. So the integration the Japanese have achieved is one among qualitatively different belief systems. As philosophies, Buddhism and Confucianism are quite stable. They have served humankind well and peacefully for millennia. Could it be that they deal in a realistic way with questions of human behavior and morality? Violence is simply immoral and there is no room for any other interpretation. Not so for the monotheisms where radicals can find in or interpret from the scriptures whatever they want in support of their causes.

Kuhara's observations affirm Varshney's studies of violence in India. He found integration in all sectors and all levels of society correlated strongly with peacefulness in the city-pairs he examined. Tokyo has gone Varshney one better, as one might expect from its lack of ethnic pluralism in the first place. What the Japanese do is integrate disparate religions and philosophies into their mores to a degree not seen in the West. Any self-respecting western Authoritarian would deride the Japanese tradition of believing in more than one religion and/or philosophy. But it works. And because it works it is a role model to be studied by Western Societies -- if we truly want peace. The Japanese are by genetic nature as authoritarian as we are, but they have solved that issue. Other societies, such as the Scandinavian have, too, in somewhat different ways.

A question Kuhara's Op Ed column raises: What is there about the Japanese ability to integrate their religions that we can adopt? How do they do it? They do so by integrating philosophy and religion in acceptance of others in their faith. More importantly, the peaceful natures of their religious and philosophical beliefs are instilled from childhood. See Religion and Violence for what causes violence in the Middle Eastern and Western cultures. In a word, none of the Japanese religions is a monotheism and monotheism incites violence.


Monotheism and Violence

In Shinto, there is no faith in the concept of an absolute one god who is the creator of both nature and humankind. Shinto has the concept of Kami of the Japanese. English translations may confuse Kami with God. However, Kami was originally both male and female from the heavens and they conceived further Kami who became indistinguishable from humankind on earth. This is akin to the God of Spinoza! For Spinoza, all is God and all is Nature, and we, of course, are part of nature--simply put.

Shinto does not acknowledge the existence of the substantial difference or discontinuity between Kami, nature, and human beings. It can be said that Shinto is basically the faith in the life-giving power.

The very effectiveness and timelessness of this amalgamation arise because it deals with the issues of life on earth, today, in a practical and moral way. The moral directives are clear with logical bases when you think about it. By living moral lives, the Japanese do not seem as concerned with the hereafter as monotheists are. Their purpose is clear in the here and now--daily.

There is one other feature Kuhara mentioned that is worth noting. Eastern Cultures respect parents, and grandparents even more. Since wisdom typically grows with age, wisdom from elders is taken seriously by the young.

In contrast, authoritarian monotheists require adherence to strict dogma. Monotheism is reactionary by nature and immutable. The Japanese revere and listen to their own family elders, not the fire-brand fundamentalists hijacking religion. Jessica Stern is right on when she draws the conclusion that religion [monotheism] is a principal sponsor of terrorism. Whose god is God is the contentious issue.

The Washington Post, 22 December 1994, discussed a crucial feature of Tokyo's success. Excerpts follow:

D.C. Police Import Japanese Method -- NE Koban Aims To Build Trust Between Officers, Community
By T.R. Reid and Lena H. Sun

Tokyo police are curious to see whether the D.C. cop on the beat can be converted into an Honorable Mr. Walking-Around.
Yesterday, the District held a grand opening for its first koban, a Japanese-style police booth, in the sprawling Paradise at Parkside housing complex in Northeast Washington.

Three officers have been working since Halloween in a second-floor office of the complex's community center. It isn't exactly a booth, but the hope is that the personal approach to policing will help the city achieve some of the social stability and strong sense of community that give Japan remarkably low crime rates.

The District is one of several U.S. cities that have borrowed the idea, with guidance from the Tokyo Police. The koban concept, in turn, is part of a broader American movement toward community policing, a partnership between police and neighborhood residents. The idea stems in part from Japan's experience with police who are not so much law enforcement officers as all-purpose neighborhood helpers.

Every neighborhood in every Japanese city has its own koban, a small booth or office where the local police officer is based. There are about 1,200 in Tokyo alone.

In Washington, Officers William Jackson, Mona Lynch, and Richard Saunders spend their days patrolling Paradise at Parkside, visiting apartments and schools to check on troubled children, organizing basketball teams and even providing tutoring...

It's a whole different atmosphere, said Lynch, 27. She used to walk a beat in the tough Benning Terrace neighborhood. Each of the officers has an apartment in the complex, and Lynch estimates her commute at two minutes...

In Japan, one officer generally is in the booth, while a partner roams the territory - a few blocks to a few square miles, depending on the population - on foot or on the standard white-frame police bicycle. The roaming officer is a benign presence in the neighborhood, as reflected in the respectful term people use for police officers: Oh-mawari-san, or Honorable Mr. Walking-Around.

Mr. Walking-Around knows every home, apartment building and business in the area - which is crucial because Japanese cities generally don't have street names or sequential house numbers. Finding a specific building can be impossible without stopping by the nearest Koban for guidance.

The koban also serves as the local lost-and-found. Police lend umbrellas, lecture teenagers caught smoking and pass the word to neighbors when someone in the vicinity is ill, has a baby or is admitted to a prestigious college.

In the event of a robbery or some other offense, people run to the nearest koban or dial 110, the Japanese equivalent of 911, which automatically connects the caller to the local police booth in most cities.

Japan's police officers carry pistols, but an informal Washington Post survey of 12 Tokyo officers turned up only one who had ever drawn - not fired, but drawn - a gun in the line of duty.

That sounds tame compared with what an American police officer faces on some city streets - and it is.

Japan's famous postwar miracle usually is defined in economic terms. But there has been a social miracle as well; the Japanese have built a free and prosperous society with crime rates far lower than what Western nations have come to accept.

The District [Washington DC] has about twice as many homicides each year as Tokyo - even though Tokyo has 20 times the population. The District, with fewer than 600,000 residents, has had 402 homicides this year; Tokyo has 12 million residents and an average of 200 homicides a year. Japan also has far fewer police officers, judges and jails...

In recent years, about a dozen U.S. cities - now including Washington - have launched koban experiments.

Paradise at Parkside was plagued by violent crime and drugs in the late 1980s, but the crime rate has dropped significantly in recent years. Now the officers hope to turn it into a model.

We hope to redirect the youths, show them that there are positive things they can get into and make outstanding citizens out of them, Lynch said. If we can do this, Lincoln Heights can do this. Benning Terrace can do this. The model can be taken to other places.

There is more to curing crime than band aids. Unless a society is behind the koban model, or something like it, it cannot work. Singapore society achieved the transition from reactive policing to a proactive policing based in part on the koban model. Will American society move in the same direction? We can only hope.

See for details on the Singapore experiment. Their solution was a lot more complex than a simple blind application of a new model, however successful elsewhere. The Singapore transition included very strict laws and procedures along with society education along three paths:

  • Citizens are responsible for their safety and that of their neighborhoods.
  • Many crimes are opportunistic; removing the opportunity removes the crime--again a citizen effort.
  • Cooperation of all resources with measures taken commensurate with the threat.

See Op Ed - Kuhara for the background.

"Any map of the world that does not have utopia on it is simply not worth having."
- Oscar Wilde

[Did Wilde have Japan in mind?]


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