Sunday, June 07, 2009

We are safety country!

Maybe being number 7 on the list is a little disappointing, but on looking carefully it seems that Japan has actually got safer compared to last year when it was number 4, however other countries have got even safer and overtaken it.

The numbers appear to be largely made-up anyway, including things like public perception of crime (not actual crime) which probably has more to do with media attitudes than reality. Perhaps the funniest is the military assessment. The UK, being recently/currently engaged in a number of wars (ie travelling around the world and killing people, probably in breach of international law in at least one case) gets a fairly high score of 4 out of 5 for its "military capability". Whereas Japan has its laughable "self defence force" that first wouldn't go to Iraq because it was too dangerous for them, and then had to be defended by the Dutch when they did dare to go (and rumour has it they also paid large sums to local militia as bribes to avoid coming under attack). For this rather pathetic display of military prowess they get a maximum score of 5!?!?!

Of course there has been some unpleasant rhetoric here, such as moves to renounce the pacifist constitution and allow first-strike attacks on foreign countries "when an attack is certain" (like Pearl Harbor, for example). But that's hardly military capability, and takes place against a background of North Korea "testing rockets" in the general direction of Japan. Surely it doesn't compares to the UK and USA actually bombing random people.

I'm surprised by the "respect for human rights" where Japan supposedly outscores the UK, as I didn't think Japan really believed in the concept. A Japanese govt minister is recently on record as saying that they didn't want to go down the Western route of allowing too many human rights or they would get "human rights metabolic syndrome" (contrary to that newspaper article, the speech did not cause any great shocks here, it was just business as usual). Off the top of my head, Japan has no general laws against racial discrimination and refuses to enforce CERD despite pretending to sign up to it over a decade ago, it is renowned as a haven for child kidnappers and refuses to adopt the Hague Convention on child abduction, the courts have a conviction rate generally reported as about 98% or more relying largely on forced confessions extracted over 23 days in custody with negligible legal rights, it accepts orders of magnitude fewer refugees than comparably rich nations...the list of human rights transgressions is a long and inglorious one. I would never pretend the UK is perfect, but it's really hard to fathom how it could rate worse than Japan on any rational assessment of this factor.


georgesdelatour said...

Hi James

Japan is the second most economically equal country in the world, as measured by its Gini Coefficient in the most recent UN Human Development Report. The UK is 49th, the USA 74th.

An interesting question is how far economic equality and cultural diversity pull societies in opposite directions. It seems that very diverse multicultural societies usually have higher Gini scores (ie they are less equal). Having intensely shared values in a more collective culture may be a prerequisite for relative social equality - at least if that equality is consensual and democratic, rather than imposed. I think (but don't know) that higher Gini scores tend to correlate with higher crime rates. Certainly Brazil (118th) seems to have more crime that Denmark (1st).

But I'm cautious. Lots of people discussing these things cherry pick statistics to try and confirm their beliefs.

James Annan said...

Hi Georges,

Maybe equal for rich and poor men, but Japan is way down the list for gender equality which may be more indicative of their attitude towards human rights. I was probably remiss in not mentioning the depth of institutional and cultural sexism in my post.

I agree though it's easy to cherry-pick stats that appear to support a particular point. It is certainly a safe and peaceful country in many ways. I saw more loutish and aggressive behaviour in a week in Vienna recently (Austria: ranking 5th) than I have in 8 years here.

georgesdelatour said...

Why do you think that is? Japan has a very low birth rate, well below, say, the Nordic countries. So it's not that women are preoccupied with bringing up children.

James Annan said...

Japan is dominated by old men in all spheres and is very socially conservative as a result. Ministers exhorting "birthing machines" to whelp like bitches gives a taste of things!

Women are pre-occupied with shopping rather than children. I really don't know to what extent careers are blocked versus women just not bothering to pursue them, and how much the latter is the result of conditioning and upbringing. It seems common for women to simply give up work on marriage, even in the absence of children, which is unheard-of these days among my acquaintances in the UK.

It sometimes feels like a bit of a self-perpetuating system but in fact it is changing gradually.