Wayward general wants to whip Japan's wimpy civilians into winners
Former chief of staff of Japan’s Air Self Defense Force, General Toshio Tamogami, was dismissed in 2008 after he published a politically incorrect magazine article that rankled Japan’s civilian political leaders. He now spends part of his retirement writing a weekly column for Asahi Geino.
Tamogami’s previous columns have generally touched on military threats by neighbors such as China and North Korea. But in his latest installment (June 14), he turns his attention to the status of Japan’s civilians, particularly young males, who he complains have “no gumption.”
He recently advised an acquaintance, the president of a small company, to encourage his staff to laugh loudly, since laughter will boost their “power” and, since laughter is contagious, will be beneficial to co-workers as well.
His other bit of advice was, “Make your subordinates set work and personal goals.” When he was commander of an air wing, at the start of each year, he ordered his 1,500 subordinates to write down two personal objectives. The first was their objective toward their work, and the second toward their personal lives.
“As long as people live, there will be things they want to do,” he writes. “I get the feeling that the malaise among so many of today’s young people is due to their having no dreams or goals. By encouraging young people to have goals that overlap with both their public and private lives, their motivation will be boosted.”
Tamogami admits that the young people of today have been raised in “unfortunate times.” Due to interference by parents or the parent-teacher association, a school will become ensnarled in the regulations if even a trivial dispute arises between students, leading to a huge outcry. Stifled by so many rules and regulations, children have no outlet for their energy. While it’s important to take proactive measures to avoid injuries, won’t children become tougher after they’ve experienced a few bruises and scrapes? It used to be a natural part of growing up; but due to over protectiveness children are insulated from learning from their stumbles and falls.
In primary and middle school, children are constantly admonished, being told “You can’t do this” or “You can’t do that,” and they grow up not knowing how to wield their own power. In other words, the have few experiences to stir up their motivation.
Humans exert both beneficial energy and bad energy simultaneously, Tamogami believes. It is important to do a good job of suppressing the bad energy, but when it is reduced to zero, then the good energy likewise falls to zero.
His point, it appears, is that sometimes kids benefit from having some sense knocked into their heads.
“It has already been some time since corporal punishment was banned outright,” he writes. “But for children who don’t listen to adults, how can you make them learn anything without the application of one or two fists?”
He rambles on, asserting that when corporal punishment is meted out to children who misbehave, its purpose is to redirect their energy in a good direction. By ignoring that principle and banning corporal punishment outright, a child will grow up thinking, “No matter what I do, I won’t get whipped for it,” and not reflect on their own badness.
Obviously it’s “excessive,” he concedes, to strike a child to the degree that causes an injury; but the trend to halt all corporal punishment is no different from saying not to scold them when they misbehave as well.
“One facet of growing up occurs when the child first realizes the existence of adults who are to be feared,” he writes.
“The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has issued criteria concerning corporal punishment, but I wonder if such criteria are necessary. It should be left to the prerogative of the teacher.”
And if the teacher is a brutal sadist out for blood? The general doesn’t say, but asserts instead that in today’s society, people have no awareness of how to bring up a child, a situation that’s come about because society has placed the emphasis on making the job easier for parents and leaders of society.
So when all else fails, it would seem, one can always fall back on tough love.