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The egalitarianism of ethnic nationalism

Torio’s totalistic worldview integrating morality and governance demanded inclusion of the entirety of the nation for the realization of ethical ideals and for national strength. Despite Torio’s statements that Western “civilization and enlightenment” is the path to human extinction and that Western “theories of freedom and equality would destroy the good customs of our land,” by which he largely meant that they would lead to republicanism and challenge the status of the Emperor,62 Torio was opposed to the class system in which the warriorclass monopolized privileges to the detriment of meritocracy, noting that “even highly talented people cannot help save the world if they are suppressed by class hierarchy.”63 Now that feudalism had been eliminated and Japan must construct a strong, independent state, the solution to preventing both the injustice of selfserving Western liberalism and the despotism of arbitrary authoritarian develop-mentalism was an ethical system informed by the traditional Eastern principles of benevolent governance. From ancient times, Eastern thought was solely carried out for the happiness of the people and it was not morally acceptable for the strong to take advantage of the weak and foolish.64

Benevolent government could only come about through a public spirit and not through self-interested competition. Western “civilization and enlightenment,” however, was fundamentally driven by self-interest, and by satisfying worldly desires. This led Torio to claim that “Western civilization and enlightenment is driven by greed and is nothing more than a great struggle where the strong and intelligent win supremacy” over the weak.65 Republican America proudly claims to be the world’s most free and politically equal country. Yet, economic equality is not possible in this kind of system. A new hierarchy emerges based on the accumulation of property and not thr ough moral striving. This leads to the misery of the poor. For Torio, this reflected a morally bankrupt society and may also lead to political extremism such as republicanism.66 Writing in the context of not only a burdensome tax regime for developmental goals but also the unequal treaties which forbid import tariffs ultimately causing negative trade imbalances, Torio argued that those who see Western history in a positive light, and who worship the West, do not see that their policies were causing harm for generations and that most of the population in Japan was suffering. Torio laments that no matter how much the people work, their production is not enough to earn a living. Torio voices similar denunciations of imperialism, which he explains as the result of selfish immorality leading the West to lose the Way.67

Torio’s tirade against the Meiji government’s perceived exclusion of the people extended to education. Torio argues that education is not just for the elite. True civilization fully recognizes the central importance of everyday skills, and the contributions to society of a range of different people and the need for their cultivation. Civilization must be for the whole of the nation. With seething indignation, Torio fumes that “this idea that the ‘high-collar’ upper class, who have assets above the average and have a little education and knowledge, are the only ones with ‘civilization,’ is not true civilization.” If this was the case,

then imagine if a new train line was created. Are the well-to-do passengers in the train the only ones with civilization? But that means that those who toil underground to mine the coal (and who make the train run) have no civilization.

In this recklessly hasty developmentalism, for “those good people doing menial labor and suffering under increased taxation, there is no ‘civilization.’”68 Torio continues by exclaiming that despite the hostility of the elites toward the lowly jinrikisha drivers, he had always found them to be morally upright and scrupulous about money, unlike many upper-class people who manipulated the nuances and gaps in law for their own profit. In referencing cart pullers, Torio was possibly making a veiled criticism of the elitism of the penultimate Meiji liberal thinker and central Meiroku-sha member Fukuzawa Yukichi, who had stated the unwashed masses, “the peasants and cart pullers,” were not yet equipped to participate in politics. For Torio, the privileging of industrial and financial power for national development over the moral customs of the people, which in his eyes brought true happiness and stability, meant that the true definition of civilization had been turned “upside-down.”69

Torio’s views can also be interpreted as being tinged with a level of paternalism stating that if the people’s thought and action are not enlightened, they can fall back into an acceptance of despotism. Yet, crucially, he does evince the recognition that the ruling class was not possible without the lower classes. Torio states that it is inevitable that the wealthy and respectable dominate human society, and the poor will be forced to submit. Yet, drawing on his belief in Confucian benevolence, those with power must take responsibility accordingly, and through their own self-initiative seize the duty of the exemplary gentlemen. The wealthy, cautions Torio,

are not capable of earning their wealth by themselves. The status of wealth and respect must inevitably come from benefitting from the poor. Therefore, they must also (work) for the interests of the masses, and love the mass of commoners. They should lovingly use them and bring about their happiness and virtue. The wealthy should lovingly cultivate the poor, and the respectable should lovingly protect them.70

Torio goes on to explain that deciding the Emperor as the leader of the nation prevents competition and fighting over who is superior and inferior, preventing the exploitation seen in the liberalism of the West.71 Nevertheless, Torio’s spirited defense of the underrepresented and exploited, which commanded the respect of many who saw him as champion of People’s Rights, was not only motivated by ethics. Torio’s need for inclusion of the populace was also driven by the pragmatic concerns of strengthening national security. In his writing on tax law, Torio makes this explicit. Torio argued that tax policy favoring landlords would enrich the property owners and bring calamity to poor farmers. In the crucible of Western imperialism and intense competition among nations, Japan must not engage in destructive competition within the country. Japanese policy concerning land, which he argued was the property of the state, and taxation must be for the “total” of the nation to ensure ethics and strength, a mentality that has resonances with the interwar period.72

 
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