Review of “Once Again, a World Where People Believe Everything Is Alive: A Dialogue with Tetsuo Yamaori” (2002)


Miyazaki Hayao (participant), Yamaori Tetsuo (participant).

Read in 2021.

Read in Turning Point.

Yamaori sets the tone of this conversation with an early double whammy on the religious contrasts of US wars in the Middle East and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Demons (1873). He also brings up Mikhail Kutuzov and Leo Tolstoy. Miyazaki, in the same trollish mood as “It’s a Tough Era” (2002), responds that Osama Bin Laden could have a point. I have to give this one to Yamaori.

It’s fun stuff though. Miayzaki compares the role of Japan in the 21st century to Wojciech Jaruzelski, who in his leadership of communist Poland managed to hand victory to the country’s democratic liberators. In Miayazaki’s words, “Jaruzelski pretended to be repressing Solidarity while he was really restraining the Soviets”; a role model. Yamaori seems to agree, comparing the myth of Noah’s Ark in Genesis (ca. 500–400 BCE) to the less fanciful myth of the original Daoist philosophers—Laozi and Zhuangzi—who would not have tried to survive Noah’s flood. They surmise that this philosophy of transience is incompatible with the Abrahamic religions of the deserts, and compatible instead with an older pantheism, “a religion of all things and all life”.

I read this dialogue in August 2021, when the USA retreated from Afghanistan after almost 20 years of war. In that sort of light, the two thinkers seem prescient. Miyazaki does say that the USA will destroy the Taliban, which never happened, but he also says that “we’ll never see empathy for the weak nor any idea of forgiveness emerge either”, which is true enough. Thus far, the philosophy of Jaruzelski and the ancient Daoists seems to have been more successful than absolutist Abrahamic factions in the 21st century.

References here: Turning Point: 1997–2008 (2008/2014).

text non-fiction Japanese production