The spirit of harmony as the cause of conflict
In a society then where differences in ability do not count, and in which everyone has a feeling of security, leadership naturally goes to the man who can preserve harmony and who is rarely the object of others’ envy. All Japanese know that the phrase at the beginning of Clause One of Prince Shotoku’s Seventeen-Article Constitution (604)1 is ‘Wa wo motte t?toshi to nase’—’Regard harmony as of the foremost value’, and they believe this deeply. At that time there was no danger of being attacked by foreign peoples. Fear came from discord among one’s own people. And in fact Prince Sh?toku’s descendants were destroyed by precisely that. The thing to be feared most by an agrarian people whose feeling of security is based on the earth is discord among one’s fellows. The prime concern of the village leader is to maintain harmony among his fellow villagers. In its extreme form, this amounts to saying, ‘Provided we don’t split among ourselves, nothing else matters’. This notion carried to extreme limits was evident in the condition of Japan just before the outbreak of the last great war. This is instructive for us today, in that it shows what great upheavals can be caused by overestimating the importance of harmony.
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