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March 07, 2021

Forced Self-restraint on COVID-19

Forced Self-restraint on COVID-19

Sadaki Manabe

Professor of Faculty of Political Science and Economics, Takushoku University

I would like to consider the "request for self-restraint" that is talked about as a countermeasure against the COVID-19 infection. Self-restraint originally means "voluntarily restricting one's actions", and there is no compulsion by others. However, self-restraint does not mean "voluntarily" now, and the reality is that it is almost "forced self-restraint" regardless of the person's will.

This is not just a matter of words. In fact, even "self-restraint police" have appeared to attack and intimidate people who do not restrict their actions. Japanese society rarely agrees or tolerates those who say, "Because self-restraint is not compulsory, we acted at our own discretion." On the contrary, it is regarded as a nuisance and is excluded.

Of course, COVID-19 infection requires sufficient caution and coping with individuals, and if they neglect to do so and do not restrict their actions, it is unavoidable to be criticized. However, what about a society in which people who take all possible measures and act at their own discretion are subject to criticism, exclusion, or intimidation?

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Why do the Japanese government and local governments take vague measures such as "requests for self-restraint" rather than "orders"? First of all, there is a way to escape administrative responsibility. For example, if a person suffers damage in accordance with an "order", he / she will have the right to claim damages against the government. However, if you suffer damage due to "self-restraint", you are logically at your own risk. Therefore, there is no right to claim damages against the government s. Instead, the current idea of ​​administrative responsibility is to make up for damages with a system such as "business continuity benefits" from the governments. The intention is that there is no responsibility in the administration.

Second, the Government of Japan should avoid using the administrative term "order:MEIREI" as much as possible for fear of being accused of being a powerful administrative system. For example, the word "evacuation order:HINAN KANKOKU" is used instead of "evacuation order: HINAN MEIREI" especially in an emergency. The word "direction:SHIJI" has the same meaning and coercion as "command". In an emergency, it is better to clearly state "command" than ambiguous "direction", but it is trying to hide the compulsion even in an emergency.

It and "request for self-restraint" are in the same context. Using the term "self-restraint" that seems to give "room for one's own judgment", it actually has the same meaning and coercion as "an order that does not allow one's own judgment". Therefore, the "self-restraint police" attack those who do not refrain from self-restraint, will be dismissed.

Thirdly, the "forced self-restraint" hides the excessive defense instinct of "I'm in trouble if something happens" that is prevalent in Japanese society. "I'm in trouble if something happens" is a "magic word" that discourages us from trying. This "magic word" appears in every aspect of daily life and administration. From nursery schools, kindergartens or elementary schools to universities, business owners and managers refrain from playing and events with the magic word "I'm in trouble if something goes wrong." And children and students are prohibited from acting at their own discretion because "it will be a problem if something happens", and all will act according to the instructions from the managers. As a result, children and students grow up as "SHIJI MACHI YOUKAI: ghost waiting for direction".

In this case as well, it is ambiguous who is in trouble. It is natural that children who challenged and failed are in trouble. However, the subject of this magic word is not the parties, but the managers who say, "I'm in trouble if something happens" . They are afraid that "when something happens", the responsibility of the manager or administrator will be immediately held by an unrelated third party such as the Internet, and they will be socially denounced.

Therefore, in Japanese society where the obsession that "if something happens, you will be in trouble" is widespread, self-restraint is not "self-restraint to make decisions on your own", but "self-restraint to be forced" so that we will not be in trouble even if something happens. It will be in the form of.

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The problem lies in the fact that self-restraint is not based on the original independent self-judgment, but is distorted so as to accept the judgment decided by others as it is. Japanese society is too cautious about this loss of independence. There is an obsession that it is safe and secure to follow the judgments of others rather than the judgments of oneself. And if we do not follow the judgment of others, we will be subject to social denunciation. This is the origin of Hannah Arendt's most vigilant holisticism. From Arent's point of view, the ambiguity of "forced self-restraint" is a cleverly designed totalitarian method of governance.

Therefore, the government should use the term "order" to clarify the compulsion, not "forced self-restraint", in order to clarify the responsibility. And we should literally "willingly judge" our self-restraint. To that end, we will lose the compulsion of the magic word "I'm in trouble if something happens", avoid doing nothing, and "I will deal with something appropriately and responsibly, so let's challenge”. It is necessary for us to have an attitude.

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