Nazis, Comfort Women and Japan's Clumsy Bid for Testosterone

Taro Aso’s stupid suggestion about copying the Nazis is just another in a long series of inappropriate Japanese gestures symptomatic of a national yearning to reclaim its long-lost testosterone.

Let me start by defining testosterone. As the hormone of confidence, initiative and self-celebration, testosterone is essential to the makeup of not only healthy men and women as individuals but also to societies as a whole. The problem is that some confused people see it as the hormone of brutal aggression and mindless assertion. In other words, in befuddled minds its virtuous properties are confused with sheer stupidity and callowness.

That confused definition is befuddling some Japanese politicians who would like to lead their despirited nation back to pride and self-confidence. Aso is merely the latest example. Another recent example is nationalist Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and his bizarre riff about comfort women, prostitutes and the need for US troops in Japan to make more use of local sex workers. There was also the threat earlier this year by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to retract Japan’s earlier apologies to its neighbors.

Such statements don’t just offend neighbors and other right-thinking peoples around the world but also betray a society that has lost touch with the true meaning of pride and confidence — the true benefits of testosterone. The callow and erratic mindset that makes inanely offensive statements one day, then offers lame gestures to mend fences the next is symptomatic of children raised without the example of moral elders.

In fact, that is the situation in which Japanese society finds itself. I don’t mean individual Japanese, of which there are millions of right-thinking examples. I’m talking here about the collective mindset as embodied by its putative leaders.

The overarching ambition of Japan’s World War II militarists and their industrialist patrons disintegrated, in defeat, into a collective shame so deep that it fermented into a putrid mix of denial and self-abnegation. Denial that it had ever been a nation capable of such awful savagery. Self-abnegation to hide from the responsibility for the awful national crime against humankind.

This mindset has been responsible for a kind of societal timidity, even cowardice, reflected in the inability to deliver a straightforward, wholehearted apology to the nations imperial Japan wronged so heinously. It is also reflected in the utter lack of a healthy sexual identity. Sexuality is absent from media representations of Japanese men while Japanese women are portrayed as toys willingly exploited by western men. The only Japanese business leader seen making the kind of bold moves one might associate with the world’s third largest economy is Korean Japanese Masayoshi Son. In short, the nation appears to have been sapped of testosterone.

Which is why we keep seeing its mostly second-rate politicians making inane statements in a bid in mostly abortive efforts at working up some bravado. It’s true that Shinzo Abe’s effort to stir things up with his super-easy-money policy seems to have injected some life into the economy, at least for now. But the national quest to regain its self-confidence isn’t likely to go much beyond callow expressions of mock testosterone until Japan faces the truth about its imperial era squarely. That will lead toward a shot of real testosterone.