Monday, February 13, 2012


The first time I travelled to Japan was in April last year. It was not long after the March 11 earthquake but I still remember that Tokyo felt very normal and safe at the time. Since then I have been back three times and every time it feels like I am uncovering more and more of its secrets and its strange mix of stifling rigidity and childish playfulness.

It is a country that does not trust its government. And a government that does not trust its people. Instead of investing in its young people, the Japanese society appears obsessed with saving for its retirement. In the next 50 years, Japan is expected to go from 127 to 87 million people as the fertility rate continues to fall.

From a Swedish perspective it is not difficult to think of possible remedies: public childcare, openness to migration and, not the least, a radical change in terms of gender roles. But I am not here to give advice. At the same time, I wish I could show all this to conservative people back home, to make them understand that this is what you get if you kick downwards in society, if you do not listen to young women and if you mistrust the future. The other day, Anna and I finished our paper on aspirational cosmopolitanism that we will present in Oregon in March. Writing it reminded me of how important that last part about the future really is; that it is first when we believe in an undetermined and open future that political change becomes possible. Basically, it is about believing that people can and will change, that simple transformative hope that always has separated the right from the left in politics.

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