Here’s this week’s Media Mix, which is about inherited privilege, especially in politics. Today, of course, is the lower house election, and one of the points that Prof. Doi makes in his Asahi Shimbun interview, and which I didn’t really emphasize, is that he wants young people to vote more proactively. His theories about inherited privilege, and the idea that one’s fate is determined by what sort of family you’re born into, are based on a conventional Japanese viewpoint that things are never going to change—or, if they do, they will change very slowly, because vested interests have a hold on power that is rooted in the past and thus very difficult to deracinate. And as time goes on the tendency for young people to think they have no effect on the larger social picture becomes more difficult to shake, especially during ongoing economic stagnation exemplified by immobile wages and a widening income gap. I’m not sure if the young people he wants to reach read the Asahi, but he seems quite determined to make them understand that their futures really are at stake, even if he declines to go into the politics involved.
So it will be very interesting to see how the race for Kagawa Prefecture District 1 goes. As I mentioned at the end of the column, Arata Oshima directed a fairly popular documentary (meaning popular for a documentary) last year about Junya Ogawa, an idealistic lawmaker who is today challenging incumbent Takuya Hirai for his constituency. Hirai is the epitome of a legacy candidate: he is the third generation of his family to hold the seat for the ruling LDP in a district where his family owns many businesses, including two media companies. As shown in Oshima’s documentary, Ogawa nearly defeated Hirai the last time they fought, owing to his appeal to younger voters, who usually don’t go to the polls. Though he lost to Hirai by a slim margin, he was able to gain a seat in the Diet through proportional representation, but as he clearly pointed out, it’s difficult to get your policies heard, much less enacted, when you’re a proportionally elected lawmaker. Oshima is presently making a new documentary focused entirely on the Kagawa District 1 race, and will release it on December 24. Of course, we’ll know well before then who wins the race, but it could prove to be the most important one in this election, if only because of what it might say about the presumed invincibility of legacy candidates.