With Taro Yamamoto, Yohei Miyake Seeks Volunteers And Donations As He Perceives His Election Campaign As A Massive Collective Art Project With The People
Yohei Miyake, a reggae rock musician, owner of a small shop that sells carefully selected humane and environmentally conscious products, decided to run for the Upper House election for the second time. And this will be a grass-roots campaign starting on June 22nd. The voting day is July 10th.
“Is voting enough?” is the question here about the election in general. Can we really mature the democracy with just going out to the polling station to write names on a piece of paper and throw it into a box?
A good election campaigns seem to mobilize people because it becomes something more than mere election campaign, a game of (sometimes delusional) political elites, a mandatory and formal event of the society, a routine initiation of troubling, free and happy democratic countries to basically maintain the status-quo or sometimes make things worse for the sake of special interest groups in and out of the country.
Very recently in the United States, even though “the struggle continues,” people experienced that they can pour their energies into the political campaign, and make it more intrinsically important during Bernie Sanders’ campaign. The campaign becomes a shared collective challenge to progress. The campaign feels more like the process of making a massive collective art if you look at the society as the experimental place where “people” can have influence to turn beautiful visions into the reality.
In the past 4 years, after 311 nuclear disaster, Yohei Miyake and Taro Yamamoto did it in “far East” conservative and strange country that adopted Western democracy relatively recently in the history. They fought their Upper House elections with donations and volunteers. Many people who are not affiliated with any political party, people who don’t have special interests, people who never vote, people who care about the world genuinely committed themselves to their election campaign. The political atmosphere started to obtain heat from the countless people. Something changed a little bit. Some people called it a “movement.” Some even called it a “revolution.”
How it all began goes back to 2012, during the Lower House election held shortly after 311 nuclear disaster. Miyake left Tokyo to escape from the radiation and settled in Okinawa, beautiful southern islands of Japan, also the location for the most of the American military bases constructed after countless tragedies of the battle of Okinawa during WWII. Many American soldiers flew from Okinawa to Vietnam and killed and got killed. Miyake who had already tried many forms of activism against nuclear power, witnessed Taro Yamamoto running for Lower House election all alone, giving anti-nuclear speech in a bullet proof jacket in the heavy backlash from the Japanese mainstream society, especially from the pro-nuclear power cluster. In the society that’s saturated with pro-nuclear power propaganda for decades, (equipped with 54 nuclear reactors squeezed on the island that’s about the same size of Clifornia), everything needed to be said and addressed about the Japanese society at the time, in the most intense and immediate phase following the disaster, seemed to be magically turning into “taboo.” Many people kept silence. If you talk too much about the nuclear disaster and its consequences, people make you feel like you are talking about something inappropriate. You somehow become “weird” or even “dangerous.” And they will never tell you why. And people just stop talking about it so they can just not talk about it. Ignorance is bliss. Yamamoto was one of the people who chose to break the silence and the taboo. Miyake thought that Yamamoto was going to die or get killed if he fights all alone like that. Even though Yamamoto had supporters, he was still very isolated, and heavily targeted by the negative criticism from the most powerful form of what mass-media can do to destroy an individual. Miyake promised that he’d also become a candidate to support him, to fight together. And also realized running as a candidate was one form of the activism he had never done.
In 2013, Miyake kept the promise and run for the Upper House election. He ran as a musician. He named his campaign “Senkyo (election) Fest” and he basically toured all over Japan like bands do the tour. Many of his musician friends took part in the “Senkyo Fest.” Miyake sang songs and gave passionate speeches full of wit, compassion, love and also anger. His words had a very natural and authentic flow and it intrigued and draw people. His brave act gave a phenomenal sensation and penetrated the suffocating undemocratic political atmosphere of Japan with new possibilities and visions. He got many things started in profound level. And it also showed up as a number. He gained over 170,000 votes.
The reason why he didn’t win with such a large number of votes was because he ran in the proportional-representation constituency. With that system, bigger the party, you are more likely to win even with small number of votes. He was a Green Party nominee in 2013. The party was too small to get him elected at the time. This time he is going to run as a non-affiliated candidate in the small constituency in Tokyo area.
For this Upper House election, preventing the pro-constitutional reform candidates to obtain 2/3 of the seats is a major agenda of Miyake and many other candidates who oppose the direction of the right-wing ruling parties. PM Abe’s regime has been forcibly passing a series of undemocratic laws such as state secrecy law to legitimately hide information from the public and (highly likely unconstitutional) military bills to enable Japanese military to operate in foreign places for the purpose other than self-defense. Amending their own constitution was an ultimate goal of the ruling party LDP, and they have come very close to achieve it. Their draft of the constitution is highly controversial for including an article that can deprive the fundamental human rights in the times of “emergency.”
An American comedian Jon Stewart said that political satire didn’t change anything, but the grass-roots people who tirelessly work on the ground make changes. And Yohei Miyake said music wasn’t enough to change the reality.
The campaign starts on June 22nd. July 10th is the voting day.