It goes without saying that hate, intolerance, discrimination and violence have been the mark of mankind since the dawn of human history — and all efforts to curb this characteristic behavior through laws, religions and other forms of influence have failed.
In fact, male-dominated religions, the largest, most organized and most powerful of these efforts, have fueled rather than diminished the hatreds, the intolerance, the discrimination and the violence that have plagued humanity since day one.
But despite the evils that have been inherent in the dogma and teachings of religions and the propensity for evil that is part of the primitive nature of men in particular, ordinary people in many societies have achieved a level of civilization that is praiseworthy.
However, most countries in the world remain awash in irrational and violent behavior because their cultures are generally incapable of instilling in people the mindset that is necessary to build and sustain rational, positive, humane, and constructive societies.
The reasons for these cultural failures have been known to many people for ages, but the very evils that have traditionally plagued mankind have prevented most societies from being able to create the kind of cultures they should have.
And yet the answer to this challenge is not mysterious or unknowable. In fact, it is simple common sense. The answer is that cultures should not program their children to hate, to be intolerant, to discriminate, and to engage in violence.
The problem is that the beliefs and institutions that control present-day societies make it virtually impossible for people to agree on and work together to develop and implement training programs that would transform the way children are raised, and most parents do not have the knowledge, the incentive, the opportunity or the experience to undertake the necessary training themselves.
As simplistic, and perhaps as other-worldly as it may sound, there is one training program that all children could be enrolled in at an early age that would go a long way toward instilling in them all of the cultural attributes that are the most desirable and admirable in human beings—and the only thing their parents would have to do is enroll them in this program and keep them in it from around the age of five to fifteen.
Churches, schools and other social and governmental institutions would not have to be involved in any way. It requires only a decision and a commitment by parents to give their children the opportunity to develop the kind of attitudes and behavior that would fundamentally and dramatically improve their chances for success in all areas of life.
This program is nothing more than the physical, emotional, intellectual and philosophical training provided by the modern-day version of karate (kah-rah-tay), the martial art that originated in Okinawa when that chain of islands was conquered by a Japanese warlord in 1609 (in cahoots with the Tokugawa shogunate) and the residents were forbidden to have weapons of any kind.
Karate literally means “empty hand,” and originally referred to a way of inflicting serious injury or death on a person using only the hands. During the following centuries of the Tokugawa era [1603-1868] this way of fighting was gradually subsumed into the training of the samurai who ruled Japan, and later became a part of the training of Japan’s imperial army and police forces.
After the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1868 and dissolution of the samurai class in 1870 karate was transformed into a sport aimed at developing the character of the individual, with special emphasis on respect for others, concentration, self-confidence, diligence, a sense of order, perseverance, honesty, courage and compassion.
Today most people around the world are familiar with the word karate as a result of movies, video games and comic books, and they tend to see it as a fighting technique. But it is no longer aimed at developing prowess in combat. It is aimed at building the kind of character and behavior that all parents would like to see in their children.
The number of karate training centers around the world is growing as more and more parents come to understand its remarkable benefits — how it can improve the character, personality and behavior of their children.
I believe that the physical, intellectual and philosophical discipline offered by karate training could go a long way toward reducing, if not eliminating altogether, many of the evils that continue to afflict mankind.
Editor's note: Boyé Lafayette De Mente (1928-2017) first came to Japan in 1949 as a member of the occupation forces. He held a degree in economics and Japanese from Tokyo's Sophia University, and a BFT from the American Graduate School of International Management in Glendale, Arizona.
He was best known as the author of a highly successful series of books on social and business customs in Japan, China, Korea and Mexico. As a journalist with the Japan Times, and later on as editor of 'The Importer Magazine,' he witnessed at close hand the rapid growth of Asia's 'tiger' economies. His guidelines to westerners wishing to do business in the new post-war Japan were widely recognized as ground-breaking.
I am indebted to Mr. De Mente for sending the above article to republish here in Japan Perspectives.