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The Strange Case of Mitsutoki Shigeta

You have to be of a certain age to remember how important the Domino Theory was to American foreign policy in the 1950s and 60s.

This was the theory according to which all the countries of Southeast Asia (and beyond) would fall to communism if one of them did so. It was therefore vital to prevent any of them from falling.

It is difficult to assess the worth or otherwise of this theory. Counterfactual history is hardly a science, or even a branch of knowledge. Who can say what would have happened in Southeast Asia if the Americans had acted differently, according to some other geopolitical theory? It is not even possible definitively to decide whether the policy followed was a success or failure. Even at a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives and untold destruction, to say nothing of the economic cost to America itself, it did not prevent the spread of communism in Indochina. On the other hand, communism spread no further, nor did it last indefinitely. Whether its durance was longer or shorter because of the war will remain forever a matter of speculation.

The Domino Theory seemed to have held in Eastern Europe, though in reverse. Leonid Brezhnev enunciated a doctrine of his own, namely that a country, once communist, could not return to capitalism (a Marxist equivalent of the Islamic doctrine that once Islamic, a country could not revert, which is one of the reasons why Spain, or al-Andalus, looms so large in the mind of fanatics) But it was obvious that once an Eastern European country had seceded from communism, the holdouts — Rumania and Albania — could not long survive.

Recently there has been another kind of contagion in Southeast Asia, that of surrogate motherhood. Rich foreigners, for some reason unable to have children, have sought surrogate mothers, first in Thailand, then Cambodia when the practice was prohibited in Thailand, then Laos when it was prohibited in Cambodia. There had been a domino effect in prohibition.

A case has recently been settled in Bangkok (after 4 years of legal wrangling) in which a young Japanese billionaire, Mitsutoki Shigeta, who paid thirteen mothers in Thailand to have his children before the prohibition came into force, has been declared their sole legal parent. His initial explanation of his rather extraordinary behavior was that he had political ambitions and wanted to create voters for himself, though this, if meant seriously, would have suggested that he wasn’t very good at arithmetic; but the judgment took into account the fact that he was certainly in a position to bring the children up in comfort, if not happiness.

The surrogate mothers were poor women from the countryside and Shigeta paid them about $15,000 each to bear his child. This was surrogacy on an almost industrial scale, on the production-line model. In awarding sole parenthood to Shigeta, the court took notice of the fact that he was in a position to give the children a good upbringing, at least from the material point of view, and that he was the only parent who had actually wanted the children.

Most people’s immediate reaction to this story is one at least of distaste, and even of disgust. On the other hand, they do not find it easy to construct an entirely rational reason for their instinctive feeling that people (and particularly someone like Shigeta) should not be permitted to behave in this way. It is, in fact, rather easier to construct the opposite argument.

Thirteen women, who were not coerced into agreement, were enabled to accumulate a capital sum that would probably otherwise have been beyond them to accumulate. It would give them the opportunity to start a small business, perhaps; and if you argued that they were coerced by their economic circumstances into agreeing to Shigeta’s whim, you are in effect arguing against free will.

In a sense, everyone is coerced by his circumstances, for no one lives, acts or takes decisions in no circumstances whatsoever that are not of his choosing; the degree of coercion differs, no doubt, but it was never alleged that Shigeta held a gun to the women’s heads. He tempted rather than coerced them; and probably (though I have no evidence of this) the women succumbed to the temptation with the agreement of others around them. The situation, then, was the product of free human choice.

Whether the thirteen children brought into this world in this unusual fashion will be happy or emotionally well-cared for must be a matter of pure speculation. As far as I know, no one has ever behaved in precisely this way before, and so there can be no evidence, even merely probabilistic, either way. In any case, we do not insist on parents guaranteeing their children a happy life before granting them a licence to reproduce. Such a remedy would be far worse than the disease of bad parenting that it is supposed to cure.

Moreover, it is unlikely that Shigeta’s example will be followed by many people. He is clearly a strange man, for only someone very strange could even have thought (I was about to say conceived) of such a mode of conduct. He doesn’t pose a threat to society, Thai, Japanese, or any other. Indeed, Japan is suffering from so low a birth rate that the accession of thirteen children to it might be counted a blessing.

Such are the arguments in favour of permitting people to behave as Shigeta and his surrogate mothers behaved, yet I think that many people would be left unsatisfied by them. Their instinct would tell them that this is not the way humans should behave, that in some way not easily definable it was turning humans into objects merely to meet whimsical desires and instrumentalising human life: and this would be so even if everything turned out happily for all concerned, and the surrogate mothers and consequent children were all treated well.

There is a conflict between the Promethean view of life, that it should be entirely without limits (except, perhaps, those suggested by a utilitarian ethic), and the view of life that accepts limitations that are neither of our own devising nor rationally arguable but only agreed by instinct and tradition. My own view is in unstable equilibrium between the two. I find it difficult to be entirely consistent.

Reader Discussion

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on March 16, 2018 at 10:12:06 am

The story is so strange as to sound archetypal and worthy of a Greek myth or play, a German fable, surely a political moral. Of the latter, three come quickly to my mind:

1) Of the progenitor's motives, Dalrymple says "... he had political ambitions and wanted to create voters for himself."

Which is downright Democrat in its morally-twisted but linear logic and akin to that Party's otherwise irrational support of open borders.

2) Dalrymple says the mothers' behavior"... was the product of free human choice."

Which is Democrat Party apologetics for killing prenatal infants according to which twisted but linear logic doing wrong is right so long as it's the exercise of a "right" and the consequence of choosing freely.

3) And, finally, Dalrymple suggests that "this is not the way humans should behave, that in some way not easily definable it was turning humans into objects merely to meet whimsical desires and instrumentalising human life."

Which is what conservatives would say about most of the immoral behavior and absurd apologetics of modern Democrats.

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timothy
on March 16, 2018 at 19:38:56 pm

I agree with you, timothy. Moreover this story speaks of infidelity.

But I do not think “the view of life that accepts limitations that are neither of our own devising nor rationally arguable but only agreed by instinct and tradition,” is required. I recently discovered that the individual may develop human authority to behave according to personal preferences, choosing to develop fidelity to the-objective-truth. An explanation follows:

Four Powers

Each human may potentially balance four powers: individual authority to behave according to personal preferences; actual reality or the-objective-truth; humankind’s social order---both civilization (coercion) and legalization (force); and the American dream---private liberty with (voluntary) civic morality among the people.

Behave means control personal energy in each moment during the individual’s life. Behavior may be good, bad, criminal, evil, or otherwise un-civic. The-objective-truth can only be discovered. Events may change the course of action, yet consequences conform to the-objective-truth. For example, Bush II claimed weapons of mass destruction, and the consequences are unfolding according to the-objective-truth. There may be as many gods as there are believers, but the-objective-truth does not misrepresent God. Civic refers to individuals collaborating for each other’s lives more than for a municipality, or for doctrine, or for society, or for ceremonial tradition. Thus, civic morality or collaboration for comprehensive safety and security supersedes social morality. The American dream holds promise for all people in the world.

Possible future

If the American education system, beginning now, taught and encouraged attention to the above four powers the next generation could emerge with public integrity. We propose coaching in K-12 schools and in adult education published by hometown newspapers. We envision better statements of the powers after collaboration by civic citizens. With awareness of the four powers, most people may individually develop two key practices: fidelity and first do no harm.

The fidelity is comprehensive. It begins with collaboration to discover the-objective-truth. For example, in physics, humankind once perceived the earth is flat but now knows it is like an earthen and water globe with a molten core that is orbiting in space-time. In psychology, lying to avoid conflict was an accepted practice; but Albert Einstein, in 1941, informed us not to lie, in order to lessen misery and loss. From the-objective-truth, fidelity incorporates self, immediate family, extended family and friends, the nation (its people), the world (its people) and the universe, both respectively and collectively.

As a person develops comprehensive fidelity, he or she may concurrently develop the individual commitment: In every thought, every word, and every action, first do no harm. At first this might be a daily reminder, but in time it becomes a habit. This practice stems not only from the Hippocratic oath, but from my paraphrase of Agathon’s speech about appreciation in Plato’s “Symposium”: Appreciation’s courage is that coercion/force is neither imposed nor tolerated. Learning to apply Agathon’s principles is not easy. So far, I have learned three lessons. First, if I imagine my plan could harm someone, I speak to him or her and listen, then either proceed, adjust to the collaboration, or change altogether. Second, if I perceive the need to report bad service to the service department I do so with commitment to effectiveness. I have only been practicing these two commitment for about two months. Third, President Donald Trump has exhibited a practice of confronting falsehood with trivial, even made-up responses, so as to prevent the other party from taking advantage of information Trump’s integrity would disclose. (I interpret Trump’s behavior as an unexpected, brash practice of Matthew 7:6. If so, I do not fault him.) I have not yet incorporated this practice, but see incentives to protect integrity.

Purpose and aims of the American dream are offered in the preamble to the 1787 Constitution, so no immediate legislative change is needed to embark on an achievable, better future. All that is needed is for civic Americans to articulate their understanding and commitment to the goals and honestly collaborate to achieve them, knowing there are dissidents. There were about 1/3 dissidents when the USA was established on June 21, 1788.

With these principles, discovered injustice would prompt amendment of the law. Over time, the present system of rule by dominant opinion would transform to statutory justice; in other words, use of the-objective-truth. Dissidents have the personal authority to resist unjust law based on dominant opinion, and more readily accept the integrity of the-objective-truth. The system of laws that unfairly distribute the Gross National Product would be amended so that people who provide needed labor may both earn a living and accumulate wealth for civic mobility. Soon, extant barbarity toward some of the nation’s children would lessen, and the need for civic redistribution of taxes would lessen. As a majority of civic people became evident, rational dissidents would be attracted to statutory justice and reform. Statutory justice is grounded in the-objective-truth. Yet, dissidence, like all biological variations, cannot be eliminated: Utopia is not expected.

Historical facts that support the above ideas

First, although July 4 is celebrated as a birthday, the USA was established on June 21, 1788. The people’s representatives in nine state conventions ratified the preamble to the constitution, with its articles that created the opportunity to develop statutory justice. The preamble is neutral to wealth, religion, and race, and so are the 1787 articles, and therefore, they accommodate collaboration on the-objective-truth. The people of the nine ratifying states hoped the other four free and independent states (named in the Treaty of Paris, 1783) would join the USA. One state, Virginia, joined the USA in time for the seating of the First Congress, on March 4, 1789.

The facts are controversial. So called “founders” may be various leaders of record in events dating from September 4, 1774 until December 15, 1791, a period of 17 years and beyond. In a revisionist example, in 1863 at Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln referred to 1776 as the year “our fathers brought forth . . . a new nation.” Also, he imagined governance of, by, and for the people. Two years earlier and more formatively, representatives of twelve colonies established the Continental Congress including the thirteenth colony. The colonies changed their style or designation to “states” and made plans for independence from England. State began to hold conventions to write constitutions. Early into the revolutionary war, the confederation perceived weakness and negotiated help from France. Victory at Yorktown, Virginia, included England’s surrender to France, ending their second Hundred Years War. In the 1783 Treaty of Paris, England agreed that the thirteen states were free and independent, naming each one. The thirteen ratified the treaty and struggled to operate as free and independent states until June 21, 1788, with USA operations under We the People of the United States beginning March 4, 1789, with three states still dissident.

The First Congress, with representatives from ten states, bemused the work of the 39 of 55 delegates who signed the draft constitution on September 17, 1787. The delegates who signed created the possibility to prevent Divinity disputes in political debate and prepared for emancipation of the slaves, consistent with the freedom they had won for themselves. Some of the 1/3 dissident delegates wanted to preserve the confederation of states and some wanted to partner with God in government; some believed African slavery was an institution of God. Dissonance prevailed in 1789, and by May, Congress hired Protestant ministers, assigning to itself American Divinity in competition with Parliaments’ English Divinity. There were fourteen states when the First Congress ratified the Bill of Rights, completing the constitution the nine state ratification conventions committed to without essential debate. In other words, the established USA politically completed its own constitutional negotiations on December 15, 1791. A political mess had been created, and our generation has the privilege of collaborating for justice.

I assert that only the 39 signers of the 1787 Constitution, the signing 2/3 of delegates, may be considered Founders. Groups before 1787 included British loyalists; groups after 1787 included dissidents to the draft constitution for their reasons. The 1787 Constitution made possible statutory justice for the people who collaborate to discover the-objective-truth rather than the people who conflict for dominant opinion, such as elitism, theism or racism. Merely by adopting the preamble’s aims for civic collaboration, restoration of the intent of the signers of the 1787 Constitution is possible, and discovery of the-objective-truth for statutory justice may be resumed. Repeating, the USA has all it needs---the preamble and the-objective-truth---to immediately re-establish the path to statutory justice.

Failing republicanism invites the chaos of social democracy

I have written before about our work, A Civic People of the United States. I was excited a few weeks ago to discover the above mentioned human power---individual authority to behave for personal happiness---and situate it with the other three powers discussed above. However, since about 2000, I have struggle to understand why many people including some writers for the Wall Street Journal refer to “our democracy” when the constitution promises a republican form of government and Federalist 10 speaks against pure democracy. I had surmised that some talk of voting and others talk of human rights as democracy. Either way, democracy begs chaos and woe.

This week, I gained new insight, for me, on reading Eric Foner’s book, Tom Paine and Revolutionary America, 1976. On page 255 Foner wrote, “And, as Paine had done in The Rights of Man, the [Democratic Society of Pennsylvania] redefined the meaning of the word “democracy,” using it simply as a synonym for republicanism, a government based on the will of the people.” That’s pure democracy, which the American republic defeats with its balance of three powers. Yet the indeterminacy of the will of the people empowers the financial wealth, religious and racial divisions the USA suffers. Collaboration to discover and benefit from the-objective-truth would lend integrity to both the people and the government.

I will continue to read, write and collaborate when possible.

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Phillip Beaver

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