Let us also consider whether we Japanese have fairly evaluated our own historical legacy and put it to good use. Japan, one of the world_s major powers, can scarcely afford to assume an attitude of indifference toward the global problems mentioned above. We must do all we can to contribute to their solution. Unlikely though it may seem, I would suggest that the key to an effective contribution lies in our ability to reevaluate early modern Edo society from a global perspective. Though few people realize it, the storehouse of knowledge embodied in Edo society has barely been tapped. I believe the time has come to explore its riches fully from the standpoint of their global utility. Upon returning from his pioneering voyage on the space shuttle, M_i Mamoru spoke, in concrete terms even schoolchildren could understand, of the experience of viewing the earth as but one tiny planet in the vastness of space.
Each one of us needs to cultivate this cosmic view of things, to adopt a worldview that acknowledges the earth as just one finite realm. It is possible to analogize between the earth itself and the closed system of Edo society under the policy of national seclusion. The earth is open to the rest of the universe in terms of the flow of energy, but when it comes to matter, there is virtually no exchange. Matter neither leaves nor enters the closed, isolated system of the earth. We Japanese have already experienced life in a closed system in the form of Edo society.
The human race can no longer look to new frontiers stretching out endlessly before it. We have arrived at the point where we can see that the earth on which we live is a finite world. At the same time, the military state has become an anachronism, and the right of belligerency_once regarded as a basic plank of national sovereignty_will in time probably be curtailed. In dialectical terms, we might think of the closed society of the Edo period as a thesis and the modern world system imported during the Meiji era as the antithesis. Today, the time has come to acknowledge the negativity of the latter and achieve a new synthesis. By the _negativity_ of the modern world system, I refer to the fact that the problems generated by this system have become global in their reach. Until now, our worldview has been predicated on a perception of the world_s vastness. It is time to revise our outlook fundamentally.
The human race has spread across the face of the earth, leaving virtually no region untrodden. No uncharted expanses remain to be explored. The earth is a finite body.
Once we grasp the analogy between this finite earth and Edo society in the age of seclusion, the wisdom of that era becomes relevant to our own time. The results of more than two centuries under national seclusion elicited cries of admiration from a visitor from another de-Asianized modern civilization, who compared rural Meiji Japan to Eden or Arcadia. This should offer us hope that the lessons of the past may lead us to a brighter future.