Public Lectures 2001
Grand Prize 2001: Muhammad YUNUS
- Micro - credit and Empowerment of Women
- September 15, 2001 (16:00 - 18:30)
- Fukuoka City Hall Auditorium
- Assistant Prof. Ito Sanae (Graduate School of International Development, Nagoya University)
- Mr. Uji Matsue (Secretary General Association for Shaking Hands with Bangladeshi)
- Prof. Oji Toshiaki (School of Human Cultures, University of Shiga Prefecture)
Public Lecture by Prof. Muhammed Yunus was held in Fukuoka City Hall Auditorium on September 15, and he introduced his idea and thought on his specialized field in his lecture, talks with Speakers.
Many local residents, students, researchers, and people affiliated with NGOs filled the hall, and most of those in attendance were women. They were stirred throughout by the strong beliefs and passionate words of Professor Yunus.
Professor Oji began by introducing Professor YUnus, stating that his activities had expowered the women o f Bangladesh and created changes in society. He noted that Profesor Yunus was the first laureate who not only pursued his academic career but aloso expanded his original economic theory into the field of practical social activities.
In the first part, Professor Yunus explained the circumstances surroundign the creation of the Grameen Bank and its objectives. He related how he had witnessed people suffering and dying from
In the first part, Professor Yunus explained the circumstances surrounding the creation of the Grameen Bank and its objectives. He related how he had witnessed people suffering and dying from starvation, which drove him to establish a bank providing small loans requiring no collateral to women from farming villages. This movement spread throughout Bangladesh.
Ms. Uji's activities in Bangladesh consisted primarily of providing support for medical care and education. She hailed the Grameen Bank as the opportunity to endow women with the strength of independence, as they were in a difficult position in the male - dominated society of Bangladesh.
Professor Ito has experience in conducting local surveys. Unimpresed by government officials, who weren't even interested in traveling to farming villages, she said she was moved by the dedication of the bank's staff, which every day would walk one or two hours to visit villages, even during rain of storms. Responding to questions from the audience, Professor Yunus described how the women who received loans used their imagination to create businesses. He explained how the program resulted in such social change as a decline in the infant mortality rate and the rate of population increase. He also gave an example of how it placed importance on the younger generation by improving the school attendance rate.
OJI TOSHIAKI: The title given to this forum implies two kinds of wind. Firstly, there is a wind currently blowing within Bangladesh, which implies the activities originated from Professor Yunus. Secondly, there is a wind blowing out of Bangladesh to the rest of the world. This new type of wind is to imply the global significance of Professor Yunus’s activities and how these activities are interrelated to an issue of poverty eradication.
"New Wind” in the title also symbolizes an innovative financial system, namely “micro-credit.” Under this system, women in rural areas have achieved their independence and created some changes in the society. The sub-title of this forum was thus selected reflecting such social changes as seen in the empowerment of women.
In the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes’ 12 years of history, Professor Yunus was the first accredited laureate from Bangladesh. Meanwhile, the criteria for the academic category have been broadened to include candidates with outstanding activities or contributions in a society. There are other first-time events particular to this year’s commemoration that also need to be noted. In this forum, we are joined by two female panelists for the first time, including one NGO member. In addition, this forum will proceed in a new approach by accommodating on-site questions directly raised by the audience. The audience will be invited to participate in the forum by raising their hands.
Part 1: The Vision and Prospect behind the Establishment of Gramin Bank
MUHAMMAD YUNUS: Bangladesh became an independent country in 1971. I was teaching at one of the American universities at that time. But I came back quickly to Bangladesh to join everybody else in Bangladesh to participate in rebuilding the nation and I joined this university, Chitagong University, teaching economics. We were eager to move our country forward and improve lives of the people through our lectures at the university. But our dream turned into a nightmare very soon. Economy was sliding down very fast. Things were getting worse everywhere and we ended up with a famine in 1974. I was teaching brilliant theories of economics in the classroom, but outside the classroom, I saw people dying of hunger. That was not a very pleasant thing to experience such a thing when you promised yourself that you had a country independent, and you believed that you had all the decision making power and you could change the life of the people. And I saw what I was teaching at the University was pretty useless in dealing with the situation around me. I got very disenchanted with the kind of things written about the theories of economics and so on.
So I decided to discard everything I learned. I tried to make myself useful to somebody without worrying about what the textbooks said because they said nothing useful to me. Everyday I moved around the villages and talked to the villagers to find what problems they had. I saw one thing occurring very frequently. People were suffering for not having even small amount of money. They became the victims of moneylenders who gave them this little money. They turned themselves into slaves, just for borrowing little money from the moneylenders. Making a list of people who borrowed money, I found that 42 people needed 27 dollars in total. I was shocked. Those people gave up all their independence, all liberty just for a little bit of money, less than a dollar per person. So I thought why I didn’t give these 27 dollars to the all 42 people and I did. I thought this as my emotional response. But I saw the excitement and the happiness in these 42 people. “If you can bring so much happiness, so much excitement to so many people, with such a little money, how can I walk away from it? Why shouldn’t I do more? However, I shouldn’t do it from my pocket because it doesn’t solve the problem. If I do it from my own pocket, I would stop doing it at one point.” Then I had an idea to link them with a bank. So I went to the bank manager of the branch on campus. When I asked the bank to lend money to the people in the village, he did truly fall from the sky. He kept on explaining all the complicated rules of the banks to me, saying that banks couldn’t lend money to the poor people because poor people were not creditworthy. I ran around different banking offices for a few days, but everybody told me the same thing. After about a month of running around, finally I came up with an idea. I said “ O.K. I understand your rules, so you take me as a guarantor. I’ll sign all your paper, so you lend the money.” But it took me another six months to realize my proposal. Finally, they agreed to give me the money with my signature, and then I lent that money to the poor people. But the bank manager put a ceiling at 300 dollars. It was back in 1976.
I gave the money to the people. The bank manager said this money would never come back. Luckily every penny came back. I was so excited to get the money back from them. He said, “Well, you did it in one village. That’s why it worked. But if you do it in two villages, it will never work.” I did it in two villages. It worked. I did it in five villages and it worked. I did it in ten villages and it worked as well. He increased the number of the villages to 20, 50, to 100, because he was expecting me to fail, but I made it. It proved that poor people were creditworthy. But he didn’t change his mind. So this time I decided to set up a bank, so that I could run it according to the principles that I made. Then, I applied to the government for a permit. It took me another two years to get the permit to set up a bank for the poor people. The bank was set up in 1983.
Today the bank operates in 40,000 villages in Bangladesh. The number of customers in Bangladesh has reached 2.4 million and 95 % of them are women. They take money and pay back in small installments. Not only they take the money and pay it back, but also they own the bank. They invest just a small amount of money to make a profit and change their lives.
However, when I tried to persuade them to join Grameen Bank for the first time, they refused, saying that they didn't need money because they didn’t know anything about money. So I had to go and explain again and again why women should be borrowers of the Gramen Bank and how banks were operated. Gradually they were heading for the way I expected, but it took 6 years to come to the level where 50 % of the borrowers were women. And then we realized that money invested to the family was more advantageous when it was passed on to the female member of the family than male. That’s why we changed the policy and decided to give priority to women in financing. This is how Grameen Bank was born.
OJI: Now, I would like to ask for some comments from our panelists with reference to Professor Yunus’ s remarks and their own experiences. Ms. Uji, an NGO member who has been involved in projects to build schools and clinics in Bangladesh, and Professor Ito, who also has an extensive carrier in Bangladesh.
UJI MATSUE: 15 years have passed since we first came to be involved with the villagers of Karamdi in Bangladesh. With a population of 10,000, Karamdi is a village located about 260km west of Dhaka, where we provide support mainly in the fields of education and medicine. Through our projects, an elementary school was first established in 1989, then a Mother-and-Child Health Center in 1995, both of which are now jointly managed by the local NGOs. Currently, we are making twice-a year regular visits to these facilities in order to hold meetings as well as to carry out joint activities with our local staff.
As for myself, I have been to Bangladesh a total of 5 times in the past. Prior to my first visit, I had been driven by strong motives to see with my own eyes and get a firsthand experience of the poverty prevalent in Bangladesh. I still remember the shock which hit me severely, while standing in chaotic Dhaka, coming across for the first time in my life with beggars on streets, and witnessing submerged fields stretching endlessly on both sides of the street on the way to Karamdi Village. In fact, my shock was so severe that I remember I was even relieved to see a mere sight of abundant greenery in and around the area when I finally arrived at Karamdi Village. The villagers welcomed us warmly. Since there was no electricity supply in the village, we were able to indulge ourselves in endless stargazing at night, often in deep thought. Under the beautiful starry sky, I could free my thoughts from the poverty issues in Bangladesh to ponder upon the ultimate meaning of affluence to all human beings. It was the thought inspired by the Mother Nature as seen in Bangladesh.
Most women in Karamdi Village marry very young and become mothers at an earlier stage of their lives. There are three elementary schools and one junior-high school in the village, however, in the school year 2000, one of the major obstacles facing some students to take the final to finish school was their marriage. These students are as young as 11 to 16 years old, whose own intentions are always disregarded. As far as the marriage is concerned, fathers act as decision-makers in most cases. Thus, young girls become mothers against their own volition. Most of these pregnant girls who come to our Mother-and-Child Health Center for free prenatal checkups show symptoms of malnutrition and anemia. It is only natural that the infant mortality rate is therefore very high, as a result of high incidence of complications in pregnancy and undernourished babies. This in return leads to another issue of population growth, as parents choose to give birth to more babies on the presumption that some lives would eventually be lost. When there are more mouths to be fed in one family, the shared nutrition level becomes insufficient. Under these circumstances, the family often has no choice but to marry off their young daughters so as to secure food for the rest of the family. This is a vicious circle that needs to be abolished. However in reality, the male-dominant society in villages does not easily allow women to take any actions to improve the severe situation. I think Grameen Bank played a significant role in having empowered those women who had long been deprived.
ITO SANAE: I have stayed in Bangladesh twice, both on long terms. As for my first visit, I was assigned to Bangladesh as a Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer, mainly working with a government organization in charge of rural development. Then three or four years later, I visited Bangladesh again when I was completing my thesis as a doctoral student at a university in England. For this field survey, I stayed in Bangladesh for two years to research Grameen Bank’s various activities in villages.
Based on my comparative observation through these two visits, I noticed one thing was strikingly different from the way it was before. In principle, the government officers in Bangladesh, whether on the national or on the municipal level and regardless of their job titles, seldom make efforts to make a visit in rural areas in the country. Moreover, their infrequent visits are often completed in less than an hour. These government officers would spend most of their time at work by chatting with each other over a cup of tea, unless villagers, male villages, come to the office to make an appeal. As such was my understanding of typical work ethics in Bangladesh, I was truly surprised to notice the difference on my second visit made three or four years following my initial visit. The bank clerks of Grameen Bank were making daily visits to the remotest areas of the country with no access to transportation. They were not at all discouraged by the long distance which may take them one or two hours to walk, nor by severe climactic conditions of rain and storms. Some of these bank clerks were female clerks, which fact one time seemed beyond imagination in Bangladesh, a country where women had traditionally and socially been barred out from market places, government offices, or banks. I still remember quite vividly the indescribable bliss I felt back then in discovering the significant role that Grameen Bank has played as demonstrated in the high motivation by their bank clerks.
OJI: Thank you very much for the insightful comments from both panelists regarding the rural society of Bangladesh as well as on the activities of Grameen Bank. Now, I would like to invite Professor Yunus if there are any other comments that should be addressed at this time.
YUNUS: Child mortality in Bangladesh is one of the highest in the world. The maternal mortality is also one of the highest in the world. But recently some dramatic changes are taking place. Child mortality rate dropped significantly. The Population growth rate sharply decreased in a short period. Researchers throughout the world study these declines. What they have in common is that women at the bottom of the social pyramid are now independent. And most women become independent after they get money.
Micro-credit has become a very widely- spread phenomenon in Bangladesh and this has played an important role in changing the attitude of the women. Now they can be involved in making decision in the family, which did not allow them to do before.
Answering Questions from the Audience
OJI: Next, I would like to invite the audience to raise questions to participate in this forum.
AUDIENCE: You mentioned that micro-credit has been beneficial to the empowerment of women in the family. What is your vision of a family suitable for Grameen members?
YUNUS: We don’t have any plans of what kind of family they should be. The reason why we emphasized on women was because we found that when mothers were borrowers, their children were the first to receive benefit. If fathers are borrowers, it won’t work that way.
There are 16 decisions in Grameen Bank. One of them is to send our children to school and help them continue their studies there. Today I could say almost nearly 100% of the Grameen children go to school. This is because of their mothers’ effort. And also most children from Grameen families go to high school and graduate it and continue higher education. So we decided to prepare other financing program for them. This is a loan for giving higher education to all children from Grameen members. Grameen Bank finances their expenses for their college lives. What we try to do is to make a loan as a part of family plan. We especially place a great importance on next generation.
Furthermore, regarding Information Technology as an important field, I set up a company of mobile phones called Grameen Phone. Many women borrowers became the telephone ladies in the village and do telephone services, which make good profit. We provide poor families with Information Technology so that they can change their lives by making good use of those services. We have a plan to set up Internet related business in the future.
AUDIENCE: Is it possible for loan-users to get out of poverty and reach a loan-free level after receiving their first loans? Or, do they continue to take loans?
YUNUS: Grameen Bank is like a club. Once you join, you become a life- time member. At the beginning, people are very cautious, so they want to take only small amount of money. When they successfully complete the first loan, they have confidence in paying back. So, next time, they take more money and invest it in their next business. We found that it takes about 8 to 12 loan cycles for them to reach the level where they can get out of poverty. However, you are still closely related to Grameen Bank. It’s a membership bank. The bank that consists of members is set up to make a loan for members. In order to borrow money, people have to form a group of five people. We consider a group of five people as a new family and close friends. It is not just taking a loan, but a process to change their lives.
AUDIENCE: Where does the money come from?
YUNUS: At first I just gave 27 dollars out of my pocket. Next I became a guarantor and borrowed money from a bank. Later, it became the project of the Central Bank and we could borrow money from 6 banks. When we were expanding our business after we established a bank, an international organization called IFAD, International Fund for Agriculture Development, showed interests in our project and offered a loan. The Central bank accepted the loan. This was the first time that we received a loan from outside. From 1982 to 1995, we took something like 140 million dollars in loans from international organizations.
However, since 1995, we have not taken money from outside. We can do the financing by ourselves and proceed the program. The amount of money that we dealt with reaches 3.5 billion dollars in total for 25 years. It seems a lot of money to deal with, but it recycles basically. And another source of money is the savings from the borrowers. Borrowers save a small amount of money in the bank. When 2.4 million borrowers save tiny money, it adds up to a big money. Today we have more than a 200 million U.S. dollars, which is also available to be loaned out. In 1998, we needed a lot of money because of flood. So we borrowed 80 million dollars by issuing bonds in a local market. Now we are paying back those bonds, and we decided not do that again. Since 1999, we have decided not to borrow, take grants nor take soft loan. We do not even want to borrow in the market. We could finance them by ourselves.
OJI: What are the interest rates at Grameen Bank?
YUNUS: The Bangladesh market rate in the commercial bank is about 15 % right now. Grameen Bank works with 2 types of interest rates. One is 20 % interest for a loan to generate one-year income. The other is 8 % for housing loan. Average interest is 15 %. Interest rate for education loan is 5 %. What we want to add is that we offer the highest deposit rate when people save in our bank. We give 8.5 % for savings account, which is the highest in our country. Now we also have 10 and 10.5 % for saving account. So we are borrowing money at 10 % interest rate and lending money at 20 %, 8 % and 5 % interest rates.
AUDIENCE: You told us that the loan was initially offered by international financial organizations. Now, how do you see the relations between ODA and micro-credit? Do you consider the continued utilization of ODA funds?
YUNUS: Micro-credit is just one of the programs, but it goes directly to the poor people, and directly to the women as compared with other programs. I recommend that the bulk of ODA programs go into micro-credit. There are hundreds of thousands of micro-credit programs in the world, just waiting for tiny money to expand micro-credit programs. Initially, micro-credit has a kind of life cycle. In the beginning, you need a lot of grant money. And then you move into the soft loan segment. And then you move into the market so that you could develop your business at independent level. So there are 3 phases in the development of micro-credit: Grant money phase, the soft loan phase, and the market money phase. At present, 95 % of the micro-credit throughout the world is the level of which needs to receive grant money. However, if you can help them shift to the soft loan level, they can move into the market level.
Grant-making authorities are trying to search out tiny little grass-roots programs, and are trying to put money into them. It costs a lot because you need to dispatch some officials from Japan to overseas to supervise the project. So I repeatedly recommend that a new organization be created for a wholesale fund, which distributes money to individual grass-roots organizations. Bangladesh receives 2 billion U.S. dollars on average as foreign aid every year. The investigation shows that 75 % of money never reaches to Bangladesh. It is used to cover expenses in the donor countries. 25 % of the money is passed into the hands of local suppliers, local consultants and officials. The money actually ends up into businesses. So it is necessary that ODA be directly delivered to the doorsteps of the poor people.
AUDIENCE: Could you specify how these loans are leading to the empowerment of women?
YUNUS: Micro-credit is very simple. First, a woman forms a group of 5 people. In order to borrow money, she has to persuade the group members, and receive an approval from a screening committee of 40 women by explaining what she intends to use the money for. For example, she wants to buy a cow. When her plan is endorsed, she can get a loan. She starts paying it back in weekly installments. Every week she makes payment with an interest. When she has completed all the payments, all her dues are paid off. Now, she owns the cow. There’s no commitment or obligation to the bank. Now, she is ready to take another loan to expand her business activities. This is how she becomes independent. Counting and holding money is empowering to her.
Divorce in Bangladesh is very common. It is very easy for husbands to get a divorce. All they need to do is to say “I divorce you” three times. It’s done. However, in the case of members of Grameen Bank, they can claim the ownership of a cow or a house they paid for with the money she borrowed. They also have a bank account. Women build things piece by piece so that they could be independent from their husbands. I mentioned before that borrowers own Grameen Bank. They are actually women. Shareholders elect the Board of Grameen Bank, so the Board of Grameen Bank consists of women. They also have a pension fund. They feel that they own Grameen Bank. That makes them safe and satisfied with tremendous hopes that they are in Grameen Bank.
In the second part, Professor Yunus described the bank's activities throughout the world today. He outlined the current circumstances of the bank and the problems it faces. He asserted that today when half the world's population must live on less than $2.00 a day, it is a challenge for all of us to utilize in the economy the creative abilities of the poor, who have no access to banks.
Professor Ito responded that the pioneering efforts of the Grameen Bank had succeeded because activities to provide financial services to the poor were spreading throughout the world. Asked about future challenges, Professor Yunus noted that the Grameen Bank's micro-credit program is still in its infancy, and many aras are still open for improvement. He said that he wanted to gradually expand the program in the future while improving relability and efficiency.
Professor Oji concluded by expressing his feelings about what he had heard. He said that Professor Yunus had created this new financial system with enthusiasm, and that the founder of the Grameen Bank understands how important it is for people to live with hope an ambition. He said that the breadth and warmth of Professor Yunus's humanity were like a warm breeze.
Part 2: Current Situation of Grameen Bank and Its Problems
YUNUS: Grameen Bank has operated only in Bangladesh. However, the idea of Grameen Bank has spread. It has already spread at home before spreading abroad. There are many organizations, particularly NGOs, which are involved in micro-credit of Grameen Bank type. Top 3 or 4 of them have programs large enough to cover the whole country. One is bigger than Grameen Bank in terms of micro-credit. The number of micro-credit users reaches 7 million within Bangladesh.
In foreign countries, the idea of micro-credit spread first in Malaysia, then in Indonesia and Philippines and has been gradually adopted there. China became much interested in the idea and employed it as a measure to fight the poverty. There are many countries in South Asia that have micro-credit programs, such as India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. It further spread in Central Asia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and throughout Asia. It also spread in countries in Africa and in Latin American. We tried to persuade the Presidents and Prime Ministers not to get their government involved in micro-credit. It was difficult to persuade Mr. Fujimori of Peru, but he finally gave approval to establish the bank in which government was not involved. After that, it spread in Argentina and Brazil. Mexico also started operating micro-credit program in which the government was not involved. We also established an organization called Grameen Trust, which supports anybody who needs our help in setting up a micro-credit program in his country. So Grameen Trust supports micro-credit programs by providing technical and educational assistance. Grameen Trust even helps obtain funds to set up micro-credit programs.
What makes us fascinated is that not only poor countries are interested in our work, but also rich countries are very interested. The first example is the USA when President Bill Clinton was the Governor of Arkansas. At first American journalists were indifferent to his proposal that he would like to introduce micro-credit programs from Bangladesh to the States. Nowadays, however, the programs are run in many states. The Indian reservations in Canada also adopted this program. France also tried these programs, and now more than a dozen programs are running there. Norway started the program in the northern part, Lofotenn Islands in the Arctic Circle which was getting severely depopulated. Previously other programs were used to solve the problem of depopulation, but they did not work. The Grameen program, which enhanced young girls creativity, changed their lives and caused them to stay there, solving the depopulation problem. The program gradually spread in southern Norway and Sweden.
The latest case was Kosovo, which was a devastated country at that time. Economy hardly functioned, and the so-called government did not exist with no currency. The program in Kosovo originally started at the request of the Italian Government. It has been 18 months since the program started and has been working beautifully. Women in Kosovo also bought cows like women in Bangladesh. Appreciation by the borrowers is absolutely the same all over the world. However, it is the current situation that this kind of program does not draw people’s attention, so people are reluctant to support programs.
There are 1.2 billion people on this planet, one-fifth of the total population of the world, who make a living at less than 1 dollar per day. And if you look at 2 dollars a day, there is a half of the population in the world, and those people, who are at the bottom, have no access to any financial institutions, no place where they can show their creativity and no opportunity to bring out their energy. Imagine that if the program can provide women with opportunity to bring out their creativity, and their contributions result in generating benefits, it would be wonderful. What our challenge is that how we make majority of the world population participate in the economy.
Micro-credit should be accepted as the human right. The society is responsible for creating institutions, which everybody can access to. They make the most use of their creativity, which make them their lives. Micro-credit is not just money, but a tool to quest for their way. Because they do not have even a little money, they end up working for somebody else and becoming a kind of slave. People may choose to work for themselves. That’s a self-employment. What should be done to provide these programs for everyone in the world is our challenge in the future. Our challenge is that how we provide financing services for people in the world in order to have advantage of micro-credit in their hands everybody can participate in the world economy in their creative way and their economic way.
OJI: The phenomenal global spread of Grameen Bank type systems both in rich and poor countries clearly shows that the system is satisfactory and that there are potential demands in any regions of the world. People can actualize their visions using their creativity once such systems become available. Now, I would like to invite the panelists to make some comments in response to the comment made by Professor Yunus on the future path for micro-credit.
UJI: Two years ago, a terrible incidence of torrential downpour hit the village and its surrounding areas where we carry out our projects. Tin-roofed houses made with mud walls in the village easily give way to such downpours. In the face of such disastrous situation, the staff members at our Mother-and Child Health Center formed emergency teams and made house calls for the patients. They also provided medicine and food. If the global warming becomes more prevalent, the ones who will suffer most are those who live in parts of the world, which are very close to sea level. Bangladesh is no exception. The urgent message was brought home to me on that critical occasion. It was a message that we must reconsider our life styles so as to avoid such tragedy facing the most suffered, even though we live away here in Fukuoka. In the meantime, I believe the issue raised by Professor Yunus today has given us an opportunity to think what we can do to help those in poverty.
We periodically visit Bangladesh twice a year both in summer and in winter for our projects. There are always new members on our mission, who often report to us that they gained tremendous insight through their visits. Many of those who have participated in the previous missions continue to broaden their horizon by going to countries such as France or Australia for further studies, or by committing to research activities in Bangladesh. In this way, Bangladesh has taught us on many occasions that person-to-person exchange is the key to the continued meaningful human relations regardless of our different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. I should like to pay tribute to the people in the village, as well as to the Bangladeshi living in Fukuoka, for their support provided for us. Thanks to such support by the concerned, our young members have been able to visit Bangladesh on frequent basis for study or research purposes.
ITO: In today’s forum, there was a mention of how the model developed by Grameen Bank has been spreading to the rest of the world. I personally believe however, that the Grameen Bank’s contribution should be acknowledged even in broader terms. Although Professor Yunus’s talks today focused mainly on micro-credit, another system of “micro-finance” (small-scale finance) has also been widely recognized now as an effective measure to decrease poverty. It is a system that allows the poor to utilize various financial services including savings and insurance in addition to credit. It is not a system that runs counter to the concept of Grameen Bank. The wide range of consumer needs of those in the poverty has led to this idea of providing more variety of financial services beyond the conventional Grameen model. Based on such idea, several attempts have been pursued by some groups worldwide. And I believe that Professor Yunus’s contribution and the significant role that Grameen Bank has played as a pioneer was indispensable in achieving such fruitful results.
Answering Questions from the Audience
OJI: It has been pointed out that creative activities will naturally emerge once the access to the finance which is provided for the people including the poor. Now I would like to invite the audience to raise questions based on this issue as well as on the issue of how micro-credit is related to the empowerment of women.
AUDIENCE: Has the Grameen Bank’s success influenced the policy made at private banks in Bangladesh in the way of providing more loans to women? Also, what was the key to success for a finance system that is simply based on credit without any forms of security to develop into the present full-fledged scale?
YUNUS: The situation of bank has not changed over the last 25 years. Woman borrowers still account for less than 1 %. Unlike men, women need to get husband’s consent and to sit with them when women ask for a loan. The situation has not changed yet. We have to think what the problem is about the current bank system.
I think trust works much better than collateral. Rich people take money from a bank as loans, but they never pay back. Nevertheless, bank gives more money to them. On the contrary, bank does not give money to poor people who pay back. It’s a very strange world. Our basic assumption is that everybody has to pay back their loans when they take money from bank. There are some cases where people cannot pay back, facing some difficulties like sudden accidents or illness. So we do not expect that they will pay back their loan in a year. Sometimes they pay back in two years, but they never say, "I will not pay back money.” Unlike rich people running around to ask for recommendation to write off their loans, poor people are sure to pay back when their situations improve. So, we do not worry about their payments even when they are delayed. We have to help them get out of their difficulties.
The bank system based on trust has much more power than the conventional banks, because it is based on human relationship. One of the basic principles of Grameen Bank is that the Bank should go to the people, so we have staff of 12,000 people, going out to meet 2.4 million borrowers within a week. When people have a difficult situation, the bank is responsible for getting them out of the difficulties, not just waiting at the office. That's the difference between our bank and the conventional banks.
AUDIENCE: In an effort to improve the poverty and slums in urban areas, the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, Fukuoka Office has been promoting various projects in Chittagong and other places in the world. Lately, there is a prominent trend of poverty shifting to the urban areas, as the poor population in villages pour into cities. You once mentioned that the slum issues are deeply related to the land issues, and micro-credit’s stance was not to venture into areas unless the land issues have already been cleared. Do you have different opinions on this issue now? As for my second question, as Japan has the unprecedented low interest rates now, have you ever considered a possibility of establishing, for example, the Fukuoka branch of Grameen Bank? How feasible does it seem to keep a small portion of 5 or 2 % of your total funds at Grameen Bank here?
YUNUS: The reason why Grameen Bank does not operate in the city is that Grammen Charter dose not allow us to work in urban areas. Grameen means village, so it is simply a village bank. This is what I proposed and strongly insisted on when the Charter was drafted. At that time, Grameen Bank was in a different situation from the one it’s in today. I thought that if Grameen Bank started its business in urban areas, someone who did not know anything about village life would come, hired employees, run the bank and changed it in a urban style. I wanted to make the villages as attractive as the city, so I chose to stick to the villages. However, there are enormous needs for micro-credit also in urban areas, so we encourage many people to come and work there. There are many programs doing as well as those in the villages.
We discussed the possibility of us lending money to poor people who wish to build their house in urban areas. They do not have the ownership of land. When they build their houses, somebody may come and bulldoze it, saying that it’s illegal unless they own the land. We must establish the ownership of land somehow. The government can establish it by distributing lands, but the government will distribute those lands to supporters only, which becomes a political issue. However, since housing problems are getting worse in the slum, many measures to solve them are taken in Mexico and in other places. Instead of building houses, facilities are built at places where they live. Utilities such as electricity and gas are provided and sanitation is improved. Then they wait for such a big housing project. This could be an intermediate solution.
As for helping women in other countries become independent, it’s possible to set up some kind of organization on the side of sender, and prepare for it to function on the side of receiver. Grameen Trust was set up in order that it may receive fund and then distribute it to anybody who needs this money. It’s now worldwide program. There are financing programs of Grameen Trust in China, Kosovo, Africa, Laten America and all over Asia. This is one outfit, but you don’t have to choose Grameen Trust. There are many organizations which can do the same thing. So you can establish a partnership. Then, you raise the money, and specify the allocation of money for each program in each country. This type of program works. You do not have to spend a lot of money, and it is efficient.
AUDIENCE: In order for micro-finance programs to continue expanding on the sole basis of their internal funds, I believe it is indispensable that financing as business should create high profit rates. As far as the profit is concerned, providing loans for manufacturers seems to bear some potential. Are there any obstacles to financing such industries as manufactures?
YUNUS: We use micro-credit for manufacturing. For example, many families in Bangladesh are engaged in producing handmade fabrics. So we finance them to buy their yarn and necessary things to produce fabrics. There are many other manufacturing sections including processing food and husks and making baskets, sweets, and bamboo items. Women are engaged in business by manufacturing a lot of items. However, the interest rate should be low and sustainable. If it’s not efficient, it costs a lot. So, every time you have to be very careful whether you are efficient or not. You won’t be in the red if you can do that.
Grameen Bank is still at the first stage like Right brother’s plane, which flew for the first time. So there are many things needed to improve it. And also credibility is required, so that Grameen Bank is efficiently heading for the right direction that it is supposed to go. Later on, we will have planes that are equipped with everything like reclining seats, toilet facilities and air conditioning.
AUDIENCE: In what sense have the economic activities of women influenced the political sphere? And what social changes have been identified within some traditional systems such as early marriages and dowries?
YUNUS: We have the “16 decisions” which regulates some items clearly: we shall not have their daughters marry at an early age, not have their daughters bring dowry when they marry, and not have their sons receive dowry at their marriages. The dowry custom rooted into the society as deep as the religion does. So it is not easy to eradicate it, but we think we can solve that problem.
As for the political impact, we have one basic program in Grameen. Whenever national election takes place, we strongly recommend that all Grameen family members should go to the polls. So politicians notice that members are voters. In 1996, we extended our policy to our neighbors and asked especially women to vote. The voting rate of the election in 1996 stood at 73 %, which was high voter turnout. Moreover, the number of woman voters exceeded those of men. It has never happened in its kind of election history in Bangladesh. The election in 1996 resulted in reducing seats for the Muslim Fundamentalist in the parliament to 3 from 17. Women do not like the fundamentalist, because they only say things which are against women’ s interests. In Grameen Bank, we started forming a group of 5 people. They must select a Chairperson from each group. And they also select a Center Chief and a Deputy Center Chief from a center that consists of 40 members. Huge election campaign to elect Grameen Bank board members Is made for 2.4 million members. It encourages women to have confidence and plays a role of preparative practice. In 1997, they became candidates for the local election and more than 2000 won for the election and 2 women became the Chiefs of local government. This is because they became interested in the election with their own choices. Many women who feel reluctant to appear in public overcome their diffident personalities. It’s very important for us to feel that we can go and run for election.
OJI: We are also joined here today by Professor Hayami Yujiro, who is the laureate of the Academic Prize of the 12th Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes. I would like to invite Professor Hayami to make some comments on this seminar as an expert on development economics.
HAYAMI YUJIRO: I was deeply inspired by today’s forum by Professor Yunus. Grameen Bank has now established a system of advanced market money phase, which is free from grant money or soft loans. I find it truly astonishing that the sustainable financing system without any official assistance has thus realized the provision of loans for the poor without collateral. For several decades in the past, most of the efforts made by World Bank or by other countries to provide financial assistance to the poor villagers have ended in a series of disastrous failure. Since all those previous projects were not able to collect the financed money, I had initially assumed that Professor Yunus’s attempt was also likely to end in failure. Now, I can say that there are two conditional factors for the successful financing without security; one is proper selection of cases to be financed, and the other is trust building. In the case demonstrated by Professor Yunus, a system was developed under a group of five people functions as a basic unit to share a collective responsibility. I believe that this system of shared responsibility in mutual screening and trust building have been mainly attributable to the successful outcome of Grameen Bank. Now, the challenging issue to be considered in the future is whether such initiatives can also function in other parts of the world in cases where a prominent leader such as Professor Yunus is not present.
OJI: A true sense of leader who can make a difference must be someone who is willing to share with others’ passionate pursuits of innovative creation. I am now deeply inspired by such passion that was demonstrated to us today.
Bangladesh is a densely populated country, which has the same population scale, but on a land that is 40 % the size of Japan. Bangladesh, on the other hand, is a country with young population, which stands in contrast to the aging society of Japan. The issue of aging society is one of the problems facing Japan. However, I believe that aging is a phenomenon that occurs not according to one’s advancing age, but according to one’s diminishing hopes and desires for life as a result of feeling old. Bangladesh is a country that suffers greatly from poverty. Yet, Professor Yunus intuitively knew that regardless of their severe financial status, the people in the country also live with hopes and wishes. Professor Yunus’s passionate pursuits and hard efforts spurred by such inspiration have thus created this great achievement today. In the forum, we witnessed Professor Yunus’s passionate pursuits with great excitement as if a blast of fresh air had run through us. I feel grateful for this opportunity which enabled us to enhance our understanding on the innovative financial system as well as to feel Professor Yunus’s warmth and open-mindedness closely in this forum. Thank you very much.
Academic Prize 2001: HAYAMI Yujiro
- Market, State and Community in Economic Development
- September 14, 2001 (14:00 - 16:30)
- Fukuoka City Hall Auditorium
- Prof. Hara Yonosuke (Director, Institute of Oriental Culture, the University of Tokyo)
- Prof. Suehiro Akira (Institute of Social Science, the University of Tokyo)
Public Lecture by Prof. Hayami Yujiro was held in Fukuoka City Hall Auditorium on September 14, and he introduced his idea and thought on his specialized field in his lecture, talks with panelists.
In his preliminary explanation, Professor Suehiro used his own research in Tailand as an example. He said it was not possible to be successful in Asian economies today simply by trusting the market or through government intervention. He then called Professor Hayami's idea to focus anew on the role of the community an ambitious experiment.
In his keynote address Professor Hayami explained the role of the market and the nation, using private sector goods and public sector goods as examples. He stressed the importance of the community, which can be viewed as anther system controlling economic activity. He explained that if the market was a mechanism for competition and nations a mechanism for control, then the community was a mechanism for cooperation. He also noted that the three elements complemented each other, and that their respective importance was related both to the extent of economic development and to culture. Professor Hayami equted from Ruth Benedict's The Chrysanthemum and the Sword to the cultural difference between the West and Japan. Benedict's book desciribed the former as having a culture of sin and the latter as having a culture of shame. He pointed out that in Japan, with its culture of shame, the economic system was rooted in the community. He concluded his address by posing the question of whether that would continue to be acceptable in the future.
HAYAMI: Both the market and the state are systems for coordinating economic activity. In the market system, anyone can freely participate in buying and selling. The purchaser buys from the person offering goods at the cheapest price, and the seller will sell to the person buying at the highest price. The producers who sell quality goods at low prices will steadily flourish, while those selling goods at high prices will eventually disappear. This is the mechanism of market competition. At its backdrop is the element of free participation, in which people buy those goods they want to buy at the prices they want to pay.
The market mechanism is efficient in the supply of private goods. Take bread, for example. If I can eat bread, you can't eat that bread. This means the competitive relationship between you and me for consuming that bread. Also, the price demanded by the baker must be paid for obtaining the bread. These two characteristics are attributed to private goods. The market is extremely efficient for providing these private goods, because consumers buy bread from the baker offering the lowest price and the highest quality. Therefore, the producer providing the best and most inexpensive goods will gradually increase market share, and customers will shun those who produce expensive bread or bread of poor quality. Therefore, the bakers that provide bread at the lowest prices with the highest quality will survive in the market. The bakers that sell bread at high prices with lackluster quality will be driven out from the market. In this way, the market mechanism of free competition increases the benefit of the consumers. It makes production efficient in the sense of maximizing consumers’ economic welfare.
Not everything can be left to the market, however, and one example is public goods. Public goods are different from private goods, because both you and I use them at the same time. We both walk on roads, for example. Except highways with tollbooths, we can use roads without paying. Roads are also the good that is difficult to collect money for its use. There are many different types of public goods. The most typical example of “pure” public good is knowledge. For example, there are several scholarly principles like the Pythagorean theorem. These principles are very important for developing new technology. But anyone can use Pythagorean theorem. Tens of millions of people can use it. In addition, it is almost impossible to collect money from the users. The market can not provide such goods. Because fees cannot be collected for their use, there is no incentive for private-sector companies to supply them. But roads and academic knowledge, as well as the institutions that maintain public safety, such as the police and the judiciary, are extremely important. If the state uses its power of coercion and levies taxes or collects funds in other ways to provide the public goods, we would not be able to build roads, public meeting halls, harbors, or airports, and society would be extremely deficient as a result.
The competitive mechanism of the market is extremely effective for supplying private goods, as I have noted, but the state must use coercive mechanisms to provide public goods. Therefore, both the market and the state must exist. In economics, and specifically, the economics with the theory of comparative systems, the economic system has been defined in terms of the combination of the market and the state. For example, some systems enlarge the role of the state. In those systems, the state controls the supply of many private goods. The centrally-planned economy under Communism in the former Soviet Union was a system in which the state controlled an extremely large share of economic activity. In contrast, in the Anglo-Saxon or American type of economy, the state has a small role, and economic activities are entrusted to the market as much as possible.
Various systems are possible between these two extremes. For example, the welfare state in Western Europe, in which taxes are collected by coercion to provide social services for the weaker members of society are in an intermediate position between the liberal market economy and the centrally-planned economy.
The combination of these two economies--in other words, how much is covered by the market and how much is covered by the state--defines the economic system. The consideration of this mechanism has been the subject of frequent discussion in economics. In addition, I claim that it is necessary to consider the community as one of the institutions controlling economic activity.
Many types of community can be considered such as the national community, the world community, the community of humankind, and others. But the scale of the community I am referring to is somewhat smaller. In this community, the members know each other and regularly interact each other. The members of the community are very concerned about what the other members think of them. The rural villages that formerly existed in Japan and exist in developing countries today are typical communities. Communities also exist in more modern societies.
For example, firms in Japan used to be a kind of community, though this corporate structure has recently been collapsing. The company itself and the divisions and departments within a company were in extremely close contact with each other. The department head would frequently take the members of the same department out for drinking and listen to their complaints and suggestions. When they reached the suitable age for marriage, he would find wives for them. They created a very close relationship. Of course, a close relationship also was created among the members of the department. Therefore, people in such a corporate structure were very concerned about how other people in the same department think about them. The seniority and life-long employment system is the basis of Japanese society, and people live their whole lives in close association with each other. Therefore, they are very concerned about what other people think of them. I think this is true not only for companies, but also for the government offices, too.
If the market is a mechanism for competition and the state is a mechanism for compulsion, then the community is a mechanism for cooperation. The people in a small group cooperate with each other, and their actions benefit the entire group. In my view, the role performed by the small groups with these close interpersonal interactions is effective to provide local public goods.
In contrast to such global public goods as large highways and railroads, only the villagers use the roads in a village. It is very important for a community to conserve its rivers, forests, and other local resources. Therefore, the community establishes rules for the amount of fish caught and the trees harvested for lumber. This has utility for communities, but it does not benefit people outside the community. Those public goods for which the users are limited to a specific region and which can be provided in some way by a small group if it works for the common good, are called local public goods. There are different types of local public goods. For the type of goods that we economists call common-property resources, such as lakes, rivers, forests, and fields, the cooperation of a group of users is extremely effective for their conservation.
If fees are charged for catching fish from a lake and cutting down trees in the forest, they become private goods. It is difficult to protect property rights on these goods, however. If left unprotected, the resources will become exhausted. Of course, the state can collect taxes from the local people to station forest rangers, inspectors, and other personnel there, but it is difficult for officials to thoroughly understand the needs of people in the towns and villages. The people who best understand the needs of a locality are the people in that locality. If those people jointly provide the good, it is more efficient. Maintenance of roads or removing waste from a town require joint efforts at the local level, and community cooperation will operate more effectively than state coercion.
At the same time, it must not be forgotten that state coercion is in fact essential for the competitive mechanism of the market to function well. The state and the market are discussed as if they are in opposition to each other, but the market cannot function well without the state coercion. All transactions involve contracts. A large market will not function effectively unless there is a mechanism in which people who act dishonestly can be taken to court and enforce contracts. Therefore, markets are highly dependent on the coercive power of the state, including laws and police.
There are costs involved in the operation of police, courts, and laws, however. Attorneys must be hired for litigation, maintaining courts requires substantial financial outlays, and time is also required for legal settlement. Therefore, while it is possible for contracts to be enforced through law, the cost may be very high. Thus, in many cases, people just put up with situations instead of using the courts.
The less developed the country, the more difficult it is to use the force of the state to efficiently enforce contracts. Because the transactions between people in developing countries are small in scale, parties will find it not worthwhile to spend a large sum of money for using the courts to resolve disputes concerning small transactions, such as a box of apples or a sack of rice. Therefore, it is very difficult for markets to function well in poor countries with small scales of production and transactions using the coercive power of the state.
Therefore, people select partners who will not cheat when conducting small transactions. That is where the role of the community comes in. For example, the partners selected for transactions are people in the same village, relatives, or friends with whom one has a very close relationship. One system frequently used in developing countries today is the “putting-out system.” In this system, merchants advance to housewives and other people in village and town raw materials for processing, and pay the fee in proportion to the goods processed. If it is a merchant from the same community or the same village, he can expect the high probability of the contract to be observed. It will be psychologically difficult for one party to cheat another party if they belong to the same community. If the other party does in fact cheat, rumors will spread very quickly among members with small community, making the life of cheaters difficult. Thus, the community relationship of trust limits dishonesty and enables contracts to be enforced. The poorer the country and the smaller the scale of production and transaction, the more people have to rely their transactions on personal relationships in the community.
Therefore, we can generally state that the more developed a country, the greater the importance of the market and the state. Likewise, the poorer the country, the greater the role of the community as a mechanism for coordinating economic activities. This also depends on culture, however. What others will say matters very much in one culture, but may not be in another culture.
The importance of community is large in Japan. Japanese corporations used to be very much like a community, though changing recently. The strength of Japanese management in the past was that the people performed their work conscientiously without their superiors constantly monitoring their activities. The same holds true for transactions between companies. The most common form of transaction between Japanese companies was the transaction between companies in the same keiretsu. Even if there were costs involved to ensure the regularly-scheduled delivery of quality products, a dependable, long-term relationship for transactions was considered essential. Of course, the state's power to compel through court and other means may be able to enforce regularly-scheduled delivery, but it takes time to settle conflicts in court. Therefore, the Japanese system functioned because of the reliance on a mutual trust developed through long-time continuous transactions. Members in a corporate group who cheated others would be expelled from the group.
Japan's judicial system is relatively small, and people do not use it as much as in Western countries. People prefer to resolve problems in the context of close community relationships without taking lawsuits. The perception may be that the state exercises leadership in Japan, but in reality, the effectiveness of the state’s leadership is community relationships.
The percentage of government's current expenditure in the national income is an indicator of the weight of the state in the economy. This percentage was 9% in Japan in 1990. In contrast, it averaged 17% in the OECD countries, and it was 18% in the U.S. Considering this percentage to range between 15% and 20% for advanced countries, it is very low in Japan. The conventional wisdom is that the state exercises leadership in Japan and that the U.S. relies on the market, but the government is actually much smaller in Japan than in the U.S. Generally speaking, Japan and the other countries of East Asia are characterized small governments.
It is definitely not the case, however, that Japan's government is weak. Japan is a country in which government control is very strong. While the government itself is not so large, it uses the community very skillfully. The Japanese economic system has undergone great change, but its defining trait is that each of the companies is a community, and the individual companies join together to form corporate groups. Each of these groups usually has one main bank with which companies in the group have formed a strong relationship in business transactions. This is a kind of corporate community. If some companies do not pay back credits, or engage in dishonest transactions, they will be cast out of the group. Thus, the relationship in which companies deliver goods at the promised quality and at the promised time emerges within such group. The corporate group is not the only groups to function as a community. Industrial associations have been formed for various industries. Most of the directors and other high executives in these industrial associations are the ones retired from important positions in the bureaucracy, and they convey administrative guidance from the government to members. Industrial associations themselves form a kind of community. If the government itself is not so large compared to those of other countries, it can exercise strong control through the community network. That is the Japanese system.
While Japan adroitly uses the community, the U.S. relies heavily on laws and courts. There are many reasons for this, but as Ruth Benedict noted in her well-known book, The Chrysanthemum and The Sword, Japan has the culture of shame while the West has the culture of sin. People in the West are afraid of committing a sin before the absolute being, or God. Americans detest the violation of rules as it is a sinful deed. They do not hesitate to take people to court, who commit the sin. Therefore, transactions with Americans and among Americans require very detailed contracts, and if these contracts are violated, the transgressors are sued in court and made to comply with the terms of the contracts. Thus, the judiciary is a mechanism for executing the rules.
In contrast, shame in Japan is the matter of how other people think about you but not your relation with the absolute being. How will people view you? What will people think of you? What will people say about you? The Japanese are very concerned about these questions. In the culture of shame, people try to maintain good human relations as much as possible. They do not depend so much on detailed written contracts, instead relies on the relationship of mutual trust. We might say the coordination of the contractual relationship among Japanese relies on the concept of giri-ninjo(the sense of indebtedness and sympathy) in the community. The existence of this culture is the reason why Japan places so much importance on the community for controlling the economic system. I do not think it would be possible for a similar system to function effectively in the U.S., nor do I think it likely that Japan could effectively employ a system similar to that of the U.S.
The stage of economic development together with culture determines the relative importance of the market, state, and community. What will be the roles of these entities in the developing countries? In the past, Japan's system depended heavily on the community, but I wonder if that system will continue to be viable in the future. I think it is necessary now to consider this question seriously.
In the following discussion, Professor Hara offered strong support for Professor Hayami's theory. He called for a transformation in the World Bank's philosophy about development. He expressed that the awareness of elements other than nation and market has been expanding gradually, and that the perpective of community, including its culture, world likely be more important in the future.
There was a question from the audience about the disadvantages of community. Professor Hayami responded that in a society without competition, community itself would be the source of corruption, such as moral degeneracy and collusive relations. He stressed the importance of maintaining a balance between the roles of the market, the nation, and the community.
There was a debate about what is required in today's Japan, where the collapse of the corporate community continues. Professro Hara stated that the direction of the community could not be considered without considering the problem of where to place such non - economic values as the meaning of life. Professor Hayami stated that Japan would shift from a tendency to place the community at the center of activity to basing activity on the competitive mechanism, which, included a new cooperative relationship. He said that the question of how well this transition is handled would determine Japan's future. In a debate about the community mechanism of maintaining a long - term, multidimensional balance, both men stressed that it was vital to create new family and community relationships. In the debate over the ideal approach of the nation and the people toward globalization, they stressed it would be important for Japan and for Fukuoka to transced the concept of nation and create links to Asia as a region.
Profesor Suehiro closed the discussion by remarking on the significance of the Forum, stating that we lost trust and peace of mind as competition and freedom became more important. Asia held the key to resolving this problem, he assered, and that events such as this one that conveyed this understanding were quite significant.
SUEHIRO: There are examples in which the community is both strong and beneficial, yet there are also examples of its failure. With that in mind, I would first like to ask Professor Hara to make some general comments about Professor Hayami's address.
HARA: I remember when I met Professor Hayami about 30 years ago, he insisted that when examining an economy, it first should be properly explained by economic logic. I was very impressed that Professor Hayami referred to the culture of shame and the culture of sin. I would like to incorporate the points he made in his discussion in the development strategies of developing countries throughout the world.
In the paradigm used for considering global development, the idea that pure economics alone can solve the problems does not appear as ironclad as it once did. For a time, some believed that the government was important, but now, some insist that the combination of political science and economics alone cannot make people understand the development process. In the 1990s, or after the 1980s, the expression "Washington Consensus" was often used as the term to denote 10 policy recommendations making economic liberalization the cornerstone of global development strategy. It seems that every country thought economic development could be achieved through the strength of markets. But when this concept was applied in one stroke to convert the socialist countries to market economies, those economies suffered dislocations, as evidenced by Russia. Another recent example is the economic crisis in East Asia about four years ago. Both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank strongly backed the Washington Consensus, and major, IMF-type structural reforms were implemented in South Korea under President Kim Dae Jung. I became aware at that time, however, that many economists with an interest in development thought that a reliance on the market alone would be insufficient to ensure development.
Next, some recalled the idea that the role of the state and the government is important. The World Bank stressed the importance of the government in one of its papers. They asserted that governments should create highly transparent legal and judicial systems based on the American model or on a global standard. The social costs required to achieve this would be high, however. Moreover, the developing countries in Asia, or China, and Russia could neither easily create such a legal system nor would this legal system become an indisputable authority. Thus, I think that the question of whether the two entities of markets and governments alone would be sufficient assumed greater importance.
At this point, the World Bank began discussing the Comprehensive Development Framework Approach (CDFA). This approach held that economic reform must be conducted in stages corresponding to the country in question, rather than the concept calling for the immediate implementation of the policies of the Washington Consensus and liberalization.
Another point in connection to today's address on which I would like to focus is the increasing discussion of participatory-type development. The World Bank has advanced the theory that the parties with a vested interest in development should participate in the policy process for economic development. At the backdrop to this call for greater participation is the increasing realization that elements other than the market and the state are important for development after all. When Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz was the Senior Vice President of the World Bank, he asserted that in a larger sense, economic development must be clearly seen as the process of social development itself. I think this is the backdrop for the CDFA. I suspect that it is related somehow with the issue of communities as expressed by Professor Hayami.
In other words, the intermediate area linking states and the market lies in communities that serve various roles above and beyond the mere provision of local public goods. In the process of creating a market economy and proceeding with development, we have gradually become aware that something must provide a sense of reliability and a scale that is, in a sense, the most important infrastructure. This will form the foundation of the market economy.
Clifford Geertz, the American anthropologist who received the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize in 1992, said that communities would always be built. An economy was nothing more than one part of our way of life, and that people lived their lives seeking objectives and a sense of values that were somehow greater than the economy. He also expressed his doubts about the existence of a society with only an economic objective--in short, making money. As Geertz noted, a sense of values apart from economic benefit would be created by the community as people talked with each other, ate with each other, drank with each other, and lived together.
The market and the state can be discussed on their own terms. It is not possible to analyze the community and define it, however, because communities are comprised of many elements. Nevertheless, the awareness has begun to form that a stable market economy cannot emerge without communities. I am currently participating in joint research for the local development of rural villages in Vietnam. As part of this research, I am presenting proposals for economic development that suggest ways in which the community can be employed.
Systematically, markets have an aspect that most easily becomes global and universal. Though a particular type of state cannot become the universal standard, there are different types within several possible patterns. But the culture and community we are discussing here are even more diverse. If the process in which developing countries are to catch up to the advanced industrialized countries requires a combination of these three elements, I think it is unlikely we will be able to create one ideal development strategy and insist that it is the proper one for all situations.
From another perspective, creating this type of economics and outlook will probably be very important for the 21st century. Creating an outlook by incorporating the element of the community is probably the most important task facing us now.
SUEHIRO: There are many comments from the floor suggesting that not every aspect to a reliance on the community is positive. There are many negative aspects as well, including the lowering and corruption of morals, excessive loyalty to other group members, collusion, personalization of community, and domination by the strong. Professor Hayami has studied the market economy in the U.S., and has been involved in formulating Japanese government policy in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. I would like him to tell us which aspects of the community he finds interesting, and at the same time to talk about the negative aspects of the community.
HAYAMI: I began to be interested in the community in 1974 when I conducted surveys of agricultural villages in the Philippines for the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). There weren't too many village-wide efforts for building or repairing roads, buildings, or irrigation, so at first, I thought that there weren't strong community ties in agricultural villages in that country. There were, however, various cooperative activities of different types. The most important role of the community is to help the members maintain their lives. For example, in the Philippines, there is a mechanism in which the owners of rice paddies producing large harvests will help those who have poor rice crops. Those people whose paddies produce poor crops will help harvest the paddies with the larger crop and receive a certain share of the crop. Therefore, if one happens to have a poor harvest, one can still survive through the mechanism of work sharing and income sharing.
In contrast, the work of the entire village for such projects as irrigation is not well organized. All the irrigation operation and maintenance work has been done by the state agency, so the villagers have no experience in maintaining the irrigation infrastructure themselves. Agriculture in the Philippines will increasingly rely on irrigation for water, and if the market develops, roads will be needed. This is going to be a problem in the future. At any rate, I was very impressed and interested in the work and income sharing mechanism in Philippine villages.
All the points made in the written questions are correct. The negative aspects to the community are indeed collusion and people covering up for each other. In a society with no competition, the community becomes the source of collusion. That is precisely what is happening with the current scandals in the Foreign Ministry. A type of community mentality formed among the elite, and in addition, the Foreign Ministry is a type of monopoly company, so there is no competition and it won't go out of business. The former JNR was reputedly very inefficient. The state-owned companies in China are large communities incorporating all aspects of daily life. Some even have schools and hospitals. Because they do not bankrupt, they are very inefficient.
The pseudo-communities created inside Japanese corporations function very well. The reason people work so hard in these communities is that they are competing with other companies. If they lose in competition and the company becomes smaller, they will lose the positions for their promotion in the lifetime employment system. Therefore, everyone feels like cooperating and working very hard. Communities begin to function when there is market competition. Under competition, community relationships become effective to improve productivity and cut costs within the company.
Therefore, efforts made by the state alone, by the market alone, or by the community alone are doomed to fail. It is important to strike a good balance and divide the control of economic activities among the three. The best combination will depend on the level of development and on the culture, and the combination itself will change. In that sense, there is no such thing as a best economic system applicable to the whole world. For some countries, the community will be more important, while for other countries, the market will be more important. The most important thing is to discover which is the best combination in a particular place.
SUEHIRO: Another frequent question asks whether the Japanese corporate community is currently in the process of disintegration. Another remarks that Professor Hayami's discussion is skewed toward agricultural villages, and wonders if it applies to the process of industrialization, in which an agricultural society becomes an industrial society. Are we seeking a type of community different from the communities of the past in which relationships of trust were forged over time? If we are, what form could it take? The questioner would like both Professor Hara and Professor Hayami to respond.
HARA: The size and form of the community will gradually change in response to various changes in communication levels, including the external economic environment and the levels of technology and transactions. I suspect this will become more connected with the questions of what kind of country Japan will become and how people assign the meaning of life. In today's Japan, with just the globalization of financial transactions, the competition with Asia, and the shorter life cycle for products, I cannot conceive that companies where people work from age 22 to age 60 will be companies that continue to produce the same things. From the perspective of economic function, the negative aspects of communities are becoming painfully apparent in today's Japan. Within the mechanism of the community--a mechanism of human beings working together--I think it will be difficult to consider the direction of the community without discussing the issue of how to consider thought and value, or, to put it another way, the issue of where to place non-economic value.
HAYAMI: In Japan's case, until at least about 20 years ago, the economic system strongly based on the community was extremely effective. It was not necessary to develop world-class technology in that system--Japan just imported overseas technology, produced excellent products with strict quality control based on the cooperation of all the employees, and sold them to overseas. It was an extremely effective mechanism in which people helped each other, checked each other's work to produce good products. But, that won't continue forever. Both South Korea and Taiwan began to do the same thing, and now China is trying to. It will not be possible to compete with this system at all at one-tenth wage levels.
In the future, there has to be a system in which Japan develops world-frontier technology. Workers must receive different salaries based on ability, without the equality practiced in the past. In addition to mutual cooperation relying on the principles of the community, a competitive system must be developed. Japan has indeed reached the stage in economic development where such changes in the system are demanded. If that is the case, the question becomes what sort of system to create.
The same holds true for agricultural villages. Even today, cooperative relationships are still required. But a system must be created that is different from the one prevailed until now which protected farmers equally. I don't know what kind of system that will be. But I do know that the social basis has changed to make it necessary to move toward a competitive mechanism from the type of community cooperation that prevailed in the past. This new system also must include a new cooperative relationship. Whether this new system can be skillfully designed will likely determine the future of Japan.
SUEHIRO: Two new issues have emerged now. One is that with the growth of the Internet and websites, everywhere in the world, there are now production systems in which lead time is managed in terms of seconds, and there is no leeway any more. The other is the winner-take-all phenomenon, in which the victors become completely dominant. I think that communities are mechanisms that have the major advantages of a long-term balance that transcends generations, and a balance based on variegation and pluralism. How should we specifically approach securing that type of balance in today's world?
HARA: Japan's fiscal deficits and the bill for public works projects will be paid for by our children and grandchildren. This has become a serious issue. The idea behind the current public works projects is that they will be used only by the current generation. I think this is extremely shortsighted. At the backdrop to this is the disintegration of the Japanese family structure. In other words, I think the disintegration of the small community that is the family and public works projects at the national level are two sides of the same coin. If we could build public works that can be effectively used by more than one generation, and the children trusted their grandparents and parents, I think that the children would not begrudge paying their taxes even if they had to deal with leftover deficits. In that sense, securing a long-term balance that I mentioned a while ago requires us to consider the issue of how to rebuild the family. I think both in Japan and in Asia, we must do the work involved in taking a second look at such issues as the ideal family structure and the problem of national public works while linking them.
HAYAMI: Something that was successful at one time, both for the family and for local society, will not be successful forever. This is a very serious problem. The Japanese family system and human relationships in village society have very stifling aspects, but these structures also provided stability and peace of mind. They inculcated respect for parents, and were a source of mutual help when people had difficulties. This has rapidly changed, and it has become easier for individual people live independently. The ties of the family and village society have weakened, creating many problems as a result. That's why the family has to be formed anew so it can function as a community. The living environment of the past has disappeared. In those days, children watched their parents work and learned about the world of adults from get-togethers with relatives. Intent was conveyed without speaking, and people understood each other. What is needed now is a dialog between parents and children. Training in the clear expression of opinions is required both within the family and in school. I think the issue is how to create new relationships in the family, between parents and children, and in local society. I am unsure how to go about this myself, but I suspect you might know very well.
SUEHIRO: Globalization and liberalization are major trends today. But both Japan and Thailand, when seen from the outside, seem to be very introverted. Ten years ago, people talked about riding the wave of globalization. Now, however, people are saying that they should value their own country. I'd like to ask for a comment from each of you about how we should view this relationship between globalization and localization. I'd also like to ask for comments about the form this relationship will take, including in Fukuoka.
HARA: A look back on the past two centuries shows there has been a history of repeating cycles of extroversion and introversion. I think what's happening now is a natural reaction to the excessive speed of extroversion. Today, we live in an age in which we should reconsider regionalism--the ties between several countries--rather than localism as the response to a type of globalism.
Japan is one of the few leading industrialized countries that has not become party to a regional economic agreement. Therefore, we will soon be forced to make a decision at the regional level. It seems as if people are wondering how to deal with the problem of Japan, which has lost its way.
HAYAMI: One person asks, "There are concerns that the power of the market will destroy communities, so wouldn't it be best to regulate capital--the core of market movements--within the state and between countries?" I think that the state is the stronger force destroying communities. Rather than markets destroying communities, I have to think that the clumsy intervention of the state creates the capital resulting in inequality. I think the state should intervene to ensure that transactions are as fair as possible, for example, by prohibiting unfair transactions.
In Fukuoka, it might be desirable to loosen the ties with Tokyo and strengthen the links between Taipei and Seoul. Japan's approach to Asia will change if Fukuoka becomes integrated with the Asian region. This might well be the way to rescue Japan in the future.
SUEHIRO: Competition and freedom are important for preventing degeneration, but on the other hand, we are now living in an age of uncertainty and instability, and we have gradually lost trust and peace of mind. Suggestions for learning how to maintain that trust and peace of mind are to be found in Asia, including the countries of Southeast Asia, China, and South Korea.
In that sense, I think it is very important that people from different fields, including economists and film directors, come to Fukuoka for the Asian Cultural Prizes, because we can obtain various suggestions from them. Forums such as this one are extremely important for considering the question of how we can apply these suggestions in the future.
Arts and Culture Prize 2001: Thawan DUCHANEE
- Thawan Duchanee, Message of the Soul
- September 14, 2001 (17:30 - 19:10)
- Asia Gallery, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum
Public Lecture by Mr. Thawan Duchanee was held in Fukuoka Asian Art Museum on September 14, and he introduced his idea and thought on his specialized field in his Artist talks.
Mr. Thawan Duchanee spoke to the audience who had througed to the exhibition site created especially to commemorate his receipt of the Prize. The artist's works already had been shown in Fukuoka in a solo exhibition, and he began his talk with a great deal of humor by expressing his joy at being able to meet his friends again.
Mr. Thawan offered explanations of three of his works: "Worship," painted when he was 21, "Creation," Painted when he was 35, and "Future," which portrays the sin of humanity. The artst said that he continues to paint with love and faith and that his love is expressed on the canvas. Because he loves the world, he takes as subjects those things found in nature and that have form. Therefore, he believes detailed explanations aren't necessary. He also pointed out that his works always contain a sense of loneliness -- even his works expressing anger and strenght.
Mr. Thawan enthusiastically took questions from the audience and conscieniously answered every one. Discussing the detailed technique of "Nemi Jataka," the artist explained that he drew it with a ballpoint pen and that it was a contemporary expression of Buddhist philosophy. He said that the objective of drawing such a detailed work was to improve his concentration. Mr. Thawan's deep emotion was evident when discussing the solar eclipse in "Worship". The artist said that it was a reference to the two eclipses he saw in a period of six months, adding that his mother's death occurred during the second eclipse. eclipses may be the most powerful phenomeno n the natural world and the only one capable of instilling a sence of dread in us. He also noted that artists required inspiration, somethig mysterious related to the sense.
Mr. Thawan was born and reared in Chiang Rai, a mountatious region that is inhabited by many tribes. He remarked that Chaing Rai had a very international ambience because at least 30 tribes lived in the same area. Herevealed that these tribes had exerted a great influence on him through their clothing, language, way of life, and hunting methods. He expressed his wish that people see his works with their mind's eys. Regarding his transition from using many colors to plain black and white, Mr. Thawan explained that with the distillation of his thoughts over the years, he now sees the world only in monochrome.
Mr Thawan even talked about the photographs of his home shown at the exhibition site and the clothing he was wearing that day. This gave his audience a glimpse of his quest for originality, which extends to his daily life through his clothing and his way of life. Asked for his impressions of Fukuoka, he expressed his affection for the streets and people of the city, saying that it was a feeling of first love that would resound forever in his spirit.
He left a message of love for the people in the audience. It was characteristc of the artist to insist that heart - to heart communication was more important than a detailed explacation of his works.
After concluding his talk, Mr. Thawan continued to chat pleasantly with the audience members that stayed behind. He readily posed for photographs, shook hands, and politely answered every question.
MC: I visited you at your house 2 months ago. You said, “It is very important to have my life observed by people.” You are very proud of the culture of Northern Thailand. First of all, we would like to ask him about his works and their relations with the northern culture of Thailand.
THAWAN DUCHANEE: Before I answer your question, one thing that I would like to express is that how happy I am to see my old friends again here in Fukuoka. I feel like my mind is flying like a hawk in the sky with a joy of sound that bamboo trees are soughing in the wind. This will be my lasting love for the rest of my life. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to citizens in Fukuoka, people working at Fukuoka Asian Art Museum and people in Japan as well as in the world. I also would like to thank you for providing such a wonderful opportunity to exhibit my work and such a great love for me, a person of such little ability.
I have been working on my paintings with love and faith. So I think you will see my work filled with love. My work is simple, warmhearted and has a deep idea. What I would like to depict on campus is love.
I had an experience in living in Bangkok and foreign countries in my young days because I got scholarship from the government. Ever since, I could not think of other professions but a painter, so I devoted myself to become a painter. I learned something about what the craftsmanship is for the first 20 years. Then, for the next 10 years, I learned wisdom and intellectual things. I try to express my feelings on my canvases, combining Oriental and Western spirits. I am a kind of lone wolf. I have my own house, my own cloths and my own way of life, but if nobody appreciates my paintings, I am only one human being. I have materialized what I had been seeking, but I will be nothing but a star in the dark sky if nobody appreciates my paintings.
I have houses all over the world to refresh my sprit, smell something new and experience a new culture. I have a good selection of books by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Yukio Mishima and Yasunari Kawabata. I have read some tanka, a Japanese poem of thirty-one syllables and some haiku, a Japanese poem of seventeen syllables. I come in touch with the essence of Japanese culture by reading them. In that sense, I feel like I am Japanese. Mr. Akira Kurosawa, a film director, is a good friend of mine. I have spent my time at sitting at Ryoanji temple, talking to the rocks there.
I am supposed to talk about the paintings, but I think paintings are not things to be explained or to be interpreted. A painting faces you, so you just look at it. I have been painting for a long time. I have depicted fate, dignity and sadness floating in the sea on my work.
Let’s move on. Please look at my painting.
“Worship” is a painting I did for the graduation exhibition when I was 21 years old. Young men are praying, looking up at the sky when an eclipse of the sun is occurring. They are looking up at the sky in order not to shed tears, feeling agony in their mind. If they look down, they shed tears. This expresses a passion of a young artist who tries to help himself. Nobody would deny that power and dignity coexist with sadness and loneliness. This demonstrates a fear against loneliness.
“Creation” is a painting I drew to express my gratitude to God. God provided his divine light on my life when I had my first son at the age of 35. The central figure represents God bestowing a rainbow. There is a crescent above his head, waiting to be a full moon. God gives a rainbow and also stars in the shape of a bull or a crocodile to people as consolation. This is the painting I drew after I had found something, unlike the work in my 20’s when I was groping for something. You will also see powerful individuality and dignity with loneliness hidden in the work.
I do love the world. That’s why I paint something in nature, the tangibles and burning flame. I also paint birds, reptiles and insects.
I do not think I need to explain details of work. You see some anger, power and energy in my work, but at the same time you will find loneliness. Most of the time, there is one person.
I am going to stop talking about my work. First of all, I would like you to enjoy my work. Any question is welcome. I would like all of you to visit my house in Bangkok, Thawan house.
Many people in the world devote themselves to express their anger and hatred through their work, but I prefer expressing my life theme, love, in a visible way so that I can share the sensation with you. I like you very much. Please ask me questions, anyone.
AUDIENCE: Many of works are large in size, but only the piece “Nemi Jataka” is drawn very meticulously and precisely on a smaller canvas.
THAWAN: I drew it with a ballpoint pen. I have 10,000 pieces of work of that kind. I call them “never-ending concentration.” I have 2 million colored drawings like “Worship.” I sometimes draw them with a big brush. They are drawings depicting the Eastern philosophy and also universal drawings that everyone can understand. What I basically try to express is the Buddhism philosophy in a contemporary style. There are various kinds of work. I sometimes draw when I want to concentrate myself and other times when I want to maintain my concentration. It depends on how I feel and express it at that time, but drawings, paintings and landscape, whatever I draw become very individual and are called “Thawan paintings.”
AUDIENCE: Did you feel any special energy from the eclipse of the sun?
THAWAN: I think the eclipse of the sun is the greatest thing in the world. The moment the eclipse takes place, the world stops and stands still for a while. I think people all over world have high respect for the eclipse of the sun. A few days ago, when the planes crashed into the buildings in New York, it was a terrifying incident that occurred in reality and made people insecure. However, I feel that the eclipse of the sun is the only phenomenon that makes us insecure in the natural world. When the eclipse of the sun occurred in Thailand six years ago, my mother was hospitalized, being on the verge of death. But I asked my sun to be with my mother and take care of her, and left my house to see the eclipse of the sun 300 km away from my house. Even if my mother was in a critical condition, I had to see it for my work. My mother survived another six months, but passed away at the moment she saw the eclipse. That’s why I’m really fascinated by the power of the solar eclipse.
As an artist, I need inspiration. I need something psychological, sensual, difficult to understand and lonesome. I do not need anything scientific which is easy to understand. Something sensual, mysterious, and lonesome makes my creativity and uniqueness more active. I have many rare objects, which no one has ever seen, in my many houses in the world. Collecting those items is synonymous with my life.
THAWAN: I would like to say something about one of the paintings in the collection,“ Future,” owned by Fukuoka Asian Art Museum. I expressed the sin of humankind through this paining. One day human race will kill one another with nuclear weapons or atomic bombs. The world will be destroyed by them. And a man and an insect are going to be combined into a new creature in this world, because insects can fly and beetles can survive all the pollutions created by the humankind. So if Doomsday comes, a new creature that a man and a woman joined with a beetle will be flying in the world and make a new constellation of life again. But even after these creatures revive and flourish in this world, as they do not appreciate the philosophy of Buddhism, they will struggle and kill one another again, ending up destroying themselves. It will repeat again and again unless they practice Buddhism and learn what love and generosity are. Then, they will reach nirvana and will never return to this world.
AUDIENCE: You now mentioned you need inspiration and it should be very important. What kind of inspiration do you think is most important? Does the inspiration arise from Buddhism or from what you cherish, love?
THAWAN: What is common about these paintings are power and bubbles of ocean. This painting is about only a sand in my shore. I’m 62 years old, but I have finished 62 million paintings because I started painting in my previous life. I try to express sublime loneliness and love in visible way. Whenever we talk about paintings, we often talk about symbolic things on them. We apt to place an importance on symbols, meanings, interpretation, to draw some conclusion. Please forget them all. The message on paintings is directly sent to people’s hearts. Paintings are a way of expressing feelings without any explanation. You do not need to be taught something like, "this part means this," or "this structure means this." These things fall under the category of children’s illustrations.
I had been already a big artist in Thailand before I was awarded the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize. When I came to Fukuoka ten years ago for the first time, I was an artist in the rank of Oozeki. Now, I am ranked as Yokozuna because I weigh 100 kilograms, but others only weigh 60 to 70 kilograms.
AUDIENCE: In Chaing Rai, where you were born, many mountain tribes live. How are their thinking, life styles and customs reflected in your paintings?
THAWAN: As there are roughly 30 ethnic groups in Chaing Rai, it is an international city. For example, there are Akha Miao, Mon and Lisu with a population of about 50,000 respectively. They are independent from each other and have their own cultures for clothes, language and lifestyle, and have their own kinds of opium. Their clothes and hunting styles influence my paintings a lot.
When I was 18, I was very much impressed by Gauguin’s painting which he drew in Tahiti. I spent almost 5 years painting nothing but those mountain tribe people. They sacrifice all the things for their lives to live with their pride and dignity of the mountain tribe. I am capable of speaking 6 languages, so I made friends with them. The number of the mountain tribes is getting smaller because of the battle with Myanmar and Thailand in the Golden Triangle. Please come and visit them as soon as possible. Otherwise you will see the fake mountain tribes dressed like real ones waiting for Japanese tourists.
AUDIENCE: The pieces, “Worship” and “Creation” are very vivid and colorful with many colors. But most of the paintings in this room have almost no colors. Do you have any special reason for not using colors? What changes have you had in your mind?
THAWAN: When I was young, I was filled with a lot of love, passion and pleasure of life. As I got older, my thoughts were getting more matured. I see only the world in black and white. I was influenced by the black-and-white paintings of Japan and China. The Impressionists' paintings in colors, for example, are the visual expression which can be viewed externally, but I would like you to look at my work with your heart. Besides, I am hurt. The spiritual wound not only makes me lose my energy, but also makes my spirit lost. That’s why I became the color blind in my heart and soul.
AUDIENCE: There are 2 paintings in which many eyes are drawn in the bodies. Those 2 were very eye-catching for me. Do the eyes have any special meaning?
“The Battle of Mara”
THAWAN: Both paintings are titled “The Battle of Mara.” Mara means evil, sitting everywhere like the Milky Way in the constellation. I drew eyes on the body like tattoos. The eyes are the windows to look out the outside world at interest, passion, sprit and soul. These eyes look at the world and awaken us to wait for spiritual attainment. I wanted to express paradox which contrasts dignity and solemnity against dynamics and movement. This painting shows struggle for happiness. After all I want people to look up the sky and look for the stars of consolation, instead of looking down at your grave.
AUDIENCE: What do you cherish most in your daily life?
THAWAN: I have my own lifestyle and my own taste for clothes and my house. People accept them all. I go to the graveyard and go to see the king and the princess in these clothes. I never want to follow the fashion of Europe or America as if I was their slave. I don’t want to imitate their lifestyles either.
People, who are active at fashion shows throughout the world after having studied in Bangkok, France and Kyoto, made me clothes using my work as a motif. My painting is drawn on the back of the clothes. I know where the Oriental civilization came from. I do not belong to the past. I am here now. That’s why I was chosen as one of the Asian artists Today. I am proud to be able to come back to Fukuoka again to see my paintings and my old friends.
AUDIENCE: What is your impression of Fukuoka?
THAWAN: When I first visited Fukuoka, it resembled the feeling when I fell in love with somebody for the first time. I think everyone remembers his or her first love. The first love will never fade away. I love Fukuoka, all my friends, Japan and the place where I am. This feeling will remain in my soul even after I die.
I remember everything I did and said. I still remember that Mr. Kuroda asked me to make it clear about the title of my work whether it's a hawk or an eagle.
KURODA: Since I am such a person who can’t recall my first love, it is amazing to notice Mr. Thawan’s perfect memories. Now if you say you remember everything you’ve done, here goes my question. You will perform this time in Fukuoka, but please tell me when and how you conducted your performance before. Please introduce as much as you can recall.
THAWAN: I haven't done any performance in Fukuoka. Last time when I came here, Ms. Mari Kaigo, an interpreter, and I did a school visit and talked about architecture. I remember talking about buffaloes that are closely related to architecture, agriculture and people’s lives, with people from Fukuoka Art Museum. I didn’t paint on the floor, nor did a performance. I only helped them frame these paintings.
MC: The other day, you said you demonstrated to draw for the Royal families of Denmark. Could you tell us something about the demonstration?
THAWAN: I have to do a variety of activities for my country, as I am an artist representative of my country, an artist registered with UNESCO, and an award winner of Fukuoka Asian Cultural Prize. Whenever guests from other countries visit Thailand, the Princess takes care of them. When Queen Elizabeth visited my country, I was among the other people who had the honor of dining her. I was the only one who could make her laugh with my story. When Queen Margrethe, Prince Henrik and Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark visited Thailand, the Thai Princess took care of them and brought them to my house in Chengrai. I was asked to show something dynamic and with movement, so I painted a bull to show brush strokes of Asian style. Asked by Prince Henrik and Crown Prince Frederik why I painted the bull, I answered that it was because this kind of bull was in danger of extinction. There were three reasons for that: the first is that the King of Denmark is the president of the World Wide Fund for Nature, the second is that there are many businesses that involve bulls in Denmark, and the third is that the bull is believed to be the reincarnation of Buddha.
AUDIENCE: Mr. Thawan’s photo panels show us that your house is decorated with various animal horns and skins. I wonder if those horns and furs have any special power and influence on your work.
THAWAN: Colors and shapes of animal skin, skull and bones as well as the myths related to them give me power. Moreover, looking at those animal corpses makes me think of life after death. I can also study their structures. That’s why I keep those things in my house. Hemingway, for instance, actually did fishing when he wrote the book “The Old Man and the Sea.” He also wrote “The Sun Also Rises,” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” based on his real life experiences, so those books are truly impressive. I can gain power by observing birds, reptiles and insects. In addition, I observe the details of lives to revive them once again on my painting.
AUDIENCE: When you talked at the Gallery in Fukuoka last time, you talked a lot about Buddhism. Today you told us love a lot and didn’t comment on Buddhism. What does Mr. Thawan think about Buddhism now and how the is idea of Buddhism incorporated in the work?
THAWAN: I do not have time to talk about Buddhism in details. Buddhism is my life and belief. It is the depiction of my sprit and soul, and also my nature. Buddhism is love, enlightenment and forgiveness. Love requires understanding and sublimity. People often talk about hatred. You cannot separate Buddhism from love, enlightenment and forgiveness. You cannot separate art from religion. Art and love must be united as one in us. That is where art and culture should be.
MC: The Thai Buddhism and Japanese Buddhism may be slightly different. Did you have any thought about the Buddhism in Japan when you came to Japan?
THAWAN: People talk about many religions in the world, but the religion I am talking here is not the one that goes deep into the bone marrow or spinal fluid. The religion spreading around the world now is like an infectious disease. Art and religion are the same. I have read a book of Zen sect. Nobody can separate the belief and love from the heart and soul. In Thailand, we have different kinds of sects of Buddhism, like you have Shinto, Shingon, Nichiren, Tendai and Nenbutsu invocation. We also have different sects in Thailand. The rituals are conducted differently. You practice Buddhism by meditating, by doing some good deeds and try to shed karma. It is at the bottom of our hearts. By filling up our hearts, we become aware of things, being led to enlightenment. Then we acquire wisdom and eternity.
It is meaningless to explain paintings. It is only to touch the surface, not blood, flesh, or bone. That’s why I am talking to you and touching your hearts, instead of giving explanation about paintings. It will provide me with salvation.
What I want is the heart-to-heart contact just like the waterfall touching the mountainside and cliff.
Today I would like you to take home the word "love" with you. I’ll see you again in Thailand. Thank you very much.
Arts and Culture Prize 2001: Marilou DIAZ-ABAYA
- What I want to tell - People an ther Society
- September 15, 2001 (13:00 - 15:00)
- IMS Hall
- Prof. Shimizu Hiromu (Graduate School of Social and Cultural Studies, Kyushu University)
- Mr. Sato Tadao (Film Critic)
Public Lecture by Ms. Marilou Diaz - Abaya was held in IMS Hall on September 15, and she introduced her idea and thought on her specialized field in her lecture, talks with Commentator.
After introducing Ms. Diaz - Abaya, Mr. Sato praised the superiority of her works. He commented that her works harshly criticize the society by depicting the Philippines' severe reality such as poverty, child labor and exigration. Yet, at the same time, they depict portray those rejected from the society as humans, and give feeling that the society and humans in general are filled with richness.
SATO SADAO: Since I have been involved in the Focus on Asia-Fukuoka International Film Festival, I'm overjoyed that film director Ms. Marilou Diaz-Abaya from the Philippines is a laureate of the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes. Her films have been shown at this festival every year and have become very popular. Those films have gone from Asia to Europe, and now are shown all over the world.
When I started studying Asian films 25-26 years ago, I thought films from the Philippines were rather unusual. Asian films have a certain kind of Asian feel to them in that they are slow-paced, morose, with lingering imagery, but Philippine films have a touch of American movies. They're fast-paced, the characters are extremely active and the emotions are more intense than American movies. Portrayals of sex and violence were also extreme enough to make me think the films would be difficult to present in Japan.
Amid this, coming across the films of Ms. Abaya was, for me, a great joy. Many of Ms. Abaya's films depict the Philippines' reality, issues such as poverty, child labor, people leaving their homes to find work, and in this the films contain a strong social criticism. However, she by no means depicts the characters as simply good guys and bad guys. Characters that should be denied in the society are described in an extremely fascinating way as humans, and society as a whole and man himself are really richly depicted. Exactly this kind of film is necessary for Asia. I feel proud that I have continuously been able to introduce Ms. Abaya's work.
First of all, centering on her own films, I'd like to ask Ms. Marilou Diaz-Abaya to talk about the reality in the Philippines and her thoughts as a Filipino.
MARILOU DIAZ-ABAYA: I'm very pleased to be back in Fukuoka, to this city of very warm people. Fukuoka is very distinct and very special to me because the people here are closer in many ways to Philippine characteristics, I think. For one, Fukuoka people smile much faster. Secondly, you walk slower. Thirdly, you don't look at your watch too often and the ramen is the best in all of Japan.
I was educated in the Philippines where English was the language of instruction, where English was the mother tongue in my family. I took advanced studies in Los Angeles and London. With this background, obviously there was a lot of Western, in particular American, influence on my educational background. After going to film school, as I returned back to my country, I realized that I had all the skills of making films but didn't have stories to tell because I didn't know my people and the stories that I thought I could tell. Nobody else was really interested in because I was isolated. Only 10-15 % of the Filipino population are educated and have the means to go to higher education and I felt very alienated from my own native culture.
My own educational and personal circumstances kind of reflect the historical experience of my own country. In prehistoric times, my country, which is an archipelago of more than 7,100 islands, were trading islands. Indians, Malays, Indonesians, Chinese and some Japanese were frequenting the islands in transit as traders, so it was kind of like a very big mall made up of trading islands where more than 88 dialects were spoken. So, we had no concept of our nation or a nation state and we didn't have one single, distinct unifying culture but rather a very casual and informal mosaic of multi-cultures and multi-dialects.
In the 16th century, the Philippines was colonized by Spain, which brought Roman Catholic friars and soldiers. They, instead of teaching us Spanish, forbade us from learning Spanish. The friars learned to speak and to write in our various dialects and this way, they taught us the Roman Catholic religion, which continues to prevail and dominate our culture even today. So if I can consider one cultural instrument that first unified the Filipino as a nation with a sense of what makes us one family, I would say that would be religion, specifically the Roman Catholic religion, which was propagated by the Spaniards for more than 300 years. A lot of emphasis was put on biblical themes, especially the Passion of Christ, the suffering, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Ten Commandments, as we call them, the necessity of suffering on Earth in order to earn a place, eternal place in Heaven. These are the themes that continue to dominate our sensibilities and our value system even today and these are the same themes that new generations are challenging today.
As a result of the Spanish-American war in the late 19th century, Hollywood took over the Philippines. When the American colonizers arrived, one of the first things they did was to teach all Filipinos how to speak English and so from the instrument of religion followed the instrument of language. In my own family, my father comes from the Ilocos province in the north, my mother comes from Bulacan in the middle Philippines and they didn't understand each other's dialects so they courted each other in English and they raised their children by using English. With English as a unifying factor among all the people in the 7,000 or so islands we learned the mechanics of democracy. As a matter of fact our school system, our constitution are all virtually Xerox copies of the American constitution and the American educational system.
From the pre-Hispanic animism with influences from Buddhism and Islam which was introduced by Arab missionaries to the Philippines in the 14th and 15th centuries, you can imagine the swing in our historical experience and memory from being basically an Asian-based culture system with influences not only from Asia but also from Arabia, to the Western-Spanish colonial era, which was very religious in theme, and then another extreme swing to the concept of democracy and capitalism under the American regime. With such extreme shifts in influences it's quite a trial to figure out where the Philippine really is in all of this and what remains of his culture. In the '60s especially, 20 years after the war, we felt like a very fragmented nation; too many influences, too many cultures, most of them contradicting each other between spirituality and suffering and sacrifice, and democracy, liberalism, capitalism and prosperity on another side. And to the contemporary generation belongs the challenge of recognizing all the fragments of our history and cultural identity, the contradictions in these fragments and trying to make sense, put the pieces back together and maybe reinvent ourselves.
As a filmmaker, one of the first things I did when I returned to the Philippines to start making films was to stop speaking in English. I started to read newspapers and comics in Filipino. I listened to only Filipino-language radio, watched TV in Filipino-language, watched films in the cinema houses where the great masses of audiences watched them. And I continue to do that today which is why I always look for films that will take me away from the constrictions and the contradictions of my own middle-class to discover the unities and harmonies and the simplicities of people who come from other classes.
Recently, I've been very fortunate to have the opportunity, for example, to go back and look very closely at my country's history in preparation and in the production of my film "Jose Rizal." And by preparing for the film, researching for it and directing it, I felt satisfied at the end of the production that I could finally reconcile what the Spaniards gave us as legacy with what we hold dear today as democratic ideals.
When I made the film "Muro-Ami," I had an excuse to go to the Visayas, which is also a very depressed group of islands in the Philippines, and I had a chance to work with non-actors, real fisherman and children, who are among the poorest of the poor. With the legitimate excuse of making a film, I found the real reason that I wanted to do the film and that was because I had a chance to live with the children and their parents and the fishermen and the divers. I was very enriched by the film but more than that, by the experience of researching and immersing for it. And that is to say, I found that the poorer the people that I worked with were, the more gracious they were, the simpler their lives were, the greater their peace of mind was, it seemed to me. And I wanted to discover why and if I could also live that way with less materially but with more spiritually. This is a lesson that I shall always be grateful to the muro-ami divers for teaching me.
I have a chance to work with Muslim-Filipinos in Mindanao for my latest film and my subject is the war which was declared by Joseph Estrada in the year 2000. Of course this is just the latest of a series of wars between Muslims and Christian-Filipinos, which have been raging for six hundred years or more. During the colonial regimes of the Spaniards and the Americans and even after the liberation, the Muslim-Filipinos in Mindano, the southernmost island of the Philippines, have always considered themselves a sovereign and separate nation because of their distinct religion, which is Islam, and because of their distinct culture, separate from the rest of the Christian-Filipino culture. And they have continued their "jihad" or their struggle to remain free, to self-determine their destiny in the way that Islam prescribes. The war was escalated during Joseph Estrada's regime and hostilities became very costly, in terms of human lives, specifically children's lives, both Christians and Muslims. When I was asked if I would be interested to do the movie, I didn't think twice, I said “yes.” Then I realized I didn't know the first thing about Islam. I never paid attention to the history of the Mindanao people. I'm very weak in Arabian literature so I'm practically ignorant and yet, unlike most Christian-Filipinos, I was not afraid of Muslims. I had no prejudices really for the simple reason that here in Fukuoka I was introduced to my first friends and to my first films from Iran and Egypt. Before I watched Iran cinema, I only saw images from CNN of Iranian and Iraqi soldiers heavily armed and shooting at each other and bodies, bodies and more bodies and that's all I knew. Through cinema I learned what their homes look like, what kind of food they ate, they worry about marriage, security, education, and the same things we do. So for the last two years I've been in Islamic studies.
Now I realize how powerful cinema really is. It's not only a very powerful medium of entertainment. It could be so much more powerful to become part of the vocabulary of the peace process, not only in the Philippines but I think worldwide. If more fundamentalist Muslims watched American films and if more Americans watched films made by Muslims, I'd like to think that maybe the two towers would still be standing up today.
Perhaps we didn't use all the cultural tools available to us to have a more meaningful exchange and dialogue between and among peoples and cultures. That civilization in the 21st century is in danger of collapsing. Now, in the Philippines, there is a cease-fire between the government-armed forces and the Muslim Islamic Liberation Front guerillas. I think that my film, which is about to be completed, will be a very good supplement if the peace talks are successful. Even if the peace talks fail, my film will be important to help recover an atmosphere of dialogue between Christians and Muslims in my country.
On the day I arrived in Fukuoka, I turned on the television and the first thing I saw was the Twin Towers, one of them burning. It unraveled and immediately, as expected, the names of Osama Bin Laden and some sympathizers like Afghanistan were mentioned. Then I realized I was not going to be able to forget the Muslim-Christian problem even I was in Fukuoka.
And it is here in Fukuoka where every year I can always rely on the encouragement and the inspiration and the support, not only of the people from Fukuoka, my host, for their generosity and hospitality, but also the kind of support and solidarity that I can always look forward to among my other Asian filmmakers. For me, this city is not only a very important harbor for commerce but also, more importantly, a sanctuary for culture and the arts.
The Japanese occupied the Philippines for three years during the war before the Americans liberated us in 1946 but it was during the three years of the Japanese occupation when the Filipinos were, for the first time in their history, encouraged to speak in Filipino, not in English and not in Spanish. So our own, stage plays, theater, and songs in Filipino were created and the most memorable cherished Filipino songs and literature were made during the Japanese occupation.
Today is another time and another context, but the concept of our preserving what is best in the Asian spirit still has much value if we are to survive what looks to be now a very dangerous 21st century. Consider nothing of the technology and state-of-the-art anti-missile systems in the United States could prevent the human will and the human body of those pilots from ramming themselves against those two buildings. We can invent the latest and the most advanced technology but we still can't do anything to really control human thought or the human spirit. I think this value, the very core of humanity, is precisely the service of culture. In an age of advanced technology and globalization, the best contribution that we Asians can make to the global village is the Asian heritage. The final objective of globalization is not that all men and nations can be alike but rather that different men of different nations can live together in co-existence and in peace.
I read Professor Shimizu's book of anthropological research on Aytas living in Mt. Pinatubo area. At first, I wondered what the use of the study of Aytas is in a way like Ainu people in Japan that has a population of only several ten thousands. What is the use of that for Japan? Or what is the use of that for the Philippines? But I realized not only the data but the spirit of the people is worth recording. Then they should be remembered especially if and when they become endangered and extinct by the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.
I discovered that it was in the poorest regions of the Philippines where I found the most peace and grace. I hope that I should be given a few more opportunities to try to evoke this experience of the richness of simplicity in my films.
There would be as many Philippine stories as there are Philippine islands. So, it looks like there's a lot of work that can still be done by Filipino film directors if only there would be an increase in the audiences for Philippine films and for Asian cinema. At this point I'd really like to say how appreciative I am of how Fukuoka celebrates the best of Asian culture and the arts every year in September. In particular the Focus on Asia Fukuoka International Film Festival gives you a chance to see how richly diverse neighboring cultures and nations can be.
Many people will tell you that cinema is a dying industry, but I always remind them to reconsider their choice of cinema. I am also a television director but I tell my fiction stories on the big screen. Because I think that there is a very special commitment established between the filmmaker and his audience inside the cinema. There's something very committed and special about that experience, different from television we watch with casual, non-committal attitude, and with the remote. It's just a quick shift of the button if we don’t like the program. In this point, television is like a live-in, while cinema is like a marriage. In film you sign the marriage contract because you pay. There's something very committed and special, and therefore it is very memorable to go to the cinema. And if the audience could give it another chance, the filmmakers could also resolve to make more special films that other media fail to do. It's not only an experience in watching entertainment, it's an experience of community. Unlike television and Internet, cinema has something special about the social gathering and there's a community that is created inside the cinema house.
SATO: The film dealing with the problem between Catholics and Muslims mentioned by Ms. Abaya was scheduled to open this year's Focus on Asia 2001 - Fukuoka International Film Festival. However, one more day of filming was needed before completion, so we gave up for this year and decided to screen it next year. Coincidently, the opening film of this year's film festival is the Iranian film "Baran" by director Majid Majidi. It deals with the discrimination experienced by Afghan refugees in Iran. No matter which of the two films is screened, their subject matter fits perfectly with the recent incident in New York. When one stops to think of the global situation, I think that such works come together naturally.
DIAZ-ABAYA: (a slide presentation of her films)
(1) “Sa Pusod Ng Dagat (In the Navel of the Sea)”
[The Main Character-Pepito] This is a small village in the 1950's in the Philippines. Pepito's mother, Rosa, is the only midwife in the whole little village. In the Philippines the tradition is for midwives to teach their daughters to pass on their trade of midwife, but in this case she had an only child, a boy. So it is he who must learn the trade of his mother. As a young boy he doesn't mind it. As he grows up into a teenager, however, naturally he becomes very self-conscious that it is not very macho to deliver babies. This film looks at the growing pains and maturity of a young, provincial boy. It also looks at the relationship between mother and son and how the roles between men and women can actually be reversed.
[The Mother-Rosa] Rosa is a widow, but has an affair and becomes pregnant. She is now very much afraid of the scandal that it will cause to her community. The irony of which is, she delivers the babies of other women but wants to abort her own which is a big problem because the Roman Catholic religion forbids abortion.
[The Penance of the Crucifixion] And here we see what is considered by the West as a very bizarre practice in the Philippines. Every Lenten season, there are still many Filipinos who imitate the suffering of Jesus Christ, the carrying of the Cross and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. They actually have nails driven through their hands to suffer like Jesus Christ as a kind of penance for their sins and the sins of their family. This scene shows how that is still practiced. By the way, the person who has himself crucified like Jesus Christ is the lover of Rosa and it is for the penance for committing the sin of adultery that he is having himself crucified. And the town watches.
[Delivering his First Baby] Here Pepito delivers the first baby as an adult, he's finally able to do it on his own and so it's a very moving, powerful moment between mother and son that they brought a new life.
[Mourning the Death of Rosa Who Threw Herself in the Sea] Rosa, the mother drowned herself because she was very guilty about being pregnant, an unmarried mother. She was afraid of bringing shame to her son so she drowned herself and it is for this reason and in her memory that they gather for a religious ritual of prayers and throwing flowers into the sea.
(2) Jose Rizal
[The Main Character-Jose Rizal] Jose Rizal is a Philippine national hero. He was a physician, a poet, a painter, a novelist, and an engineer. He was also a scientist and a linguist, and he spoke twenty-two languages including Japanese. If he had twenty-two languages he might have had about double that the number of girlfriends including a Japanese from Yokohama. There is a beautiful bust of Jose Rizal at Hibiya Park in Tokyo donated by the Rizal Society of Japan. He was an inspiration to Gandhi. He wrote two very controversial novels denouncing the abuses of Spanish friars and the government, and for this he was executed by firing squad for treason.
[The Spanish Lawyer] Taviel de Andrade, Jose Rizal’s Spaniard lawyer who, in the beginning, doubted the integrity of Rizal but ended up becoming a great admirer and a friend of the Filipino hero.
[The Trial Scene] Here we see Jose Rizal being tried by the Spaniards in Spanish. You can see that his arms are tied as a sign of his captivity. It was a very famous trial and there were complete transcripts of it. So we could reconstruct very easily. He was found guilty of treason and subversion, sentenced to death by firing squad at the age of thirty-three.
[Characters from Rizal's Novels] The movie really looks at Jose Rizal as being tried by society, tried in court by the Spaniards but also tried by the characters. In other words, as an artist he begins to doubt the worthiness of his works. So he imagines the characters that he wrote coming to visit him on the eve of his death to question his honesty, to question his integrity, and to question his readiness to sacrifice his life for country.
[The Execution Scene] This is a portion of the execution, which actually happened near Manila Bay. However, of course the scene could not be shot there anymore. So we found a place north of Manila facing the sea where there was all sand and no grass. So we brought six trucks of green grass to transport on top of the sand. One day we realized that the grass would turn brown. So, the production design crew brought another truck of green paint and we painted the grass green at 2 a.m. If you asked all of those soldiers, including Montanor, to show you the soles of their shoes, they would all be green.
[The Moment before Death] But levity aside, this is the moment before he dies. The eight musketry soldiers in front, in beige, are Filipinos serving in the Spanish army. They are to aim at Rizal and shoot him. And should any one of these eight Filipinos hesitate to shoot Jose Rizal, there are eight Spanish soldiers behind them to shoot the Filipino soldier.
[The Moment of Death] Jose Rizal requested to face the firing squad, but the request was not granted. Being a gymnast, a fencer, a very good swordsman, a boxer, and judo wrestler, he had a very good sense. So he calculated just how far his feet should be apart from each other to fall on his back. He also requested that his head be spared, because he calculated that if they would shoot him in the back, he would turn his head upwards to the sky so that the momentum would carry the rest of the body to make him die facing the sky and not downwards. His request was granted and the body turned as he calculated.
[A Muro-Ami Fishing Boat] This is a boat that carries three hundred to four hundred children and teenagers and a few adults. They dive underwater carrying stones on ropes and they crush the corals to frighten the fish so that the fish would swim up and there would be nets at the end waiting to catch the fish. Muro-ami is actually a fishing method that was taught to Filipinos by Okinawans in the 1930's. At that time, they were doing only for their own families and small communities. In the '70's, however, many businessmen became very greedy and began to exploit. They overused the method, thereby harming not only the environment but also human lives, in particular the children. It's still a social and an environmental problem. The ship can be out at sea for as long as anywhere from six weeks to six months without returning back to land.
[The Children] You can see how small, frail, and malnourished they are. Children are preferred as laborers because they eat very little, they don't complain, and they're very small so you can have many workers in small spaces together. Children are usually separated from their parents. They are recruited for a period of six weeks to six months for the amount of fifty US dollars. Parents and families are sometimes left without any choice. They're driven by poverty so you would find it common to see father, uncle, son, brothers all working together in the ship.
[Muro-ami Fishing] It's called "free-dive." The oldest and the most experienced person among them is eighty-three years old and can stay underwater at a depth of about forty meters for four minutes without breathing. That's the record so far. On the average they can stay underwater to about twenty meters for about two minutes.
[The Children's Graves] The ship doesn’t go back home just to bury one child. They just bury the child in the next available island. So it's very painful for parents to learn that, when a ship comes home, their child is not on it because the child died and they wouldn't even have the body back. There's an island in the middle of the Philippines that is filled with children divers' graves.
I love the sea and my family and I always spend as much time as we can by the sea. One of the things I do not like doing in the sea or underwater is to bring any kind of camera. I've always felt that this is a very private place, and I do not like to record anything except inside me, my mind and my heart.
But in the case of "Muro-Ami" it was especially difficult because I had two crews, one underwater crew and one surface crew. So if I would work underwater, it would mean that I would go down with my tank and block the actors and give my instructions with hand signals. Moreover, we had to work with nature, so our schedules would often change, as often as the currents would change, as often as the weather would change. And it was always a question of waiting for the clouds, for hoping, for wishing, for singing for sun, for changing, and for adjusting. In other words, we were at the mercy of nature and we obeyed. We let nature control us and we just decided the moment when to capture it in images. And this is the most humbling experience ever for me as a director because I was not really in control. It's a really risky work, but I'm glad it worked eventually and I'm very lucky.
It's another kind of danger because I'm now working in the war zone. The bullets are real but I've made very many friends among bishops and ulamas, priests and imams, Muslims and Christians. When I'm working in the new film, I pray with them as often as I can. They pray five times a day, so I stop shooting five times a day. When I'm working in my Mindanao movie, where half of the people are real Muslims, I dress like them, eat like them, and encourage my crew to do the same thing. After all, it's their story, and I just happen to have the means to tell it for them. I hope it will be my next excuse to come back to Fukuoka next year.
SHIMIZU HIROMU: The Philippines is a major power in the Asian film industry. After India, it produces the most number of films; during the 1980's and '90's, more than one hundred films a year were made. Consisting of large department stores and amusement complexes, Manila has some 20 shopping malls which also house about 10-15 movie theaters. Of the films screened, more than half are films produced in the Philippines. In the Philippines, films are the general public's number one source of entertainment.
Director Abaya's works are certainly also entertainment but not in the sense that they are an escape from reality in the way that slapstick comedies, films with a lot of sex and violence and romantic comedies are. On the contrary, they are films which look at the realities of society. With the exception of "Jose Rizal," they constantly focus on the poor, the weak, or the oppressed, and take up issues such as poverty, society's injustices, or the problem of oppression. In that sense, I feel that Ms. Abaya is continuing with the fine traditions of the late directors Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal who carried the tradition of film-making in the Philippines. She doesn't make so-called experimental films, radical films or eccentric films; she always makes films that ordinary Filipinos can see. Moreover, it is a great thing people can see her films not only in the Philippines but also in Fukuoka in Japan, in other Asian countries, and even in Europe. I feel very proud as a citizen of Fukuoka that Mr. Sato and Fukuoka City have played a large part in creating such a opportunity.
Following the monetary crisis that happened 2 or 3 years ago, funds for filmmaking in the Philippines have been restricted and it has been hard, but amid such a difficult situation, a new trend can be seen. I hear that all the films that were big hits in the Philippines last year were made by female directors. I think it is worth noting that female directors support and lead the making of conscientious Philippine films.
I'd like to explain briefly why the Philippines is important to today’s Japan. The first reason is that the people-people exchange, the connection, between Japan and the Philippines is very strong. The Philippines is a country where the people travel abroad to find work and, since the start of this year, Japan has become their number one destination. Moreover, for some three years from the beginning of the 1990's, the Filipino accounted the largest number entering into intercultural marriages with Japanese. Even now, along with those from North, South Korea and China, they are in the top group. What is more, the Philippine government has said it wants the Japanese government to issue visas that would allow Philippine nurses and care workers to work in Japan. I think the same situation exists in the Middle East and America where there are many Philippine doctors and nurses working. The same will probably occur in Japan.
The second reason is that both Japan and the Philippines were surely influenced by Western culture. I myself know nothing about the tea ceremony or Japanese flower arrangement. I have never done judo or kendo, either. I've only seen Noh or Kabuki 2 or 3 times. Rather, I have more of an interest in American music and fashion. There is the fact that many Japanese, myself included, presently live with an Americanized way of thinking and feeling and make value judgments without ever realizing it. In one sense, this awareness comes from through the contact with Filipinos, who are far more Americanized than the Japanese and whose characteristics are more conspicuous. There are many times when what one might call rediscovery, self-awareness is promoted. Filipinos are the mirror in which we see our Americanized selves reflected.
Here is the third reason. Certainly the Philippines is a poor country, the national budget is limited and the proportion of administrative service is low. But it is exactly because of this, that mutual aid between NGOs and neighborhoods, the so-called "citizen's society," develops. The changes in Japan by structural reforms will only shrink the role of the state, I think. Therefore, in creating the future society, there will be a lot Japan can learn from the Philippines, such as the role of NGOs and how governments and NGOs can cooperate.
Thus, the Philippines is far more important country for Japan than we think. Frankly speaking, however, we don’t have a really good impression of the Philippines. Therefore, I think it would be a good opportunity for us to learn through Ms. Abaya’s films that people on the screen live their lives, laugh, cry, and worry in the same way as we do. Her films have sympathized and supported by people even out of the Philippines, because I think her own convictions, and a clear message and commitment that transcend the mere technicalities of producing a film, are contained in her work.
SATO: We'll now take questions from the audience.
AUDIENCE: I was deeply moved listening to Ms. Abaya today. I'd like to say thank you.
AUDIENCE: I've been interested in Manila for 20 years and now I feel like it is my second home but I have not known how best to explain its attraction to other people. So I am very happy when Philippine films are introduced at these events. I want to say thank you. For the people of Fukuoka and for the Japanese people, please continue such events in the future.
AUDIENCE: Meeting Ms. Abaya today, I was able to see the dignified way in which she lives as a woman. Please make more wonderful films.
SATO: Rather than asking questions, it seems you've been encouraged by Ms. Abaya and have enjoyed yourselves very much. Ms. Abaya, I hear you once planned to make a film that depicted Japanese soldiers during the War. What happened to the film?
DIAZ-ABAYA: Actually there was a big protest five years back about the comfort women from the Philippines and Korea and autobiography was written by a woman called Nana Rosa. The big studio inquired if I would be interested to film the biography of this comfort woman, but immediately I was very reluctant. I have no problem with the historicity and the fact that it happened. I have a problem with my emotions regarding the Japanese people and women because I know the expectations were to depict them as invaders and victims. Later on, however, we have taken a broader view of that experience during the Japanese occupation. I am less interested in the politics or the violence of the sexual exploitation of comfort women by Japanese soldiers during the war. I am more interested to examine how the women helped each other inside the comfort houses. Just after filming the Mindanao War, I'm not too sure if it's a good idea to go to another war, the Japanese-American War. But it is one of the things that I'm still interested in doing.
Aside from that, I'm also beginning to research for a screenplay that I'm also going to write myself about very, very old people and very, very young people. I'm interested in the Filipinos who are in their eighties and how they deal with their great-grandchildren, and I'm interested in how love can be sustained between generations so far apart and how the younger generations can deal with disabled and handicapped parents and grandparents. I'm always very moved by old people, especially when they age gracefully. That always fascinates me, the subject of old age.
AUDIENCE: I've heard Ms. Abaya talk many times and I admire her as a woman of high caliber with a very dignified style. The Philippines now have a woman as president and there was a woman president once before. Ms. Abaya, don’t you have any intention of becoming a politician? You're well known and I think you have the qualities appropriate for a politician, qualities such as a sense of justice and kindness.
DIAZ-ABAYA: I know personally many politicians who have my deepest respect really. As a matter of fact, President Gloria Arroyo was my teacher in Assumption College. She is an ideal woman politician, really brilliant intellectually and distinguished, very qualified for the president. But I like to work in the realm of the imagination. My heart aches to tell the stories of human beings on the big screen, in fiction. I like to go beyond what is obvious, what is visible, what can be seen. As an artist, I'm interested in what we cannot see. And in politics you have to have a special skill, a special temperament to be able to work even with people that you detest. And I'm not very good at that. I don't mind working with politicians. As a matter of fact, part of the work I do now is to join a peace forum, a dialogue between Christians and Muslims, and I'm a member now of this forum so together as a group we talk to the government, we lobby with the politicians. I think as an artist you are more free to either support the politician and to praise the politician or to protest against the politician. But thank you, I consider it a compliment.
Women directors in Philippine are now meeting regularly as a group of women and we want to work systematically to reform ourselves and the Philippine film industry, to try our very best to create, during these times especially, a cinema of hope. A cinema of hope rather than of despair. A cinema of peace rather than of violence. To insist and to campaign that people believe that life is worth it. We're a group of women that believe that it is worth working for peace, working for human rights, working for the freedom to believe in the god in the religion of your choice. It is worth working for some of these causes even if we never see the rewards or the results in our own lifetime. Same with Mindanao issue. I will work for peace in small ways, little by little, one step at a time. If I see the peace, if I experience the peace in my lifetime, I will be very grateful. But even if I don't, it will still be worth it because then I hope that maybe my children will feel it. And this is what keeps this small group of women going at this time.
I know that Japanese have new challenges. You're not used to being poor, but the world is not going to become that very soon. We will all have to learn to live with much less, and the challenge is to live even better quality human life even if we have less wealth. I really think it is a wonderful opportunity for you as well.
I can feel the energy in the room and I'm recharged, my battery is high again. Thank you very much and I hope to see you again.
SATO: I'd like to close this forum now. Thank you very much.
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