Learning from our forefathers

Max Mosley’s great-grandfather Algernon Freeman-Mitford, the 1st Baron Redesdale, was a diplomat and writer. After serving in St Petersburg and Peking, he was posted to Tokyo – known as Edo at the time – where he wrote “Tales of Old Japan” in 1871, a book which has long been credited with revealing classical Japanese stories to the world for the first time. One such story is that of “The Forty-Seven Ronin”, known in Japan as Chushingura. It has passed into folklore as an example of honour, loyalty and sacrifice, which are all concepts which are considered important in Japanese society.

Samurai warriors each served a master. If their master was killed they either committed ritual suicide, or they became “ronin”.

In 1701 Asano Naganori, the lord of the Ako Domain, offended Kira Yoshinaka, a powerful official in the government of the day, known as the Tokugawa shogunate. Kira’s insulted Asano as a result and finally Asano ran out of patience and attacked Kira with a dagger. The assault took place in the grounds of Edo Castle, where such things were forbidden. Kira was not badly hurt but Asano was ordered to kill himself. His lands were confiscated and his 47 warriors were made ronin. Kira was not punished. He was not a popular man and the 47 ronin decided to avenge the death of their lord by assassinating him.

The shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, the ruler of Japan, was sympathetic and their deed was deemed righteous by many. However, they had committed murder and eventually, on the advice of the Confucian philosopher Ogyu Sorai, the most influential scholar of the day, the shogun was forced to rule that they must commit suicide, if only because the shogunate must retain control of the justice system.

“If general principles are impaired by special exceptions, there will no longer be any respect for the law in this country” Sorai wrote.

It is a story that Mosley and the FIA World Council would be wise to bear in mind when it comes to the Renault case on Monday…

16 thoughts on “Learning from our forefathers

  1. Joe,
    you really went down a long route to make your point!

    I agree with your point wholeheartedly.

    And I enjoyed the trip down the road you’ve chosen!

    it’s always a pleasure to read your posts.

  2. Great article Joe. Based on principles told by the Japanese tale, I guess Max Mosely & the FIA should penalize Renault with no leniency or special exception.

    If this is true, Renault should incur a similar $100 million dollar fine that McLaren faced with Stepneygate. Even through Briatore & Symonds were the masterminds behind this mess, their blatant actions during the 2008 Singapore GP should not go unpunished. If necessary, the entire team must face sanctions in order to make an example of their sleazy management tactics. If the Renault team is spared any harsh penalties, what’s stopping other teams from fixing races in the future? An example must be made!

  3. Good morning Joe. First of all, may I say that I discovered this blog only a few days ago and have spent several enjoyable hours reading it.
    Whilst I can fully sympathise with your reasoning in this mornings post, I can’t help but feel such an appeal will fall of very deaf ears. Consistency in the upholding of the ‘law in this country’ has never been the forte of this particular [small and exclusive] countries masters and punishments so often seem to be tailored to fit the face, not the crime.

    How much do the FIA want Renault to stay may well have some influence on how heavy the punishment is. We shall see on Monday I suppose.

    Thankyou for an excellent blog.

  4. Joe,

    That’s absolute genius and so ironic that you found this out…

    Regarding the quote at the bottom, are you implying that Renault should not be absolved of their sins before the FIA because they are seen to have dealt with the problem internally?

    Great post as usual ūüėČ

  5. In other words…. nail them for the good of the sport!

    Does this perhaps tie in with the 14th grid slot offered to the new Sauber team?

    Are you expecting exclusion for Renault Joe?

    1. One would expect a suitable punishment, but it is clear that Renault (Boulogne-Billancourt) knew nothing of any of this… so I would suspect that the brunt of the pain would be borne by Briatore and Symonds.

  6. My personal feeling would be to give Renault relatively little punishment as they seem like “good guys” and heck, the main protagonists are no longer with the team, right?

    That is an example of why it is a good thing I am NOT a judge, as I would tend to rule exclusively with my heart. Yes, I believe Boulogne-Billancourt did not know about what was going on… but that is part of it, isn’t it? If Renault is given a pass here, then the underlying message for large companies is if you have an F1 team, give a lot of automony to the management you pick for the team and if they every get into hot water – have them leave the team and continue on! After all, you had not idea what they were doing!

    No, I think Renault does need to pay a serious price here. I just hope that it does not severely impact the lives of the many, many innocent employees that will be caught in the middle.

    And as always Joe, your blog is outstanding. Thank you very much for sharing it free-of-charge.

  7. Excellent post, but you left out the part that makes this tale so legendary. After becoming ronin and declaring vengeance, they faded into the woodwork for more than a year in order to lull Kira into a sense of security. Then they assasinated him, with little effort. Not sure that that means anything as regards the renault affair. But a few samurai of the Edo period would certainly clean up modern Formula One, although it would probably be a rather bloody affair. They would probably start with Max Mosley.

  8. What do you think of Eddie Irvine’s comments?
    “…in days past every team have done whatever they could to win – cheat, bend the rules, break the rules, sabotage opponents. ”

    Have we reached a new moral high ground in the 21st century, and will we create an imaginary history where motorsports was a gentleman’s endeavor in which fair play was valued above winning? Lest we lie to ourselves…

    I agree there must be consistency, and anxiously await the result. If Renault incurs a $100m fine or exclusion from this year’s championship, so be it. But if it is a lifetime ban on Flavio and Symonds, and a mere wrist-slap on Renault – I will not be complaining.

  9. Through the decades that I have followed F1 both reporters and audience have shared a preference to ignore the wider world and look only within the sport. This was what young Mr. Mosley found so suitable to his circumstances. Perhaps that applied to M. Balestre. It’s time to pull back the curtain and flush out those who feed on racing’s noble attraction. To do so fans like myself need to refuse their pleasant isolation and come to understand where those who control F1 fit into today’s world. Guide us, Mr. Saward, to that revelation. Your unstinting research and its delightful presentation is uniquely satisfying. You challenge the committment of the enthusiast and I’m up for it.

  10. I¬†hope¬†Eddie¬†was¬†not¬†drawing¬†on¬†the¬†experiences¬†gleaned¬†from¬†his¬†Ferrari¬†days………..

  11. As a student of Japanese history, I can’t tell you how satisfying this post was.

    One of my undergraduate degrees is in Japanese history and still have a photocopied version of that book somewhere. I didn’t realize the Algernon Freeman-Mitford / Mosley connection.

    I forgot what context or story this quote is from I have kept it with for many year. It reminds me of the conversation that Renault probably had with Flav and Pat.

    “There is a short sword lying in front of you and a long sword pressed against the back of your neck.”

    Or nn other words, make the right decision before someone else makes the decision for you.

  12. Joe, excellent story. However, I would really like to know, did Tokugawa Tsunayoshi wait until “someone involved (in that killing) was willing to admit the offence”, or did he order the crime to be investigated as he learned about it?
    I think it makes a whole lot of a difference. Don’t you?

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