Sunday, July 10, 2011
READERS IN COUNCIL
Believe in human relationships
By RICHARD WILCOX
Thank you for Michael Hoffman’s excellent July 3 article, “Japan needs to do more than simply ‘cope’ with stress.” Hoffman expresses what I have felt for many years while living in Tokyo. Many people in this straitjacket society either have to put up with humiliation and daily insults at work, or risk losing everything. I don’t believe that our situation is random, normal or natural.
My area of study is environmental issues, and I have broken down natural disasters or occurrences into four categories: things that are made to happen on purpose; things that happen by accident; and things that are allowed to happen either from neglect or because of an accumulation of forces.
In ecology, this latter phenomenon is known as the positive feedback loop: The worse things get, the worse they’ll continue to get — until they settle back to equilibrium.
Many of the technological breakdowns we see today such as the Fukushima nuclear disaster fit somewhere within these categories. There is now evidence that the reason (reactor fuel) melted down was that the earthquake broke the pipes that cool the reactors. This represents scientific hubris and irrationality on a large scale. Had the Hamaoka nuclear plant (Shizuoka Prefecture) blown up, 36 million people could have been exposed to high levels of radiation. Unfortunately, the power companies have done a very good job of convincing people that luxurious amounts of electricity production are worth dying for.
As ecological and technological breakdowns hasten, stress on humanity will worsen. In place of real relations with humans and nature — whereby we could reverse these destructive trends — we have been put upon a path to get rid of reality in favor of virtual reality aided by personal electronic gadgets.
No wonder so many people are depressed, stressed and even suicidal. With nothing real to lean on, people are lost in loneliness and despair. A young lady told me recently that she has a friend who is rich and beautiful but does not feel happy.
There is hope. What people must do is re-establish their belief in natural and human relationships, and simplify their lives.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
Read your ‘Letter to the Editor’, in The Japan Times, July 10, 2011, p. 6, in response to Hoffman’s article of July 3.
The belief in human relationships which is rightly concluded as one possible solution to the “stressful” conditions of Japanese society is predicated on the human hope that life would in deed get better, through sheer dint of hard labor, ingenuity, and just compensation for one’s labor of which there is certainly no dearth in Japan. This has to be under girded by factual conditions where the economy, politics, and financial situation actually provides relief, albeit slow. We have been in an utter state of denial for the past decade, if not more, on all these areas.
Economically manufacturing has long flown out of Japan and this has largely become a service economy firmly tied to globalization and the U.S, while being beholden to China and now India for the insatiable thirst for markets, low-cost manufacturing, and profits. Politically, corruption and plain, old, bold-faced lying, the situation at KEPCO and the engineered e-messages to TV stations in favour of restarting the plants, is so emblematic of this nation that nothing moves without it, not at the daily level of buying essentials, but at higher levels where deals are made worth trillions of yen. As I said at a public meeting earlier this month to the consternation of those present: “It is widely known that Chinese and Indian businessmen are notoriously corrupt, but the Japanese are five steps ahead of us.” This nation has still to produce a leader of international calibre, integrity and intellectual rigor. Financially, the state is so lethargic in terms of taking bold decisions to empower people-based entrepreneurship and meaningful employment that those few who have tried to turn the ship around have been diligently beaten into the ground.
The market that all-pervasive deity has become so powerful that it all boils down to: “What have you got for me today?”. When can I buy that Louis Vitton bag?” “Ah, there is a sale at Shinjuku!” “My hobby is shopping.” When this mindset is drilled into the social fabric at an early stage, then the hope in human relationships seems a little to ill-founded. Though again, it is one authentic solution, but human relationships are never in the abstract, from the little that I know. Altruism
in a society which worships the market from the get-go, cannot beat the Mamonic marathon!