Impunity and the Fabric of Society: commentary

This is a commentary for the previous post – on the 108 Judo class deaths in Japan.

Kobayashi Yasuhiko skipped his judo class at a junior high school in Yokohama Japan.  Later that day, he was pronounced dead.  According to the way this plays out in the courts, as well as in Japanese popular society, it is ‘an accident.’   What happens to people when they are not persons with lives and histories, but are a part of a large society, culture, nation and are nothing but statistics?  It favors refusing to take care.  It favors ignoring.  It favors ‘life as usual’ for most of us.  In this way, as our so-called ‘free’ societies such as the US, Japan, most Western European countries, Turkey, South Korea, and all those so-called ‘democratic’ and almosts, create an illusion of freedom as bestowed upon us by a kind and benevolent, well-intentioned society.

What happened to Kobayashi Yasukhiko was that the judo teacher had to punish him for being undisciplined, for missing a practice.  So when the student arrived at the school, the judo teacher demanded a match with his ranking judo superior and champion in a punishing and grueling match.  He was choked by that champion to the floor, then choked again by the teacher while they grappled him and threw him violently onto the floor.  The boy experienced severe internal bleeding (subdural hematoma) and died.  This is an ‘accident’ in Japanese society.

Now there is an association in Japan called ‘Japan Judo Accident Victims Association.’

Do we not find this perverse? I am not questioning the group itself, it is needed.  What I question is the violence of a dominant society that makes the forming of this group necessary.  In all countries, this is a problem: the state’s refusal to take care of its subjects.  In this sense, the violence is a monopoly of the state and it can ignore citizens if it needs to protect itself.  The state, being an imaginative outline on a map with its police, prisons, military, and industries and institutions, imagines itself as having to protect itself.  The people who work for the state, imagine themselves to BE the state! Imagine this!  So victims of legitimized violence must suffer enough to found an association so that their voice can be taken seriously by the state.  What harm does the state see it taking in when a group of parents say that there is a strange legitimizing of violent and abusive behaviors that pass for normal and okay in society?

The problem starts with the silencing of ‘being killed’ and the replacement with the term ‘dying’ (assumes non-intention by a person or group and blame is placed on a disease or accident)  or ‘death ( just a statistic somewhere).  People are being killed by active agents that are most often a complex nexus of legitimate events, things, spaces and cultural systems (such as ‘boys will be boys’ and ‘survival of the fittest’).

Silence is a weapon of the rulers.  Silence must be counted upon as a major factor in maintaining a society.  Making something as an individual anomaly, an individual issue, is counted upon and is effective in most of the first world nations today, and others as well.  On the other spectrum in these societies, there is also the parallel motivation to blame everything on the state and the government.  So on the one hand, it is individualized, made an individual case.  On the other hand, it is something that the government and the state must take care of, it’s not our individual fault.  Both of these trajectories, dualistic poles of behavior, are from the issue of individuals in increasingly individualizing societies, that disempower by disengaging.  The self has tremendous pressure and the only thing it knows is that it is under a system, but at other times it is never that system (ignoring).

In another instance, Japan was at the center of an international controversy surrounding increasing numbers of people dieing while at work.  This phenomena, called:  karōshi 過労死  (ōshi ) became almost an embarassment for the Japanese, once internationalized.  At the beginning, when the first few had died, the Japanese government used the excuse that if this were a workplace problem, then all people who are over-worked while working, should be dying.  But since they are not, it is not the workplace or the government who is responsible, but this is specific to those individuals.  On these grounds, there was no compensation.  What the hell??  But doesn’t this sound familiar?  As the state and corporations run most of our lives anyway, when convenient, they have the lawyers and thinkers to have logical defenses such as those, to make individual lives suddenly not their responsibility.  Individual differences in increasingly individualizing societies, are individually more free to roam around and make personal choices and have personal opinions, but the body, the health, the worldviews and the movement of the body in certain ways here and there, and in this way (think of brushing teeth every morning, then jogging, then eating breakfast, then going to work, then stopping for a drink after work, then going home and seeing family, then watching television, then waiting for the weekend–over and over again and over again)  seals our bodies in certain ways and repetitions.  Mechanized lives that we don’t recognize as mechanized, routine-ized.   For the wealthy, they rarely follow these routines so they are totally unconcerned about the bulk of the people in their own societies.  There is NO RECIPROCAL relationship in individual societies.  Each of us do what we do.  So in BEING KILLED, we just call it one person’s death in this way, or he or she or that dies in this way.  Oh how unfortunate.

Well, unfortunately for Japan, at least, more and more people are questioning this disconnect between the people working for and caring for certain things but this care NOT BEING RETURNED, not being reciprocated.  I can almost hear some people now reading this—–‘who says it has to be reciprocal?  We are FREE TO LEAVE.’   Such is how individual freedom goes.  Leaving something we need, or leaving something we love, or feel connected to is Painful, and perhaps life-killing.  But we rarely acknowledge this.  Increasingly, especially in the world’s wealthiest nations, all that we are is in our heads and our bodies are just there to carry our heads around.  We stomp on the earth, we pollute, we say whatever, think whatever, other people have their realities, I have my own, what else is there…… etc. etc.   To me, this is what the Buddhists call the ‘Age of degeneration.’   The Bible calls ‘The End times”.   Self-hatred is there.  It is not natural but certainly foretold and followed.

Yasuhiko’s story, being killed by his judo teacher; and the Japanese salary-men’s deaths at work, seem to be ‘the way things are.’  They supposedly are not killed by the silent and abusive modern society we live in, by our ignorance.  Even if we understand it, we don’t seem to have any creativity enough to fight it so we may succumb to silently going about our business.  Others find ways to begin subverting, and then changing things for the better.

Corporate and government leaders, and all leaders of anything in society, must be held accountable for how things are.  At the same time, we ourselves, whether leaders or not, must be held accountable for whatever we do to disempower ourselves, or become arrogant in thinking that we do not need guides and teachers in our lives.  We must continue to think and perhaps think better than we do now, in our complex world, to navigate the various mental and emotional games we have all learned to play in the modern world to get by.  That, I feel, is the most challenging aspect of social change.

I pray and work hard for people to begin thinking about what kind of societies we live in and therefore participate in the killing of ourselves and others and the ecology willingly.   And I pray that we become empowered instead of paralyzed by our sadness and rage, to empower ourselves to work differently.  First, we must recognize the difference between ‘being killed’ and ‘dieing.’  Silence by a nexus of gendered notions of toughness and legitimate forms of disciplining, which can allow abuse and hatred and condones it, and how this spreads to all aspects of society in the family , the workplace and leisure and to human relations and nations–must mean that these are not natural but made-up and that these can be changed through equal amounts of work in new directions.

In what various ways and methods does your society, culture, nation, neighborhood, family, participate in the collusion of violence that passes for silence and manhood, ‘bad’ personalities and nature?  In what ways can we begin to seriously look at this issue, bring discussions and come to formulate ways to stop maintaining the fiction of these things as ‘nature’ and inevitable?  In what ways do masculinities become linked with violence as natural?  In what ways does this masculinity, then, become beneficial to strong societies that want to maintain themselves (military strength and the militarization of society)?  In what ways are women and non-males inscribed in an empowerment that is falsely viewed as such but in reality is a patriarchal form of power, a violent-ization of power; and is an intensification of sexism?  How do women internalize patriarchal violence in order to be ‘equal,’ and perpetrating violences? In what ways can all of these things be changed?  How could Yasuhiko still be in judo classes, perhaps performing the sport that he loves, without being killed, then labelled an accident?