Friday, May 26, 2006

A Recommendation to All the Japanese: "I think therefore I am." (Rene Descartes)

The entrance exam war appeared in Japan about the time Japanese postwar baby boomers, dubbed the "dankai" generation came on the scene.

Study for entrance exams is a matter of technique. Students simply develop a successful method to retain the required knowledge and regurgitate it for test. This pattern of "shallow" thinking is molded in just two generations. So, it can be argued that members of the "dankai" generation and the "post-dankai" generation like to deal with things they can immediately understand.

Consider the scene of a university entrance examination. After receiving the papers, the examinees scan the questions and quickly decide which can be easily solved and set about tackling them; but pass over questions that appear difficult.

This scenario raises the following questions:
-Has the tendency to give up when things appear difficult to understand taken root more deeply than the Japanese imagined?
-Can the Japanese not see this tendency reflected in the way social issues such as the lack nursing-care facilities, problems of aging society and low birthrate, problems of national pension systems and even child-rearing are dealt with?
-Don't the Japanese have a tendency to focus on the easy issues when considering the future, such as the best way to care for people and, at an extreme, issues relating to life science, philosophy and spirituality?

Having read many articles about poor nursing-care services, violence in schools, juvenile crimes, suicide and government scandals; I feel the gap between the so-called rational decision-making system and the reality of the Japanese complicated society has become too wide to be bridged. One reason for this gap, I think, is the Japanese lack of consideration for the inner world of people-something that cannot be instantly grasped through "shallow" thinking.

About eight years ago a youth asked a panel of Japanese intellectuals on a television show a question that shocked many: "Why must I not kill others?"

The "adults" could not give him a clear answer and journalists later put the question to many educators. The question begs a logical answer that does not leave the issue open to ambiguous rhetoric.

I believe it is a very callous question that only someone who lacks of humanity could ask. A person who has received "education of the heart"; based on love, compassion and respect for life, or what could be described as the weight of humanism on one's mind, would not ask this question.

To answer this question, I think we should consider why the majority of people do not kill others, despite being able to and, maybe, sometimes wishing to. From this perspective this is relatively safe society, because we don't see dismembered bodies on the road despite the huge population. Also, people in the Japanese society do not live in constant fear of dying-despite the certain knowledge we will all die one day. Although the number of suicides is on the rise, most of people do not kill themselves.This opinion should lead us to recognize the efforts deep-thinkers have made to accumulate wisdom and ethics over many years. The accumulation of wisdom and ethics will almost certainly lead us to insight about the essence of logic-defying human nature, and reveal how our lives are touched by the consideration and efforts of others.

We should always ponder the wisdom and ethics we inherit. Simple questions can never lead to such deep thoughts. Humans should place importance on things that cannot be understood rather than those that can be easily understood. In that context, politics, sociology, philosophy and child-rearing, among numerous human activities, are struggles to seek answers that cannot be easily found. They are issues not easily understood but deserving of thoughtful consideration.

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