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    No wisecracks about the state of Japanese society today….

    The latest Japanese child-on-child killing took place in Nagasaki Prefecture today. One sixth-grade girl lured a classmate into one of the study rooms, then slashed her in the face and neck with an Exact-o knife; she died of massive bleeding. The victim’s father is a bureau chief for one of the major newspapers here (the Mainichi Shimbun), so I’m guessing the school was pretty exclusive. The poor guy’s wife died of cancer a few years ago, too. Wow. Apparently, the attacker was in tears and apologizing, and she was lucid enough to answer questions.

    Most Japanese people turn out just fine, obviously; nevertheless, the risk in having such a conformist society is that when people crack from the pressure, they’re likely to lose their shit completely. It’s too soon to know, but I wonder whether that’s what happened here; a petty grievance became magnified, and she flipped out. How very sad.


    7 Responses to “No wisecracks about the state of Japanese society today….”

    1. Kris says:

      I personally try very hard not to make assumptions when I see a story like this (and it is difficult not to put one’s own prejudices onto a seemingly senseless trajedy).
      On the subject of (in)famous school violence, I read this recently, and found it interesting.
      Too bad this kind of insight can only come with hindsight and much time and attention, too bad most of the US won’t care anyway…

    2. Sean says:

      You’re right; I’m speculating. Just to be clear, though, I’m doing so on the basis of a lot of similar cases over the last several years. Japan certainly has as many psychopaths as anywhere else (I’d imagine–I haven’t taken a survey, or anything), but there’s a certain road rage-type attack on acquaintances that’s very frequent here. I could be wrong in this case, of course.
      I thought Dave Cullen’s Slate piece was interesting, too. Probably not all that surprising. Which part is it that you don’t think people will care about? You mean that people want to see every child as being redeemable?

    3. Kris says:

      I don’t think most people will care (or believe) most of what’s covered by the investigation (like the debunking of the martyr story) – it’s society’s fault when kids go bad, and not something that happens. The idea that some kids, like some adults, are mentally ill, seems to be very unpopular. Of course, I can certainly understand why – no parent likes to hear that their son is a psychotic and may one day murder people, and focusing on external factors does help direct the outrage.
      I suppose the article doesn’t actually say what made him psychotic, so I guess I’m imposing my own bias on the situation as well.

    4. Auntie Mame says:

      I think it’s worth asking the question. Yes, there are some people who may be beyond help (“born that way”), but it never hurts to ask what we might be doing, if the problem gets out of control.
      During the Secessionists period there was a rash of teen/young adult suicides in Vienna. Many believed that the structure of society had gotten too tight, all the more contrasted by the treatment of those who stepped outside the bounds. The attraction of the Secessionists may have been the last straw: forced to choose between the constraints imposed by family and society they chose death.
      It would not surprise me if Japan was experiencing something similar, but with different symptoms.

    5. The Other Down Under (or way over…. whatever)

      Some of you may recall seeing the name Sean Kinsell as a commenter on blogsites (he’s always been one of my favorites because he’s honest, compassionate, funny, yet thoroughly grounded

    6. Sean says:

      Yeah, that really is a big issue. You forget, growing up in America, how rare it is even among developed countries to be brought up with the idea that you don’t have to be limited by the circumstances you were born into. Usually, we apply that to class differences, but overcoming genetic weaknesses and things comes into it, too. It really does help to make us great.
      But when it comes up against the American tendency to take things to gung-ho extremes, yeah, we get a problem. Not wanting to condemn a child as a plain wrong’un is good; compulsively denying that a child may be a plain wrong’un when the signs are all there is asking for trouble.
      At the same time, there really aren’t a lot of plain wrong’uns, in the unfixable sense. And everyone knows that there are deep and broad-based problems with the socialization of children here. Alex Kerr’s book Dogs and Demons talks about a lot of them that don’t really get discussed frequently by foreign commentators. But I think that one of the biggest problems is that kids don’t learn self-discipline, as we understand it. Yes, they learn to keep their emotions in check, to do what they’re told, to abide by the rules. But the engine of discipline is always external; you aren’t given tools to judge what’s right to do in a given situation–you just follow directions. The trial and error involved in living means that eventually, most people get their bearings as adults, but I don’t think that it’s coincidental that most of these grisly murders and suicides of children are in the 11 to 15-ish age group. All those emerging impulses, and little guidance except, “Stay in line.”

    7. B. Durbin says:

      John Brunner’s book Standing on Zanzibar has a number of similar attacks occurring, with the postulate that “going berk” is a symptom of environmental stress, in this case caused by massive overcrowding due to overpopulation (the book was written in a time when overpopulation dystopian stories were all the vogue; Soylent Green in contemporaneous.)
      Overcrowding in laboratory animals leads to random, vicious attacks; it has been postualted that manners are a coping strategy for the same. (Therefore, in a country such as Japan where there have been centuries of people living very closely together, manners are highly prized because it minimizes ‘cabin fever’, and in areas like frontier America manners are far less important because you can get away from all the people.)
      It is possible that Japan’s population density might be a partial causal factor in such attacks. There’s still so much we don’t know about social pressures, though, and even if the factor exists it might be a minor one. I wonder about the pressure to succeed, however. A prestigious school, especially in Japan, carries its own burden on its students.