2005年8月23日 (火)

Obsessing blindly over our `assigned duties'


Obsessing blindly over our `assigned duties'


Because I was born two years after the end of World War II, obviously I was not around to experience the day of Japan's defeat 60 years ago on Aug. 15, 1945.

I can say, however, that this date has always been at the back of my consciousness.

Whenever I came across something that was related to this date or the days that preceded it, I was invariably compelled to ponder its meaning.



Various people have noted their thoughts and feelings about Aug. 15, 1945, in their diaries.

Each observation is striking in its own way, but the one I would like to dwell upon anew in this 60th anniversary year is a passage from "Haisen Nikki" (Journal on defeat in war) by novelist Jiro Osaragi, published by Soshisha.


Referring to his loss of sleep over worrying whether Japanese soldiers would be able to bear the indignity of defeat, Osaragi notes in part that the soldiers "had been taught to remain blind to anything other than their assigned duties ... ."

But this was not the lot of soldiers alone. The great majority of Japanese citizens had also been conditioned to focus solely on their "assigned duties."


When the war began, every soldier, politician, parent and child blindly sought to live up to their respective ideal images.

Missing the crucially important overall picture-namely, where the nation was really headed-the Japanese people withdrew into their rigidly defined roles.


There is something painfully pathetic about the intensity of their resolve.

But it was also this collective frenzy that allowed the nation to run amok and sacrifice the lives of a tremendous number of its own people as well as those of neighboring nations.

And I am pained to be reminded, too, of how the media pursued a grossly misguided cause.


Aug. 15 should be a day for each one of us to not only remember and mourn the dead, but also to ask ourselves once again whether we are still obsessing blindly over what we imagine to be our assigned duties.

I pray that our present postwar era will never go down in history some day as another prewar era.


--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 15(IHT/Asahi: August 16,2005)

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2005年5月 4日 (水)

Too fixated on blood types to give a donation



Too fixated on blood types to give a donation


After nearly a year, a craze for TV variety shows about the ABO blood groups seems to have finally subsided. At least this spring, we are no longer being inundated with prime-time programs claiming to explain how people's personality and behavior are influenced by their blood types.



Questions have been raised repeatedly since before World War II about pigeonholing people into the four categories of A, B, O and AB blood groups and judging their character traits accordingly. But no matter how often such attempts were dismissed for their dubious scientific worth or criticized for encouraging groundless and biased stereotyping, the subject always resurfaced after a while for avid public consumption.


It would be nothing more than a harmless pastime to guess the blood groups of famous historic figures: Murasaki Shikibu (from around the 11th century) must be A, Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) must be O.

In the latest craze, however, type-B people somehow became the target of constant ridicule. In show after show, there were ``experiments'' conducted on entertainment personalities and preschoolers to ``prove'' the personal idiosyncracies of B subjects and deride them.


Between last spring and February this year, as many as 200 complaints were filed with the Broadcasting Ethics and Program Improvement Organization. Many viewers were upset with the TV shows for using the blood groups to pass judgments on people. And concerned parents complained that children were getting into fights because they believed what they watched on TV.

Apparently, many people found the programs offensive even though they knew they were watching them only for mindless entertainment.


The ABO blood groups seem to be a popular subject in South Korea, too, but nowhere else in the world do people lap it up as in Japan. Yet, the public's interest in blood donation is ebbing. About 5.6 million Japanese donate blood annually now, but this number is less than 70 percent of what it was 20 years ago.


Early spring is said to be the leanest season for blood donations, perhaps because this is the start of the fiscal and scholastic years and people are on the move. This year especially, people with pollen allergies seem to be staying away from blood donation centers. To make matters worse, new donation rules will come into effect next month in wake of the recent Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease scare.

The whole nation seems to be anemic this spring. According to the Japanese Red Cross Society, the public's attention never turned to blood donation even at the height of the ABO craze on the boob tube.


--The Asahi Shimbun, April 24(IHT/Asahi: May 2,2005)

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