In Japan, it is indicated that most of the people hesitate to receive public assistance from the government because so many people think that getting public assistance is ignominy.

Viewed from the opposite side, people taken care of by the government without being independent come under intense pressure from the society in Japan.

On the other hand, because the government places importance on “eliminating people who plan on illegal receipt ” rather than giving this benefit to the people who find it necessary, application difficulty is going harder and harder nowadays.

Either circumstance ends up being a cause to make a situation where the people who need help to make a living won’t or can’t receive assistance anyway.

At the same time, there is a recognition “self-responsibility” on the basis of their thought commonly in both positions.

According to the survey “What the World Thinks in 2007”
The rate of the people who think “the government doesn’t need to support people who cannot be independent on their living themselves” in Japan is much higher than that in any other countries.

  • Japan – 38%
  • USA – 28%
  • China – 9%
  • England – 8 %
  • French, Netherland, Spain – 8%
  • Germany – 7%

I can’t assert almost all the Japanese people have this kind of recognition to needy people at the bottom of their thought judging from these numbers.

However, there is a survey that at least three of one Japanese people think this way.

The way of thinking “self-responsibility” is used in other field than poverty. When Japanese hostage crisis has occurred in Iraq in 2004, mass communications showed their critical views that journalists taken as hostage needed to take care of themselves under self-responsibility because they entered that country in defiance of evacuation advisory from the government.

Recently, two Japanese journalists were captured by ISIS and were murdered in 2015. Even in this incident, people’s view basically tended to support an opinion of “self-responsibility”.

When Japanese hostage were released from the extremist group, people’s tone of the argument was more aggressive to the released hostages than to terrorists who abducted Japanese journalists by hiding behind the theory of “self-responsibility”

In response to this situation, Japanese mass communication came under a barrage of criticism from foreign press. In some way, it seems a culture of “self-responsibility” intensified by Japanese society these days stands out in the world in a negative sense.

What Japanese people mean to emphasize “self-responsibility” is that “the result you receive in the end by your action at your own risk ” need to be borne the responsibility before being reliant on people”

If we deny a concept of “self-responsibility exclusively from our society and such a moral concept is integrated on the one of collective responsibility, our community is exposed to a moral hazard and collapsed in the end. Japanese people think this way.

The problem is, in Japan, a tone of an argument of “self-responsibility” escalate unlimitedly beyond moral sense even in a case that a person who takes action has a lack of judgement or faces a life crisis.

Why Japanese people strongly demand an attitude of “self-responsibility” to other people

From the historical view point, there has been ostracism called “Murahachibu” in small community of country side in Japan since long ago. This is kind of a sanction to a person who break rules and order of the society or community by breaking off a relationship forcibly from all the residents in a society or community where you live, who conspire to get you out of the region.

This example clearly shows an aspect of Japanese culture that people detest “causing trouble to anyone else” After WWⅡ, western liberalism and democracy was thought to take root into Japanese society but actually, ostracism mentality has been inherited as the form of “self-responsibility” transformed from western liberalism.

Things have two sides. At Japanese most basic, such behaviors as “not littering anywhere”, “being polite to others” which is looked as Japanese virtue comes basically from the Japanese mentality “not causing trouble to anyone” which we Japanese have inherited long time.

Therefore, I can’t deny a lifestyle of “not causing trouble to anyone” at all.

At a period of time when Japanese economic grew drastically and people could have positive wishes to the Japanese future, there were a few people who had a recognition of causing trouble to someone because people had room in their heart.

But after burst of Japan’s economic bubble, most of nations’ revenue were sluggish and people fell into a sense that they fought over a job in a limited labor market.

In the end, people who blamed others with a word of “self-responsibility” has increased from the background that people intended to secure their own benefit justifiably by eliminating others who correspond to their definition “a person causing trouble to someone”.

In that sense, the basis of Japanese society that intensifies “self-responsibility” reflects complaint such as “people’s anxiety towards future” and “ annoyance or disappointment towards their poor repayment against their hard working.

At first sight, people’s dissatisfaction is growing in the form of blaming those who are thought not to be productive and generate profits, further more, to bring disadvantage to the society.

Existence of socially vulnerable is thought to be needed to continue a social group

We have the theory of “Pareto principle”. When you observe workers in the office, not all the workers works very hard but 30% of workers always goof off the jobs. Even if you fire the 30% of irresponsible workers from all the workers, new 30% workers out of the rest of 70% workers are going to be unmotivated.

In short, even if eliminating low productivity person who don’t generate much profits to the society with self-responsibility, existence of people who deserve to be driven from the society by being persistently pursued the “self- responsibility” cannot be eliminated forever because no matter how you eliminate 30% of workers you think are useless, the same characteristic workers appear again according to the theory of “Pareto principle” .

To continue a social group, a condition that all the members in the society always works fully can be a risk and need a certain level of buffer. In addition, people need to enhance their capability to adapt themselves to various kinds of environments in the process of evolution so that people are required to have diversity rather than homogeneity.

I can understand people feel disagreeable to others who seem not to work hard or make an effort but I want people to have room in their heart by lifting their eyes up not to eliminate those unacceptable others by “self-responsibility“ but to accept more reasonable way of thinking that a society that allows socially vulnerable and individual diversity is more beneficial to all the people for our mid-to-long term evolution as a result.

One Comment

  1. Guido

    I can sum it up with the following two responses below:

    – Japan first needs to embrace flexibility of thought before embracing diversity of thought.

    – Japan’s saying, “The nail that stands out gets hammered down”, instead of taking it as a rule to its core treat it more as a guideline in order to measure how you think, behave, and act in relation to both the group and the invidual.

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