November 13, 2004
Beyond the Shame
"That is sick and disgusting! The family should not be able to heal; they should live with what they've done for the rest of their life. Also, a society that encourages this sort of treatment needs to take a good hard look in the mirror...."
I basically agree. When I used the word "healing" in my post, I intentionally put that in quotes to show the lack of real healing, at least so far. In addition to what I've written already, there are glimpses of hope in Japan. My heart is moved deeply when I see a parent in a public place, like a mall or a community event, pushing his/her handicapped child in a wheelchair. As a parent, I can imagine the anguish of seeing the one you love facing such an uphill road. Of wanting to give your child a good life. And what's a good life? I think a big part begins with interacting in the world and in relationships. We are made to love and connect. How hard it must be when people in public avert their eyes and pretend you (the disabled person or the parent with a disabled child) don't exist. The misguided motive in Japanese culture may be to prevent adding to your "shame." What a tragic and cruel mistake. Parents who take their disabled children out into the community and try to give them a chance at life are heroes. And I could say the same for many others who are struggling to break into society and force people to see and interact with them. But they shouldn't have to be so strong.
I do see disabled people in Japan moving about and working in public places. Not often, and it's with great effort, because it's so difficult to access transportation systems and buildings if you can't move about freely on your own. There are many places where you must ascend or descend long staircases, accessible bathrooms are scarce, and you'd better have your own water and food if you have trouble getting in and out of stores. Even the elevators (when you find one) are small with narrow openings. But again, you should see the link in my last post, which gives some degree of hope that a change may come. Remember that in the past 20-30 years the situation for people with disabilities (especially the mentally ill and mentally disabled) has gone from intolerably terrible to "much better" in the USA and Europe. I'm from the USA. The ink on the "Americans with Disabilities Act" is still wet. Americans are still arguing over whether they want to pay for the changes and endure the "inconveniences" to give people with disabilities a place in society. I know for a fact that you can still find people in the USA who've been locked up in rooms for years and even allowed to die in those conditions. I worked in the field for a few years, so I speak from experience. I personally reported parents and even employees under my supervision (employees I'd inherited and had the "pleasure" of firing) for different forms of abuse.
I don't mean to relativize the problems in Japan or the USA by saying this, but if you go to less developed countries I think you'll find conditions that would give you nightmares. Whatever culture you're from, people do evil things.
I wish this blog would instigate change in Japan on points like this. Maybe it will. Who knows who reads this. But more likely, as I share my perspectives on the people and culture of Japan, the result will be that readers will see themselves and their own cultures in the mirror. I think that's what happens -- when we take the focus off ourselves we tend to finally see ourselves more clearly.
One of my favorite sources of quotes is G.K. Chesterson. I love this story about him:
Earlier this century, there was a correspondence in The Times newspaper of London on this topic of what is wrong with the world. Various famous and learned writers voiced their opinions. But the last letter was also the shortest, and it brought the correspondence to an end. It was from G.K.Chesterton, the Catholic journalist. His letter simply said:
What is wrong with the world? I am.
(I borrowed the quote from this interesting article for anyone interested.)Posted by jw at November 13, 2004 04:58 PM