Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

The responsibility of the elderly for fostering the young generation
ANDO Kenji / Ex-businessman

September 7, 2006
Japan now faces an unprecedentedly reverse-triangular demographic structure with a growing elderly bracket against withering numbers of the young generation. This leads to various social issues such as decreasing work forces or bloating budgetary medicare expenses in spite of diminishing tax revenues. So, the young generation is especially obliged to shoulder a heavy burden to support the old generation and the future Japan as a whole.

Such issues are all economic and numerical ones and I hope they could be managed someway and somehow in the long run. What matters else out of these demographic issues is more on the mental and ethical one. It is my strong belief that the swelling elderly also have the due responsibility to make Japan's society better. The old, who have lived longer, are expected to have had more experiences and lessons from the life and society.

The problem is that the elderly themselves aren't well conscious of the responsibility they are expected to perform. When we look at the society there is no single day without crimes such as parricides, infanticides, arsons, robberies, gun-shootings, frauds and so on. Well, they are the cases to be handled by lawenforcers, anyhow. But if we look at smaller and daily issues we often see a lot of improprieties. One casual occasion is the confrontation with youngsters in public. It is uncomfortable to see them behave rudely speaking loud, jostling each other or showing dowdily. The way they sit on the bench in the train shows little concern with other passengers standing in front of them.

It is in such occasions for the elderly to rightly exhibit their due responsibility. It used to be a respectable conduct to admonish inappropriate deeds in public. In fact the old society welcomed such disciplinary warnings. Rather, to behave decently in public was a tacit norm for everyone and, if failed, you were deserved to be admonished. In other words there was a consensus in the society as to what is good and what is bad. Some say you'd be injured someday if you dare admonish but it is a perfunctory advice by a no-doer. The upshot is that your initiative is almost always understood and accepted.

In the modern Japan's society, however, there is hardly such a clear-cut criterion. Ambiguity, diversity, excessive freedom and inappropriate equality are prevailing. How awful such a society is where the old and young or the parents and children have equal rights in spite of de facto differences in many aspects! These days, the old usually prefer keeping silent against misdeeds, while some youngsters indulge themselves in whatever they want to do. But such irresponsible attitudes on both sides inevitably lead us to a worse society!

Obviously there needs courage for the old to execute the expected responsibility particularly in public. The first step to do, for example, should better casually say "Excuse me." or "Sorry." in the crowded place. It is natural to feel a bit hesitant if you are going to challenge strangers but the old should be courageous to take a step. It is also recommended to say so if you are going to dare do whatever you think right, for example, when you try to sit down on a 7-seater bench which is seated only by five or six passengers in the jammed train.

As told, the generational gap in thinking and behavior between the old and young keeps on widening in Japan. There should be a lot of reasons for it. Some would attribute it to the school education, lack of discipline at home, materialistic affluence, technological evolution and more. They are all correct but aren't easy to be modified shortly. Here is one, however, to be taken instantly, which precisely lies on the shoulder of the individual elderly. There is a saying in Japan that a child grows looking at the back of his/her father. This simply tells that the old should behave rightly in the way that the young can learn something from. So, it is the time that the old should realize that they have the social responsibility and perform it with courage.

The writer is ex-businessman (Itochu Corporation).
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

安藤賢次 / 元 商社勤務

2006年 9月 7日







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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > The responsibility of the elderly for fostering the young generation